For the past three years, I have been blessed to travel the world teaching yoga and forging life-long relationships with friends from all over the world; but my journey to this moment began long before stepping aboard a boat. The divorce from my partner of five years was the most challenging, and enlightening, time of my life for obvious as well as some not-so-obvious reasons.
If divorce is an experience that has affected you, your family, or anyone you love then you know first hand that it is absolutely traumatic, even in the most cordial of separations. My friend’s father (may he rest in peace) was a family therapist who equated divorce to death in order to help his clients identify the pain they were going through. It is the death of a third entity that was created from the bond between you and your spouse. Similar to the death of a close loved one, you must go through a process of grief for the death of this entity prior to and as a part of moving forward with healing. This grief can be easy to overlook and a concept that was new to me until it was put into words that I was able to process and understand. Prior to this conversation, I was lost in my very mixed emotions and feeling very guilty about the confusion.
Reflecting back, I realize that I had a toolbox of learnings around grief but I was lacking the context I needed in order to figure out how to use them. By making the emotional connection between divorce and deep loss similar to death and abandonment, I knew I had what I needed from prior life experiences. Not only have I grieved the loss of, sadly, too many people in my comparatively short life but my brother, mother and I were left bankrupt and nearly homeless after my father abandoned us when I was 12 years old. Getting divorced brought up so many unprocessed emotions that I was never able to work through at such a young age. This experience now turned into a chance to uproot and heal deeply buried memories and pain. To make this emotional connection felt familiar and gave me the context I needed to begin moving forward with my life.
For the seven months that I was still living in Charleston, SC post-separation and prior to joining a yacht, I had no other option than to simply keep showing up for myself. I was fearful of what might happen if I didn’t allow this process to unfold and move through me. I had to let myself do whatever it was that I needed in each moment, which was different all the time. There was no other option than to ride the waves of grief and allow myself to move with the ebbs and flows of emotions.
By showing up on the yoga mat, on the elliptical, or for walks on the beach I was actively choosing to do something for myself and I was putting myself in a safe space to do whatever it was that I needed to that day. Sometimes that process looked like me moving so hard and fast that I sweat out all the emotions while other times it looked like me rolling around or laying flat and letting tears stream down my cheeks. It was different every day.
Throughout this journey, I was blessed with teachers, friends, and family who encouraged and guided me to re-write my story. It was a process, a journey, of breaking down everything that I thought I knew to be true about myself and my life at that time. This wasn’t starting a new chapter. This was closing one book that I had already written, throwing it out the window and starting a whole new one.
Even though every story of divorce will tell a different narrative, I want to share the seven key pillars of mine in the hopes that it helps shape a better future for yours.
Darling, you’ve got to feel all the feels. The only way to get over the strong ones is to go straight through them. This means the messy cries, the belly laughs, the loud shouts and the solitude of quiet. I remember I would spend one night a week in my pajamas with a box of tissues and watch the saddest movie I could find. Letting out those ugly cries on behalf of someone else’s drama felt cleansing. I was sure to counteract these deep cries with a fresh start the next day, a walk on the beach or an easy cup of tea in the bathtub. We are so used to being numb. We do it most of the day without even realizing it. Creating a practice of mindfulness to help you steer away from mindless activities can help. When you are washing the dishes, simply wash the dishes. Notice how the soap smells. What does the temperature of the water feel like? Take note of the color and texture of the plates. It can also help to do a digital detox. This may mean unfriending or unfollowing your ex. It may mean signing off all-together for a designated period of time. Remember, you can always pick it back up again. See how it feels to shut down for a while. Everything works better when we unplug it for at least 30 seconds.
We all grieve differently. I feel the best advice that I could give to someone reading this and experiencing divorce is to understand that you did in fact just lose something that you considered to be very special and important, thus you must grieve this loss. Not one human (that I know) would expect a mother who lost a child to not grieve that loss. Continue to show up for yourself. Surround yourself with high-vibrational people that will give more than they expect from you. Continue to meet yourself where you are at in any given moment and inject all the compassion that you possibly can.
Through years of practice, and all the amazing teachers I have had, I knew that the only thing that I could do was to meet myself where I was at and to love myself harder than I ever had before. The abundance mindset allowed me to proudly choose what I needed to do and to be with whom I needed to be around without feeling guilty or fearful that I was going to hurt someone’s feelings or look like I was being selfish. I knew that whatever I needed was valid and I no longer felt like I needed to apologize for my needs.
The secret ingredient that I hung onto during this time was compassion. Radical self-love and compassion in this way was new to me. The only way to radically love myself was to do radical things like practice saying “No, thank you” when I didn’t feel like going to a social outing or practice asking “Please could you come over, I need help” to those dearest to me. Eventually, I had no qualms with saying “I’m sorry I have to cancel our plans this weekend” or my favorite: “I am unable to commit right now and it will have to be a game-day decision, thank you for understanding.” By radically loving myself, I could radiate that love outward.
Continue this practice by writing yourself love letters. I know, it’s radical and weird, but that’s the point right? Sometimes it was helpful for me to think of it like I was speaking to my best friend. What would I say to her if she was feeling how I was feeling? This was one of the most powerful practices that I actively did. Sometimes it felt nice to write down all the crappy emotions, but other times it was nice to remind myself of how freaking awesome I am, in words, and out loud. I swell with prideful tears that stream past my smile whenever I read them now.
When we aren’t feeling great, movement is sometimes the most challenging thing to conjure motivation for. I promise even a leisurely stroll will help. Recruit a friend or family member. I like to call them “Walk-N-Talks” and they’re so much better than “quality time” at a bar! Movement coupled with fresh air and sunshine is the best medicine. You’ll also receive the added bonus of enjoying genuine connection to another human and nature. If you’re looking for more of an intense workout ask an accountability partner to help you stay motivated.
When I was going through the process of packing up and moving out of the home that my ex-husband and I lived in (one of the most painful pieces to the puzzle) I found so much joy in cardio exercise again. It was as if I was rediscovering an old habit that I forgot I used to love. The endorphins and serotonin that pumped through my brain and blood helped to remind me that though I am deep in the trenches of emotional turmoil, I’m alive, I have my health and everything is going to be OK.
Do things differently. Shed what is no longer working for you and begin to do things that fill your cup. If you’re feeling overwhelmed and your schedule is too full, clear your calendar of all those networking events. If it feels like a stretch, get yourself onto that dance floor. Let go of the habit of always saying “yes” to other people’s requests.
Clear your space, emotionally and physically. Maybe it’s time to finally sort through your closet and donate all those old pairs of jeans that you haven’t worn in 3 years? Put yourself into safe places with safe people to allow yourself to shed that strong armor you’ve put up so intently. Become totally vulnerable. Brene Brown says that we can eliminate shame if we dare to meet each other’s vulnerability with empathy. If we can eliminate the shame that we feel during divorce, the healing process can be miraculous.
The only way through it is straight through it. You can do this. And you may even come out the other side a shinier and brighter version of yourself. You may finally be able to embody your True Self and share it with the world.
I got lucky in that at the time of my separation I was teaching yoga full time. It was my source of income so I had no choice but to show up even on the days that I thought “There’s no possible way I can stand in front of people today and lead them through a practice.” Yet, what I realized was that by forcing myself to hold space for others, it granted me permission to get out of my own head. I was no longer trapped by the negative self-talk that was closing the door to my confidence and abilities. For those few hours each day, I was no longer deafened by my screaming fears or blinded by my raging anger. I had no choice but to be of service. It never failed that those raw, tender classes ended up being some of the most powerful and memorable ones. I chose not to share the details of my drama (I assumed we all have enough of that in our lives) however, I did choose to share, on a relatable level, my emotions, fears, sadness and motivation to keep moving forward. It was as if I was speaking the words that I needed to hear. God was speaking through me, to me, and it was only because I chose to show up for someone else. It is in giving that we receive.
It can be easy, especially during times of change, to focus on what we don’t want (wasted energy), what we don’t like (complaining) and what we don’t have (scarcity.) What we appreciate appreciates and we attract that which we focus on. In order to shift to abundance and joy we must begin to focus on what we want (setting goals), what we like (preferences) and what we have (gratitude.)
The attitude of gratitude is one that I practice to this day and at every moment. It is the one thing that can interrupt cycles of negativity and bring me back to what is real. By simplifying it to the very basic needs of humankind, I can remember that: I have my health, I am not cold and alone, I am not hungry, I am loved and accepted. With this practice, I began to break down of all the limiting beliefs that kept me stuck in undesirable patterns. The mantra that I used on repeat was: “I am enough, I have enough, I do enough.” Feel free to make it your own.
This really should be at the top of the list, but given that forgiveness can be tough when emotions are tender, I’ve intentionally placed it last. Forgiveness is the key to our salvation. It is so important to note that to forgive does not mean that we now trust a perpetrator or no longer acknowledge a wrong-doing. Forgiveness does not mean we let someone back into our life if they are not there for the benefit of both you and I. Forgiveness simply breaks the chains that anger, resentment, shame and guilt hold us tightly in.
One tricky part about forgiveness is that you must start with yourself. Is there something you need to forgive yourself for? Said things you didn’t mean? Did things you wish you hadn’t? When we can forgive, we realize that we are all souls traveling this world and we make mistakes. It can help to bring compassion and understanding where there once might have been hatred and shame. Has someone wronged you? What would it take to let go of that anger?
It can help to talk to a friend, therapist, health coach, pastor, family member or anyone you trust to help you navigate the emotions. It is also helpful to know that forgiveness is a forever practice.
For me, these pillars of healing provided stability, comfort and light. If it weren’t for the active participation in my own process utilizing these tools, I’m not sure I would have been able to pick my broken self up off the floor and put myself back together as quickly as I did. I know that I wouldn’t have been brave enough to let go of everything that I knew to be true and embark on the career of a lifetime that led me to this very moment.
For you, you need nothing. You already have everything that you need. You are whole and perfect. Remember that you may be feeling broken, but YOU are not broken. Your emotions do not define who you are at your core. Take all the time you need. We’re all waiting patiently to see you shine.
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