Awhile back, I wrote about the gifts of divorce.
It was really refreshing to see so many people respond in kind... from "thank you for two wonderful kids" to "I'm not there yet, but hope to be able to thank you one day for our marriage." I think the responses would have been very different 20 years ago. I like the trend toward The Good Divorce being Plan A, and the litigated, vindictive divorce being relegated farther back to the alphabet, like Plan Z more than Plan B.
It got me thinking about the silver linings of divorce.
My then-husband said to me, "You're not the woman I married!" My response: "That's right. The woman you married would not have put up with &$#* from a jerk like you."
He was right. I'd lost myself. The woman he'd married was independent, energetic and interesting. The woman he was divorcing was depressed and worn out.
While I wouldn't wish a divorce on anyone, when bad things happen you can choose how you react and how much lasting impact the bad thing has on your life. When major life events happen, good or bad, we're changed forever. You can embrace that change and make the best of it, or you can let the sting linger forever. And "sting" might be a generous word when we're talking about divorce recovery.
What did you do to recover from your divorce? What good things came of it? How long did it take? Talking about divorce recovery is a gift we pay forward to those who are facing divorce, feeling scared and isolated. So please share your thoughts.
When I got divorced in 1996, it took me awhile to recover. Our marriage had been failing for awhile. But as it really hit the skids, I retreated. I resigned from the volunteer boards and activities I loved. I pared my schedule down to just my day job (ironically, as a divorce lawyer) and trying to take care of myself.
After my husband moved out it felt pretty weird. Quiet. I turned the TV on without any sound so I wouldn't feel so alone. I don't remember much else about this time, and I don't think I want to remember. It wasn't bad, but it wasn't good. It was empty.
What I do remember is emerging from the divorce fog. First I cleaned up the house. I donated and gave stuff away. I was broke, so I redecorated with home sewing projects and paint. I moved the treadmill into the family room so I could watch TV while I worked out. Who cares? I'm living there by myself. I can have a gigantic piece of exercise equipment in the middle of the best part of the house if I want to!
I looked into stuff I'd always been curious about. The local high school had an Adult Ad program, so I signed up for craft classes and learned flower arranging and stained glass (trust me, I was no artist!). I rallied a couple of newly single girlfriends for chicken wings and beer every Wednesday at the neighborhood bar.
That led to sponsoring a softball team. I figured that was an excellent way to meet men, even though I wasn't quite ready to date. The softball team led to joining a mountain biking group, which led to quitting smoking because it's very difficult to mountain bike and smoke at the same time. After that I tried ice skating.
I knew about a ghost hunting group in my neighborhood (I kid you not!), so I joined. The leaders, Ed and Lorraine Warren, became the parents I never had and the group members made friends quickly as we crept through haunted houses in the middle of the night.
Before I knew it, I was having fun again.
The transformation took about a year from the time my husband moved out. It happened gradually, as gradually as my marriage had gone from great to over, now that I think of it.
So where do you find your silver linings?
Diana Mercer is the co-author of Making Divorce Work: 8 Essential Keys to Resolving Conflict and Rebuilding Your Life (Perigee 2010). Join the conversation and community on our video blog and check out Diana's divorce blog on the Huffington Post