The Number One Thing You Need to Do to Heal After Your Divorce
When you are going through a divorce, you will hear a lot about forgiveness. Google divorce and forgiveness and there are pages of articles about forgiving your former spouse. Forgiving your former spouse for what they did (or didn’t do) IS a critical part of healing and moving forward after a divorce. However, what is even more important and often forgotten about is forgiving YOURSELF.
My former husband lied to me about a lot of BIG things that I didn’t find out about until after we were married - I probably still don’t know everything he lied to me about. I was a single mom of three when we met. Caught up in the romance of him sweeping both me and my sons off our feet and giving us a life that I had never dreamed of, I didn’t see the red flags that with the benefit of time and distance are now so glaringly obvious.
A few short months later when the first of his many lies came to light, our dream turned into a nightmare. It was three years before I was finally strong enough to get him out of our lives. Three years of emotional abuse and mind games. Three years during which my sons learned behaviors that I wish they had never been exposed to.
I wish I could say that it was easy to forgive him and get on with my life. It wasn’t. It took me years, therapy and the encouragement of a support group before I could forgive him. But what was even harder than forgiving him, was forgiving myself. For not seeing his lies and controlling behavior BEFORE I married him. For exposing my sons to the emotional abuse and chaos he brought to our lives. For not getting him out of our lives sooner. For allowing myself to be abused. For becoming a person I didn’t know or like.
Maya Angelou said, “Forgive yourself for not knowing what you didn’t know before you learned it.” If I can share one thing with anyone going through a divorce that will help them the most, it is this: FORGIVE YOURSELF! Forgiveness does not mean forgetting. It means letting go of the pain that we inflict upon ourselves for having not done something differently.
There are a lot of ways you can do this. I am a big supporter of therapy! For me, I wrote down all the things that I was blaming myself for. My guilt over putting my sons into the situation I did. The stupidity I felt for not seeing how controlling he was early on. Not walking out the door when his first lie came to light.
I owned the mistakes I had made and made apologies to my sons for what I had subjected them to. And then I said “good-bye” to the list. I burned it. I committed that once it was gone, it was in my past. I made the best decisions I could when I made them and now that I knew better, I would make better decisions. When something would come up in my life that stemmed from my time with my ex, I would remind myself that it was done. No more beating myself up over it. No more reliving it over and over in my mind and playing the “what if…” game.
This doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time and a concentrated effort to look forward rather than backwards. But it did help. I looked for ways that I could take what I had learned from my past and turn it into a positive in my new life. It took many years but I finally started sharing my experiences with other divorced women and finding ways to support them through their own divorces on www.recoveringcinderella.com.
Regardless of what happened in your marriage and subsequent divorce, give yourself the same grace you would give your friends or family if they were telling you their story. You did the best you could at the time. It is now in your past, filed under “lessons learned.” Let it go. You have a fresh start and an opportunity to make different choices and decisions. Live your new life without the baggage of your old one dragging you down!
Hi! I’m Keri Lauderdale Olson, also known as Recovering Cinderella, www.recoveringcinderella.com. I am not a therapist (although I can probably use one) or divorce professional. I am simply a woman who has lived through divorce and wants to help support other women through their own divorces with honesty, humor and a healthy dose of reality. If you are a woman going through a divorce or if you are divorced and have some insight to share with women going through it, please join my private Facebook support group. There is a link on my website.