January 18, 2017

How I found Joy in the Struggle of Divorce.

Every day was a heartbreaking struggle during my divorce.

After years of a marriage, learning how to reinvent myself, start over, establish my independence again, and figure out what I was going to do as I picked the pieces up was an overwhelming task that I felt like I could not bear.

This struggle is a dark place to be. And I probably would have been there longer if I had not realized that any tiny spark of joy—no matter how small—can be the lifeline we all need.

Oftentimes, we may forget to see all the wonderful things that await us.

Learning to find joy in our lives, especially when we are in the middle of a relationship’s demise, attempting to recover, or learning how to be by ourselves again is an incredible gift that we can give ourselves. It may not even be a gift, but a necessity for our own self-preservation and healing. And it can be easier than ever when we remember to answer the following:

What is mine and mine alone that nobody can take from me?

Answering this question establishes the solid foundation for celebrating what is good in our lives. These answers are simpler than we think. Some of my answers, especially during the hardest times of my divorce, included:

>> Coming home to a clean house—with everything just how I left it.

>> The feeling that although I am no longer married—at least I’m not in a toxic, unhealthy relationship anymore.

>> Knowing that my dogs would always greet me with a wagging tail and sloppy kiss.

Those simple things are usually what we take for granted, but when we are mindful to the love and beauty that actually surrounds us, just waiting to be acknowledged, we will see dozens of things to be happy about that are right in front of us.

What are the things in life that we have overlooked but are worth celebrating?

We have this unfair expectation that only huge milestones in our lives are worth celebrating. But what about the day-in, day-out struggles that we endure, especially as we grow older?

We don’t give ourselves enough credit for the things we have accomplished, especially as we learn to move on after divorce or any other dark period. Every day that we take control of our life, that we learn a little more about managing money and re-entering the work force, that we get a little bit stronger and take care of ourselves, put ourselves first, reclaim our lives and realize that we are worthy of it all is worth celebrating.

So, what things will we start to celebrate? I’ve listed a few of my own:

>> I choose to celebrate that I am no longer in a relationship that was unhealthy for me.

>> I will celebrate that I am a survivor. I got through this, and now I know I can get through anything.

If we are still having trouble with identifying things that bring us joy, we shouldn’t worry! Finding joy in life is the most important step to learning how to heal and move on. It is also the easiest but most critical component of taking care of ourselves as we recover from divorce.

When the world still seems like a disaster, when we are angry over something that happened today, or we are triggered into feeling resentful or grief-stricken, we must do this one thing:

Write down five things to be grateful for.

These things do not have to be extravagant. In fact, the simplest things are usually the best, because they remind us that we are still alive and that we will be okay. Need some inspiration? Here’s last night’s entry into my own notebook:

>> The crinkle of the snow underneath my feet.

>> The smell of fabric softener on clean sheets.

>> Hot Epsom salt bath before bed.

>> My sweet dog Oliver, who always makes me laugh.

>> Homemade hot chocolate after dinner.

I prefer doing this exercise as I am getting ready for bed. After I finish my nightly rituals but still have a few minutes before I know that I am going to zonk out is when I write them down. It doesn’t really matter when we do it exactly, but I find that the end of the day is the best time to get closure on any nonsense that has gotten into my space, and to celebrate any good things that have come my way too.

Try it tonight.

Make it as easy as possible.

I keep a medium-sized notebook with a pen on my nightstand, next to my alarm clock—somewhere I will see it every night. Get as beautiful or as simple a notebook as you want—some people get super-fancy and call them gratitude journals. I see mine as a lifeline to joy.

This is not a just-one-and-done thing, however. We must make this a habit in order for it to work. Some studies show that it takes 21 days of practice to make something a habit, but we will start to notice the change in outlook in three days.

A simple habit can change our outlook.

We may also see patterns of things which we are grateful for—things that appear in the notebook regularly. It’s not a coincidence. These are the things in life that bring us joy. These are the things to celebrate.

These are the things that, when we are angry or lonely, have the power to re-center us again and remind us that we are strong, and that regardless of where we have been, we can get our life and happiness back.


Author: Martha Bodyfelt

Image: Amanda Z/ Flickr

Editor: Khara-Jade Warren


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