What it Takes to Get Over a Divorce

About three months after my separation, I read a book about divorce. The book said that it would take at least a year of misery before I started to feel better. It also said that denial is the first stage, and that I’d feel like things were improving, only to be hit with the brunt of the “devastation” a few months later.

That book pissed me off.

I didn’t appreciate some jerk telling me I was going to suffer through another nine months of this garbage, after I’d already been through three months of hell. I especially hated being told that I was in denial and things would be getting worse. Screw that guy.

Well, that guy was right.

Actually, he was only mostly right. He said that I’d be grieving for my marriage, and grieving for the loss of my partner. But I truly believe that I did the majority of my grieving for the marriage while I was still in it. I did have to grieve for the Life That Should Have Been, and I also had to accept the Life That Is. I think accepting the Life That Is was harder than letting go of the Life That Should Have Been.

The misery over the next year and a half was related to the personal work I had to do, more than my marriage. I knew I had work to do. I couldn’t simply look at the marriage and say, “well, that was his fault.” I am not perfect. At the very least, I put myself in that position, and I didn’t know why.

I’ve never looked at “personal work” as a hard or negative thing. I actually quite enjoy it (and for a long time I think I subconsciously chased difficult experiences, so that I’d be forced to grow). Nothing, though, could have prepared me for the amount of work I have had to do post-divorce. It’s been exhausting, depressing, amazing, anxiety-provoking, and liberating all at once. There were a lot of things I needed to work on. Self-worth was one of them, along with being okay without a relationship. Creating boundaries was another. But giving up my insane grip on control has been the Big Kahuna.

I viewed my life as a checklist. I was not brave enough to ask myself, “What do I want?” Instead, I went through the motions of what we’ve all been told will make us happy. On some deep level, I thought, “if I can just check off all these items, everything will turn out okay.” I spent my life worrying about things I had no control over, trying to fix things that couldn’t be fixed, and fruitlessly attempting to protect myself from being hurt.

Needless to say, it didn’t work.

When I faced my life, I had to admit: my attempt at keeping the “safe life” I thought I’d created intact failed. I worked at it for nearly a decade, and I couldn’t fix it. If a “safe” life can fail, where does that leave me? Is anything safe? Turns out, my life actually wasn’t so safe.

Some people think divorce is the easy way out. The reality is, divorce is harder than marriage – and I say that from the perspective of someone who did the work required by marriage. In divorce, you have to be brave enough to face the unknown, and you have to rebuild your life from the ground up. It is not for the faint at heart.

Now, in most cases I think this kind of realization would lead to a breakdown. I didn’t feel that I had that choice, though: I had to stay strong for my daughter. So instead of breaking down, I just kept going.

If you’ll bear with me, I’m going to guide you through my Divorce Analogy. (I figured this out after a lot of therapy, haha.)

All blame is a waste of time. No matter how much fault you find with another, and regardless of how much you blame him, it will not change you. - Wayne Dyer

I think about life as a journey with neverending doors that might have something scary on the other side. For years, I was willing to limit myself to a tiny room. When I had my daughter, I took a good, hard look at that room and realized just how tiny it was. I wanted my daughter to see the world, so I opened the door and left my marriage.

On the other side, I found what appeared to be a creepy, haunted forest. Okay, I thought, I can handle this. I walked out the door and into the forest. I figured out a lot of the details of my life – I found some tools, I learned that I have an amazing support system, and I realized I was strong enough to carry the 80 pound backpack I had strapped to my back. I kept walking, and before long I found myself trudging through a giant pond of muck. I had no idea how long it was going to take to get out of that muck, but I just kept walking. I wasn’t depressed, but I was exhausted. I kept thinking it would end soon, and I thought once the legal process was over, I’d be out of the muck.

But I hadn’t actually taken the time to truly examine my life. It all seemed too dramatic. When I told people what was going on, I sped through the story, left the truly horrifying parts out, and quickly changed the subject. I simply couldn’t “sit” in my muck. Sitting with it was unbearable, and I was terrified by what would happen to me if I did. What if I sat in my muck and realized I’d never get out of it? Or that once I got out of the muck, I had a long, rocky road ahead, followed by Everest?

The true turning point was when I finally gave up, looked down and actually examined my muck. I allowed myself to be vulnerable, even though I was terrified. I’m not going to lie – it sucked. I took a solid look at my life and admitted: this is hard. This sucks. I am in this alone and I have absolutely no help. I felt like crap for about two weeks.

But it was a turning point. When you accept things as they are, and you admit that things are hard, you have compassion for yourself. And that compassion is the first step toward believing that you deserve more.

After my two weeks of feeling like crap, I realized I was out of the muck. I actually did have a long rocky road, followed by Everest. It was hard as hell, but from the summit I could see how beautiful my future was. I descended Everest and had another long road ahead. I knew I was getting to close to the end, but that heavy backpack was really starting to wear on me. I recently set it down, examined its contents, and realized this: I forgive him. I forgive myself. And I am thankful for this experience.

And you know what? That was it. It’s over. My divorce is finally over.

My end game is and always has been to create a better life for C. I left my marriage to give her a better role model. But the wonderful part of this process is that I am also a better person for myself. I am really proud of myself! I am truly a strong woman now, not a scared kid pretending to be strong. I am not angry anymore. I don’t sweat the small stuff. I have boundaries and I don’t feel guilty about them. I am happy.

At the end of this journey, I am ready to open another door…and I am thrilled to find out what’s on the other side!

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22 Responses to What it Takes to Get Over a Divorce

  1. Amy says:

    Oh my gosh, Sara! I’m so proud of you!! I think you’re an incredible woman and I can feel the strength behind your words. What a sense of renewal and peace I see in your life! Great job, mama! I’m so happy for you :)

  2. Marissa says:

    Love this! Thank you for sharing! I am so glad you are able to see the joy that pain can eventually bring. That is something that is so hard for me, but I am inspired by your strength and ability to forgive! I have tears in my eyes because man, that is deep, hard, good stuff.
    So glad you and C are doing well! So much love for you both <3

    • Sara Olsher says:

      Thanks Marissa! It is SO worth the dark spots to come out on the other side stronger and more “yourself.” I think getting through this will definitely help me through future “dark spots” in life – but MAN I hope they don’t last as long. ;) And you know what they say about forgiveness – it’s more for you than it is for the other person. :)

  3. Dana / The Broke-Ass Bride says:

    Sara,
    This was incredibly beautiful, and I’m so glad you shared it. I can relate to so much of this, and am beyond proud of you for all your strength and courage :) xo

  4. Kate says:

    Sara, I could’ve written this post myself (without your adorable little C, of course), but perhaps not quite so succinctly. I love YOU a little bit for being so darn articulate about something that appears so complicated both above and under the surface. You are SO right – divorce is one of the hardest challenges I will ever surmount in my lifetime. While it feels good to be here, task completed, the life ahead has to be recreated to now fit, incorporating what you have learned from the divorce. It just isn’t the same. You spent years leading up to the marriage building your dreams – and those same dreams that you held tight to before your divorce will never be the same after the divorce.

    Rebuilding and discovering those dreams in such a short period of time after such an obstacle feels literally insane at times. BUT – despite all of that, it really feels GOOD. It builds a sense of power in you that you never knew you had. Sometimes we need to be reminded of this newfound power when we’re looking ahead, relearning ourselves, rebuilding those dreams and moving forward. I’m totally in this moment myself – and I thank you for sharing this, because I really needed to read it.

    • Sara Olsher says:

      “…it builds a sense of power in you that you never knew you had. ”
      YES!!! A thousand times, yes. I also think when you do it again, you’re a little more realistic about what stuff *really* matters and what stuff isn’t quite as important (at least, that’s how I feel).

  5. Reichel says:

    I love your analogy….wow. You know I always look forward to your posts :) I love how you break down the complex and make things so easy to comprehend! xo

  6. Jen L says:

    I am so proud of you, baby cousin. Your journey is so well written here. Your words are empowering, you have such a beautiful sense of feminine strength in your outlook, and I am proud to include you in the circle of the very strong women in our family that have climbed out of the muck and made a beautiful lives :)

    • Sara Olsher says:

      Thank you so much Jen! We’ve definitely had some muck climber-outers in our family for sure. Your relationship with your mom is really an inspiration for me . I have a lot of memories of the two of you when you were a teenager. :)

  7. Ashley says:

    Thank you SO much for writing this. You describe it all so perfectly. I do believe divorce is harder than staying married and sometimes I am so angry that I am choosing the harder road. What I do know is there is a light at the end of this tunnel and the view from the top of Everest, when I finally get there, is going to look so much better than the muck I am sitting in now. It’s a journey and a long road and holy cow is it exhausting. But I have never cried harder, been sadder, been happier, learned more, felt more, believed more and felt more alive than I do now. Thank you and huge hugs to you on your own journey.

    • Sara Olsher says:

      YES Ashley – there are so many conflicting feelings, and I think it can make you feel a little crazy and all-over-the-place . Especially in the first six months or so. But this road is WORTH being on, and you can do it. It does get easier. The alternative was living the wrong life for you – and in the end, it would be a harder, sadder life to be married to the wrong person and miserable. This requires work, but the rewards will be great! Hugs to you – it will get easier, I promise.

  8. Hayley says:

    *choking back tears* I am proud of you too, dear friend.

  9. ERIN says:

    From someone who went through the SUPER FUN (j/k) AND NOT EASY process of divorce almost 4 years ago, I truly think you captured exactly what it is. This makes me so happy to read where you are now, as I’ve followed your journey to get there and I know it’s been anything less than easy. Some people take a really long time to get where you are, some people take a short journey to get there…but what matters is you are there. You are setting C up to have a fantastic role model-you’re doing a great job. I’m very proud of you and really want to share your post with my divorced friends. We get it. :)

  10. Sarah says:

    Gah! I am belated here because my reader somehow ate this post. Glad I found it. Love, love, love as always! You are the epitome of an empowered woman. This post reminds me of “Closer to Fine.” Go belt it out and celebrate your journey!

  11. Katie says:

    Sarah, thank you once again for such an honest post about something I am learning is SO difficult. You know when you embark on the journey that it will be hard but there is no way to know how hard it will be and how alone you will feel no matter how many amazing and supportive people you have in your life. I don’t know you but knowing you are out there and you made it through to the other side lightens my heart and gives me hope.

    • Sara Olsher says:

      Thanks so much for this thoughtful comment, Katie, I really appreciate it. I am not the only one, either. I think people who truly want to grow from the experience have nothing but good things ahead of them. I wish you nothing but the best!

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