Divorce Recovery – What I Would Have Done Differently

Everyone has experienced trauma. One person’s bad day is another person’s living nightmare for years. We all experience things that are difficult, and divorce is severe trauma in most cases. It’s the death of a marriage. My therapist said that you mourn the death of a marriage just like you mourn the death of a beloved friend or family member. Your marriage died. You don’t just wake up a week later and everything’s perfect.

You get further along in your own healing process with every book you read.

After my separation, things got way worse before they got better. But as time went by, everything started to make perfect sense. I let go of resentments and anger, and I was able to see the truth. Some people are meant to come into our lives for a season, not forever. We sometimes marry people who were meant for a season and not for life. But there are no accidents. I have two awesome kids I could never live without. Plus, before every breakthrough is a breakdown. When you feel broken and can’t make sense of it all, and you’re not even sure how you’re going to pay the mortgage, like I was for years, you are on the verge of a huge break THROUGH. The lessons we learned and the lessons we are currently learning right this second could not and can not be learned any other way.

However, I don’t think we need to suffer so much. I don’t think we need to harbor so much anger. I don’t think we need to fuck ourselves up because we’re going through something hard. That’s what I did. I couldn’t think straight through the lens of my anger and resentment for many years. I blamed EVERYTHING on my ex-husband. I played the victim when let’s be real…it takes two to tango, sister. I wish I would have done some things differently. Now I know if I had done some things differently, I would have eased my suffering and began to heal my heart so much sooner and faster.

I wished I would have stayed home more and read more books.

I’ve read about 200 books in the last decade. Not enough. Every time I read a book about self-improvement or parenting, I changed. Your brain changes with each paragraph. You learn things you haven’t experienced, and you learn to make sense of your own horrible experiences. You get further along in your own healing process with every book. Healing comes from within. Unhealed trauma is the root of all insecurity and all self-loathing, and I wish I would have read even more books. I put a great list together for you on my resources page. But one book stands alone from the rest: Broken Open by Elizabeth Lesser. She says a broken heart is broken open, and only when it is open can we grow. We can’t grow and learn if our hearts stay closed. I have a thousand lines underlined, and post-it notes all throughout, but here’s an amazing quote from this book:

Elizabeth Lesser, “Broken Open”

“While I have been broken open through travails at work and in the world, nothing has awakened my heart as much as the pain of a broken family. Nothing has given me as much strength as the time I spent alone in the ruined aftermath of my marriage.”

Nothing has given me as much strength as a divorce? She’s a genius. Of course we find our strengths in the aftermath of our failed marriages. This is when we call upon God to send our inner Wonder Woman and he does it! He helps us put on our big girl panties and figure it out all day every day. Do whatever needs to be done. We wouldn’t have even grown to our full bad-ass Goddess potential if we HADN’T had to figure all this shit out ourselves and take care of everything that needed to be done without a partner and with a broken heart. You’re not an amazing badass in spite of your divorce, you are a badass Wonder Woman BECAUSE OF IT!

I wish I would have taken care of mama FIRST.

Speaking of doing whatever needs to be done…we can do everything with so much more ease if we take care of mama first. It’s an entire chapter in my book. We need to put our oxygen mask on FIRST, so that we can help our children through this. They are suffering right along with us, but they are resilient, and they will also be strong and courageous and will learn valuable lessons. Our children are watching our every move after the divorce and learning how to deal with adversity and pain. They won’t say anything about it but they are watching you and learning from you. We’ve got to take care of ourselves and give mom what she needs so that we can show up in the best way possible for the littles. Forever. They’re still watching me and my husband through everything we go through. We never stop being parents. We’re still parenting our kids in their 20’s because they haven’t been through what they haven’t been through! Now that I have kids in their 20’s,  realize how vulnerable I was in my twenties and how clueless I really was! How can you learn anything without any life experiences? You can’t.

Practice loving, respecting, and trusting yourself every day.

I wish I would have created my sanctuary sooner. I wish I would have created a space just for me to relax and renew and read. Once I did that, everything changed. I felt more calm. I felt more peaceful. I felt like a woman raising children instead of a slave to whatever my kids needed, then chewed up, spit out, overtired, overspent, and overdrafted (that’s probably not a word but you know what I mean). Take time for yourself even if it’s 15 minutes in the morning before anyone wakes up. Make a cup of coffee or tea, take a bath, do some stretches, do a quick set of yoga poses. Fill your cup up first, and then you’ll have plenty to share with your kids. Practicing self-care and self-love is demonstrating that you deserve to be loved and cared for. No one will love you, respect you, and trust you until you love, respect, and trust yourself. Practice loving, respecting, and trusting yourself every day.

I wish I would have spent less time out with the girls, and more time on my knees.

I heard someone say that prayers are magnified when we’re on our knees. I don’t think I prayed at all when I first separated from my ex-husband. I worked, came home, ate dinner with my kids, read them a short book, put them to bed, and went outside to drink an entire bottle of wine and smoke an entire pack of cigarettes. I’d wake up hungover, run on my treadmill for an hour (or less, if Leah came wandering down the stairs early) get ready for work, do it all over again. The weekends were party time. Happy hours, closing down bars and clubs, waking up next to a stranger, hating myself. If you don’t have self-love, you will fall for fake love over and over and over and over and over and over and over again. Same dude, different name. Cultivating self-love is a long process. It takes time. We need God’s help. I wish I would have prayed more for guidance. My sister branded this answer into my brain years ago whenever you’re wondering what you should do next:

You will be guided.

Someone said once that prayer is you talking to God, and your intuition is God talking to you. You will be guided to the next right thing. We always are! Prayer helps us when we feel alone. We’re not alone. We have a “silent” partner walking right beside us, giving us signs, giving us those feelings in our guts. When I’m thinking about a problem and finding a solution, no matter what is is, I say, “Thank you God for guiding me to the next right thing, person, place, whatever is the next best step for us.” Then something happens that guides us right to the next step, and then the next. You only have to worry about the next step, but the more I pray, the more guidance I get. The more signs I see, and the more miracles happen! I wish I would have prayed more!

I wish I would have saved more money.

After my divorce, I had a couple of years where I was making OK money, and then I had a couple of years when I was barely making any. My income fluctuated a lot. I wish I would have saved a few pennies when I was doing OK. But I felt that I had a lack when it was the light months. I felt like I deserved to treat the kids and take them to Disneyland when I didn’t really have the money. But in reality, all they wanted to do was get their faces painted and swim in the pool at the hotel. Well, I could have accomplished that with $100 instead of spending over $1000. If I had saved some money

then I would have had more options to move to a different place and had more sense of peace. Although, our house and our neighborhood were perfect for us a the time, and even though I call it the gross rental with shitty carpets, my kids loved it. It was like a daycare center. They’d tie blankets to the banisters on with residue of the stairs and make hammocks, they’d put the mattresses on the stairs and make slides—I don’t think the cushions were every actually ON the couch to sit on. They were always being repurposed for fort roofs and war barriers and race car tracks. That’s a great way to grow up, but that’s not the best most peaceful situation for mom.

Having a messy home will cause you stress all day.

I wish I would have created more harmony in my home sooner.

Which leads me right into the next thing I wish I would have done differently. Create more harmony in my home sooner. Mess = stress, and mess and disarray attract all kinds of stress and disarray into our lives, even if we don’t even realize it. If we can’t find a spatula every time we make eggs we are causing our own stress. Even a few seconds of stress can ruin your morning, and if you just organized that drawer and put the spatula away in the same place every day, you would have saved your morning. Same with everything. My Granny Pearl said, “everything has one place.” Every day I would spend a few minutes organizing a little small area of the house. I would look at a space (room, corner, closet, drawer) and determine if it brought me joy or not. If not, figure out what needs to go, what needs to be organized, what needs to be thrown away, and what needs to be given away. If you haven’t used it in 6 months, you won’t.

I wish I had started my morning routine sooner.

It sets up my whole day with strength, joy, a sense of pride, and a knowingness that it’s going to be a great day.

I also have a free download worksheet if you’re interested. Today, I wouldn’t skip it for the world. It sets up my whole day with strength, joy, a sense of pride, and a knowingness that it’s going to be a great day. No matter what happens, I write down three things I’m grateful for, which usually turns into 9 or 10. I write down wins from yesterday. Sometimes my win is just that I wrote in my journal. I went for a walk. I played cards with the kids. Small wins add up to big joy, self-love, and fulfillment. Focusing on what’s going RIGHT trains your brain to keep focusing on everything that is going right and then you keep finding things that are going right! Then I write down my to-do list for the day and if it doesn’t need to be done today, put it on tomorrow’s list. Then I write down my goals. Writing them every day keeps my focus on what I want to create in my life, and keeps me headed in that direction so I can focus on my little bits of progress I was making toward it each one. When I was single and decided that I was going to become the person I wanted to attract, I read and edited my soulmate list every morning and every night. I put it in the notes in my phone. So I could read it and edit it every day. And I could think of something that I could DO to get closer to becoming the person I wanted to BE. I wanted someone kind, so I needed to be kind. Focus on doing one kind thing.

I wish I would have put down the bottle of wine sooner, and started on my boss list sooner.

I talk a lot about my boss list. I believe that keeping our focus on the actions that we want to take in order to become the person we want to be is a strategy for getting through hard times. I wish I would have put down the bottle of wine sooner, and started on my boss list sooner. I started focusing on what it meant to ME to be a good mom, and what actions “good moms” take, then I made that list of actions into my list of goals. You decide what it means to be a good mom. You’re the only one who knows what your child needs. God sent them to you. You decide what they need you to be and do. Not your mom, your Grandma, your sister, your friends, your ex-husband. We all want to be a good mom, but what does that mean? Some people live their whole lives trying to impress other moms by attending PTO meetings and making cookies from scratch for the bake sale. That stuff doesn’t matter to me. I decided what actions “good moms” take, and made those actions my goals.

A goal has to be quantifiable in order to achieve it. You can’t accomplish “I want to be a good mom,” but you can accomplish “I read to my kids every night for 30 minutes.” If it’s quantifiable, then I know that when I did it, I did good. No one can give you self love and self-worth but you. When you accomplish one small quantifiable goal, you can’t help but feel good. You may even notice that the corners of your mouth start to turn upward. You decide what actions will make you feel like you’re doing ok, even when you don’t feel ok, and nothing makes sense, and you’re really suffering right now. Nothing helps me feel better than to sit down on the floor and play a game with my kids. Make a fort and watch a movie. Play a game. It does wonders for the soul. They won’t be this age very long. When they turn 5, they’ll no longer want to do 4-year-old things. Take advantage of the years they just want to play with you.

I wish I would have done the “Let It Go” exercise sooner.

I talk about this exercise a lot because it changed my life. You can download this free PDF that explains the process and has the worksheets that you can print at home for free. This is a process that allows you to see the truth of what happened to your marriage. It helps you see the miracles that came out of it. It allows you to take responsibility for your part. It allows you to stop being angry and stop being a victim of your circumstances and move forward.

“Don’t look back. You’re not going that way.” -Ed Mylett

We are not “damaged goods” because of our divorces. We are not broken because our marriages failed. We are broken open. I wish I would have melted my anger faster. I wish I would have kept my heart open instead of closing it up every time I was rejected by a man (a teacher.) Everyone is teaching us something if we pay attention, and if we concentrate on what we want, we can attract it so much faster. Once I put my soulmate list in the notes in my phone I was able to stay focused on what I was learning, instead of focusing on what went wrong and what I wish were different, and what I didn’t want. Focusing on what you wish were different and what you DON’T want keeps you walking backward and puts you further and further away from you goal to be happy and create a joyful life, and eventually attract a partner that will love you and cherish you and adore you forever. It’s possible, If it’s possible for one of us, it’s possible for all of us. Even you, mama.

Wishing you lots of love,



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