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The Courage to Rebuild After a Break-up or Divorce
by Michele Germain, LCSW
Your body holds the wisdom of your deepest self. It is where the life force flows and where you feel the joy and pleasure of your life. It is also where you feel the grace that comes from your connection to God, higher power, or intelligent energy in the universe. Your body also holds your personal history. This is where your feelings originate and where you experience your sorrows, disappointments and losses that life brings your way.
In times of crisis often there is a tendency to disconnect from the body to avoid the pain of a loss. This begins at an early age and continues through adulthood. It becomes an unconscious pattern. The body then becomes a machine instead of a source of strength and guidance. As you begin to rebuild your life, stay present and aware of what is going on in your body. Begin now to use your body as a compass as you learn about the inner and outer work of healing following a divorce or break-up.
Picture yourself standing in the middle of a building. Suddenly the walls of the building collapse leaving you exposed in open space. The walls represent your marriage and intact family as you experienced them: safe, strong, chaotic, or painful. It was a familiar place. On the other hand, divorce and single parenting can feel as if you are standing alone in the exposed, open space, with no walls around you.
Loss of a spouse through divorce is a crisis that effects every aspect of your life. This includes your emotional, intellectual and spiritual identity, as well as your family, friendships, financial, social and physical health. Divorce causes more changes and losses than any other life event and these losses impact both your internal and external world. It can throw us into a tailspin, causing us to feel like a fish out of water and a life without purpose.
Your feelings can range from confusion, doubt and ambivalence to anger or even relief. What happens in your internal world is mirrored by your external world, where your life as you knew it feels turned upside down. To bring structure back to your life there are two distinct types of work to be done: inner work and outer work.
The inner work is about understanding and expressing your feelings and can be compared to clearing away the debris of the collapsed walls of the building so that a new structure can be built. Outer work is creating your new life as a single person and single parent. This may include finding a new home, establishing new friendships and creating a special set of rituals around holidays and children’s events. This can be compared to raising a new set of walls. The healthy tools you need to heal and rebuild the walls of your new life are: honesty, courage, faith and self-love.
Honesty means being open with your feelings and being able to share your inner world with other adults. This will permit you to give your children the space they need to express their feelings so they do not pretend or hide what is going on inside them. The act of expressing feelings and having someone listen helps us to heal.
Courage means in the midst of change and uncertainty you move forward step by step taking on each new task the best way you can, not requiring that you be perfect.
Faith is the unshakable belief that you will recover. Everything you need to be happy is inside. It enables you to give your children the message that they are loved and loveable and that will never change. Self-love is the ability to be patient, compassionate, understanding and non-judgmental with yourself and your children even when you do not feel good enough.
It is common to feel the most exposed during holidays and other tradition laden events such as birthdays, vacations, family gatherings and school activities Create rituals around these times: allow your children to participate in the planning. At times like these you especially need to get the tools out and start rebuilding the walls of your new lives.
Inner work is helpful for both you and your children to listen carefully to your own inner experience by asking yourselves often how you are feeling. Keep journals, and hold weekly meeting together. The objective is to clearly express that which is inside of us. Plan activities that will be fun and lighthearted connecting with your heart, body and soul, this can help ease the change and adjustment. Praise yourself for your efforts, and listen with patience to your children. Love heals our internal wounds, but the hand of love must first be our own.
Outer work can involve seeking employment, vocational training, relocating, handling financial issues, developing a new social support system task that you need to do to create your life as a single person. Determine your priorities, set realistic goals and take one step at a time. You might also consider joining a club or special interest group such as a hiking club, gourmet group, dance, theater, or a woman support group. Be kind with yourself as you do each task; your life will unfold as it needs to, and your confidence will grow.
Carry your tools with you everywhere you go. Honesty, courage, faith and self-love will grow and never fail to bring you through the changes in your life. Our deepest sorrows and more difficult challenges can unfold into our greatest accomplishments.
Michele Germain, LCSW, is a psychotherapist and certified bioenergetic analyst with over twenty-five years of experience. As a specialist in divorce recovery for the last decade, she has written articles and conducted workshops on the topic, and has been interviewed on television and radio programs. More information on her work can be found at www.michelegermain.com.