Surviving Divorce to Thrive

I am just shy of 6 years in my post-divorce life.  I ran across this writing a few weeks ago and struggled with whether to publish it. I can only think that someone, somewhere needs to read it. For her… 

Going through this you are going to feel crazy.

You are going to have extreme highs and extreme lows.

You are going to take a while to sort things out and create the new you.

There is no “right” here. It’s all ok. Breathe.

My mom told me that she tells all her divorcing clients to not make any life-course-altering decisions after a divorce for at least three years because you are just too reactionary and fragile. Sometimes three years sounds itself ridiculously long — you are making new life decisions daily. Sometimes you will think it is not nearly long enough to get your shit together.

You are making countless changes because your routine is entirely shaken. It is like moving to another country overnight. Go to sleep one day in the US and wake up the next in Uganda.

You are faced with all the enormity and scary and wondrously blissful feeling of getting to make new patterns for yourself.

You will have nights of running wild, heart leaping with boundless joy followed by mornings where you are emotionally hungover cursing your  abandon, wishing you could say “never again,” pull up the covers, and not leave that safe haven of your bed until sometime in the next century.

You will feel crazy. You will look in the mirror and say “what am I doing? I must be crazy.” You will make yourself feel crazy. Others will make you feel crazy.

You will face the well intentioned but incapacitatingly hurtful “support,” “help” and — Universe help us — “advice” of those around you.

This will make you feel even more insane and wish harder for a one way ticket on the bullet train back to your own — your old life.

That place no longer exists,” the conductor will say in a matter-of-fact tone that allows no argument. The only place forward is Looneytown and you have a one-way ticket.

When you appear in psyche-ward scrubs it is futile trying to convince others that you are indeed not an emotional wreck having a mental breakdown, thank you very much, now please let me go so I can get on with my life. You are the dog who sees in color.

They paint those scrubs on you and you have no control over that. The more you attempt to explain to uncomprehending souls, the crazier you will feel.

Don’t waste your energy trying to convince those that don’t understand. They will get on board eventually or you can leave them behind — more detritus by the tracks of your life. It is ok to feel happily lighter not carrying all that baggage.

Cast your eyes up and see what lies beyond the storm.

Stay with your rainbow and splash right through the puddles. Remember that Looneytown is the waystation, your destination is somewhere in the great expanse beyond.

Do share with people that have been there or can best empathize with what you are going through. Do not stay trapped in your head and/or room. Write, yes. Also find a councilor and let yourself be with friends with whom you can give voice to your full crazy. Share it all: the highs and lows.

You will want to hide the worst parts behind a mask of “fine.”

Not the worst parts of your marriage — those you will trot out and display as evidence of why you are doing what you are doing (“I’m not crazy see!”) — but your regrets, your second-guessing, your fears, your doubts you will want to banish to the locked interior cupbords. Don’t. Those are the normal feelings. True psychopaths feel no remorse. You will. You should. Feel it all.

Share it all with a select few who you invite in who understand we are all crazy confused masses of contradictions, trying to get sorted and create our best selves. 

You will want to scrub clean your stories and mind of doubts. Don’t. Feel them. Work through them. Dive into the sticky depths of doubt until you get to the very bottom. It is only at the core that you see the blackness of what was and realize for the umpteenth time that you are making the right choice.

Use that moment of clarity to finalize something. Pack a box. Work a spreadsheet. Find another answer that makes the whole thing final.

When you made the decision to get a divorce (or the decision was made for you) you opened a new wing in your personal life museum.

The Bygone Era Room is still there, with all of its paintings and sculptures of times past. It sits adjacent to the new construction. A modern white-walled, wide open wing; with an archway separating the two. So while you are working furiously to paint and create your new life upon soul-crushingly blank canvasses, the old, familiar classics will be calling to you, tempting you to return to their familiarity. You will visit often. How could you not?

You will yo-yo up and back upon these old pictures; seeing sometimes the mess and imperfections and other times the beauty and joy of good times. You will be drawn to the memory canvases because they are formed and you do not want to face the emptiness of the new rooms.

Just as you get close enough to try and morph yourself back into a particularly alluring portrait of your former life a guard will come up and remind you that you cannot touch these paintings anymore and forcefully manhandle you back across that corridor of reality into your new room.

“This is what you wanted” he will scoff and none-too-gently plant you back before your blank slate.

You will again and again feel overwhelmed and disheartened. You will reach levels of exhaustion where you do not want to work on this new part of you. You will yearn for those old grooves that felt so stifling and hard before.

You want to go back to that fuzzy familiarly of the fully formed. You’re tired, scared, unhappy, and alone. Just when you feel your most low, your creative, emotional, mental wells dry and rainbow back beyond the clouds, the doors will bust open and your friends, family and internal critics will be storming into your studio observing, judging and critiquing your current pieces.

You stand there broken before your entire corner of the universe. You have no choice but to begin to paint.

You are compelled to take the next steps. You have no idea what the hell you are doing but you do it anyway. With the best tools you have in your inner pockets and the confidence of an infant elephant you slish-slosh yourself across the whitespaces leaving impressions and globules of meaning in your wake. Upon these broad strokes you will build your new works. They may be shallow yet they are bold and shout to the self-determined directions you are heading.

Your new wing will be filled with bright, light and full color.

I see it all there in you waiting to get out. Your expressions will leap unbound from the walls — they are the rainbow across the expanse you were chasing the whole time.

Crazy is doing the same thing over and over, expecting a different result.

That is not you anymore. You’re doing new. You see the color within — your own unique expression just waiting to escape. However impossible, imperfect, and impetuous, it is most important.

You are not crazy.

This piece is largely unedited from when I first banged it out a year or more ago. No pictures seemed to be right, my words I hope are enough. It is a reminder to me as much as a balm to one who might be in the throws of those three years. Even though it was and remains relatively amicable, getting divorced was one of the hardest things I have ever been through. Yes, I often felt very very crazy. I recently looked at some pictures from that time and see the struggle writ large on my thin, pale face. While it is not always sunshine and rainbows now, I know, more than ever before, it was the right decision to make. Hindsight is nice like that.

From me to the Universe, me and she who needs it: You are delightfully, beautifully, uncrazilly you. Breathe.


  1. A doughty offering, Jo. Hope it is read and pondered and used to help heal and alleviate some suffering.

    • Thanks CJ. I had to look up “doughty” – I’m guessing it came from one of your coffee reads? I am so glad though, I’m adding it to my own vocabulary, and mostly I’m incredibly honored you chose such a term. I was thinking a lot about my own marriage as I read (and finished!) your most excellent book. I wondered often if we had made life changes and recommitments, the choices necessary to stop wishing and start living, we could have found a place of happiness together. In the end though, I do think divorce was the right choice for both of us. It was a hard road, especially as we battled back anger and resentment to preserve what was good between us. The quest for happiness and fulfillment often is a difficult path, fraught with hard choices, but oh so very worth it.

      • Oh, sorry about the doughty word, Jo! Found it in Norman Schur’s 1000 Most Important Words. Rolls so nice off the tongue. I am glad there was something to salvage as is not the case with all such arrangements. I suppose happiness can only exist in the context of indifference and sadness. But as you say, it is worth the struggle and the time.

        Glad you could enjoy our book. We loved writing it together. This kind of feedback is beyond our highest expectations and we place a very high value on it. Thank you, Jo!

  2. Jo, wow. I am trying not to cry – one because of all that this says and two because of how beautifully it’s written. I am not going to do this piece of writing justice with my comment. I am at a loss.

    I sure hope it makes it to the right eyes at the right time.

    Thank you for bring it forth into this world. So important.
    (PS – love the word ‘detritus’ – took me a long time to learn that one!)

    • Tammy! Wow. Thank you. It says something I think that it just poured out of me one day, sitting in an unopened file until it caught my eye at just the right moment to be spurred to post it. Very much appreciate you taking the time to say that it moved you. My small offering of comfort and solace, yes, I hope it finds the eyes and heart that need it.
      (detritus is a good one! flotsam is another that comes to mind… so visual)

      • Uh oh, Jo. Can you imagine all of us sitting in a cafe sipping a fine ______ and delighting in words? Some day I think that will happen. Should we all be on the same continent and in the same city…boom, Word Fest!

  3. Reinhard Marton says:

    So where’s the new stuff?…..I came on this Thanksgiving Day. I read a lot of your blog….Please, Continue….I identified with you. Hope you are OK

Speak Your Mind