Life After Divorce:
Choose Your Own Ending

While divorce can be a heartbreaking event, the key to healthy adjustment is to accept the realities of your new situation and move on. The future lies in your hands because you have control over your choices.

One of the hardest things to do is to choose to forgive. Difficult, but essential for your healing and emotional health. Forgive yourself and forgive your spouse. In any divorce there is fault on each side, not always equal fault, but fault nevertheless. Take time to examine your flaws (without beating yourself up). Recognize the things you need to change; make those changes and get busy becoming a better person. Then forgive your spouse---completely. If you are a person of faith, one of the best ways to do this is to pray daily for the well being of your ex-spouse. If prayer isn’t an option then genuinely desire that s/he is happy and has a good life, visualize only positive things for him/her. Simple advice, but hard to do. However forgiveness is actually all about you and has very little to do with the other person. When you forgive, you are healthier, and you are happier. When you can rid your heart of anger, fear, resentment and bitterness, then there is more room for love; for yourself, and for those around you. Holding on to negative emotions hurts you more than anyone else. A wise person once said that refusing to forgive is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. You can choose to suffer, and prolong the agony of divorce by being bitter, but if you want to heal and move on, forgive.

Recognize what you can, and cannot change. There is wonderful advice in the Serenity Prayer in this regard:

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference

Accepting a painful reality is difficult, but in the acceptance comes healing. The breakdown of a marriage affects so many lives. Sometimes close relationships with others change. You find yourself being treated differently, even losing friendships that mean a lot to you. Often those friends are only hearing part of the story and so are making hasty and unfair judgments. It isn’t easy, but when you realize that the only thing you really have control over is your attitude, that realization can lead to acceptance of the situation.
All of life’s experiences have a lesson wrapped up in them somewhere. Maybe your divorce experience offers an invaluable lesson in allowing you to reconsider some of the hasty judgments that you might have made about others without knowing all the facts.

Finding courage to change the way you do things is difficult at first, but the more you forge through fear, the more confidence you gain in yourself as a good and worthwhile human being. Embrace your new life as a single person; dedicate yourself to changing and improving who you are, and what you contribute to this world.

Take time to heal and nurture yourself. Discover the things that bring you joy and a sense of peace and pursue them. Make a list of things you love to do, and be sure to take time to do one or more of those things every day, e.g. gardening, photography, music, crafts, walking the dog, petting the cat.
Be gentle with your broken heart, this is the time when you need to be your own best friend. Be aware of your self talk, aware of any negative emotions. Take time to be alone, to pray, meditate, and to recognize your great worth. Don’t wallow in the mistakes of the past, but build a bright future---in your mind first. Imagine the new life, the new confident you. Take time to build a new self image. As you allow love of yourself you will find a renewed love for those in your life.
Think of the advice that passengers are given during the first few minutes of every flight:

In the event of an emergency, if oxygen masks are needed, put yours in place first and then attend to small children, and others who might need assistance.

Until you take care of your own needs and nurture yourself, you cannot meet the needs of others. If you are to become whole, healthy and well adjusted you need to take the responsibility for your healing, your recovery. Heal your wounds, regain your confidence and then reach out to others in service.

Use this experience to grow, and to help others. Know who you are. You are divorced, yes, but you are still a worthwhile and worthy person. Divorce is only a failure if you don’t learn from it. It is very unfortunate but it happened. Service to others can be a wonderful antidote to your pain and anguish. Service to others will heal your heart faster than anything else you can do.
Find opportunities to forget yourself and your problems. Volunteer to feed the homeless, become a big brother or big sister, visit “shut ins”, become a volunteer at your local hospital. Make time to think of others and your own problems will diminish. As you become more aware of trials in the lives of others you will find yourself counting your blessings and expressing gratitude for all that you have. These acts of service will also provide opportunities for meeting new people, and for making new friends.

Create a new life. Allow yourself to savor and remember the good times in your marriage, take time to focus on the things that were good in your relationship, hold on to those memories and be grateful for them, but be willing to embrace new experiences and traditions.
Along with finding opportunities to meet new people, consciously create new memories, new rituals, new holiday traditions. Don’t hold on to the past, avoid reminders of how things used to be. Find new music, new hobbies. You cannot change the past, let it go. Focus on creating your new present and future and on becoming the well-adjusted, and best self you can.

Be Grateful. Start a gratitude journal; find five things every day to be grateful for. Focus on the good things that are happening for you, and you will find even more. Gratitude makes your day brighter and increases your chance for happiness. Write notes of gratitude to others, it will benefit both you and those who receive the expression of thanks.

Make a conscious choice to be happy. Look forward with hope and optimism. This change in your life can bring about new opportunities if you allow it. Look for them. Embrace the unknown. The power is in your hands to take responsibility for your happiness. Don’t put your happiness on hold for things beyond your control. Choose to take a more active role in seeking happiness in the here and now. Accept life as it is, change your attitude, and be happy with what you do have. No one else can make you happy, or sad, or mad. That is entirely up to you. You hold your future in your hands. The choice is yours.

“God asks no man whether he will accept life. That is not the choice. You must take it. The only choice is how.”
Henry Ward Beecher

There is a way up and out after divorce. Decide to use this time to become your best self. Work on you, your life, and your choices. Take control and turn a devastating event into one of learning and growth. As you emerge stronger and more powerful look around for those who need your wisdom and experience. As you help others to walk the tough path you have traveled, you will find a sense of gratitude for your life experiences. The tough times are the ones that teach you the most. Don’t get stuck in the hurt and anger and lose the important lessons. You will see one day what a gift those tough lessons are, and you will be grateful.

Author's Bio: 

Rosemary Holmes-Gull is a retired elementary teacher and teacher educator. Since her divorce she has written a children’s picture book, Imagine That…A Picture Book of Possibilities in collaboration with her oldest son who provided the beautiful illustrations.
She is donating part of the proceeds from her book to Mothers Without Borders, an organization that works with AIDS orphans in Zambia. Rosemary will return to Zambia in June 2010 to work with the children.
You can check out her website and blog at