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Risa Garon Headshot

There is Light at the End of the Tunnel

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The National Family Resiliency Center, Inc. (NFRC) is a private, non-profit mental health center located in the Baltimore/Washington D.C. area. The NFRC has one special goal--fostering healthy relationships in all families regardless of composition. Through individual, couple, family, parent, co-parent, pre-marital, marital, separation and blended family counseling.

While many people state that going through divorce is the most difficult time in one's
life, it can also be a time of hope. It can allow you to move forward, make changes,
establish healthy relationships and become a better parent.

Imagine that you are told that your partner is leaving and your children know nothing
about it. How do you continue with your everyday life, while surviving this initial pain?
I decided to answer this question by interviewing some of the peer counselors at our
center, the National Family Resiliency Center (NFRC). These peer counselors are
people who have previously gone through the family transition of divorce, who now
feel comfortable with their adjustment, and who want to help others learn to cope with
the transition. I asked these peer counselors about how they permitted themselves to be
vulnerable and honest with themselves during such difficult times. Here are some of their
inspiring stories.

Peer Counselor 1

For me, when I finally left (the relationship) the first thing that happened is I started
to realize how much chaos I was living in with my ex-partner. And, I think, what was
it about me that made me live in an environment with a person who was so mean and
manipulative that I doubted myself? Why was this acceptable or normal to me? Later,
I realized my reactions were completely skewed, and I leaned heavily on family and
friends to help me see a different "normal". I decided that I was going to be honest and I
decided there were a few people who I had to trust to help me. When I think back on that
time, I realize how vulnerable I was, and I did choose very carefully who I would trust.
My advice would be to be brave enough to figure out what about yourself made living in
an intolerable situation tolerable. The next step is to decide to change and enlist a trusted
person to help.

Peer Counselor 2

An adult can be vulnerable after separation/divorce if he/she is the person leaving or if
he/she is being left. In either case, there is judgment by family and friends because people who care about you want someone to blame. My former husband and I actually had
friends and family that insisted on knowing who was at fault. We refused to play that
game. If you are the one declaring the marriage over, you can be seen as self-centered,
unloving, selfish, controlling, etc. If you are being left, you can be open to being pitied,
looked at as a failure, and seen as a victim. It is important for you to get a handle on
yourself before others paint your picture. If you don't, they will use their own brush
strokes and you run the risk of becoming their perception, not yours.

Peer Counselor 3

In order to grow and move forward, I had to spend time enriching myself to the deepest
core. If you take an "eye for an eye" approach, you are never fulfilled, you are always
stuck "reacting to the reaction."

While there were times when I wanted to fight, at a certain point I realized that I needed
to turn my cheek and let it go. We are parents whether we are married or not married and so we still needed to be able to talk. A few specific things helped me focus: seeking mental health support and learning that kids want to love their parents and don't care who is right or wrong.

While our peer counselors have had the opportunity to work hard on these issues, you
may be just starting, so we hope the following strategies can serve as guidelines to help
you make positive changes.

1. Seek any kind of support that will help you. It can be a best friend, a pastor, or
someone else who went through a divorce.

2. Give yourself credit for how you are getting through day by day; however it is
alright to acknowledge and express your pain to close friends and family.

3. Swallow your pride and find support if you haven't already. Support can
be getting together with a friend who genuinely cares about you, your faith
community and/or your extended family.

4. Try to separate your issues from your children's. Children "know" what is
happening and need you to be there for them. At the same time, it is okay to be
honest about your feelings as long as you don't confide in them or bad mouth the
other parent.

Moving forward takes time, a lot of hard work, perseverance and the belief that you
count! Enjoy being vulnerable, watch with whom you are vulnerable, and give yourself
credit for being you.