As I scroll through countless posts from the wounded souls out there recovering from divorce, I’m reminded of my own journey and the stages of grief you go through to get past it. My heart goes out to those women (and men) that seem to be stuck in the black hole of anger and despair. I remember those feelings of shame and fear of the unknown. I see so many posts of people wanting their ex back in their lives, so desperately holding on to a love they once had. I wish I could reach out my hand, pull them out of that dark hole, and show them how to move on.
Then there are those people that are stuck in the black hole of anger and bitterness. Writing about how they hate their ex and the other woman that tore apart their family. I get it. It’s hard to let go of the anger and resentment. Especially when you’re forced to co-parent with the people that hurt you the most. It’s near impossible to find forgiveness when it’s shoved in your face so blatantly. However, the alternative is to stay bitter and that only hurts you.
Then there is the third kind of black hole and that’s the one where you’re stuck in the never-ending vortex of self-pity and playing the wounded victim. I have to be honest I was there the longest. I wanted to blame everything on my ex—I would find myself cursing him for my car breaking down, the dishwasher flooding, or the pool looking like a swamp. He was to blame for all the problems in my life and left me to clean up the mess he left behind. Don’t even get me started on the mountain of debt he left me with! Wah, wah poor me…
Then one day I realized that blaming him wasn’t going to change anything and that I played a part in racking up the debt by being completely oblivious to our financial problems. I chose to turn a blind eye and I let him have control over it. That was my mistake too. I should have been more aware. I should have done more to fix it. You can’t blame your ex for your situation or your unhappiness because you played a part in it too. As the saying goes…it takes two to tango.
There’s another kind of black hole and this one is tricky because you have no idea you’re even in it. This is the blissful black hole. It’s the one where you’re in complete denial that anything is wrong and you’re either having fun partying your ass off or you’re completely in love with the man of your dreams. This black hole is the most insidious because you have no idea you’re even in there and the residual damage left around you. All you see is unicorns and bright twinkly stars, but lurking beneath the surface is soul-crushing pain that you keep shoving down because you don’t want to face it. You just want to have fun, be in love and feel all the mooshy-gooshy stuff. You post pictures of all the fun things you’re doing post-divorce or pictures of your new love and how happy you both are together. Life is ignorant bliss.
Now, I’m not a complete cynic. I do believe that people can find love shortly after a divorce, but if you haven’t done the work to heal your heart after a break-up and acknowledge the issues that you need to fix, then you are much more likely to make the same mistakes the second time around. Some people stay in this black hole and never get out. They want to stay oblivious and never face the work that needs to be done in order to heal and grow. Until one day, you wake up and you realize that guy that you’re madly in love with is actually a complete asshole, perhaps having an affair or worse—your children resent you because you put all your energy into a lover and neglected their pain after the divorce.
I’m guilty myself. There was a short time after my divorce that I was too busy with my social life and felt that I wasn’t there for my children as much as I should have been. It’s hard when you feel as though you can barely keep your head above water to be there emotionally for your children, but whatever you do, be there for them. Talk about the pain. Take responsibility for your part. If you push it away, it will show up in their relationships later on in life. I always try to talk to my kids about their feelings (maybe a little too much). I want to make sure they are aware of what was toxic in my relationship so that they don’t fall into the same patterns.
I see how my daughter struggles in her relationships with men. I can’t undo her issues with her father, but I can help shed light on why she may be attracting emotionally unavailable men (much like her mother). We both tend to have the same issues with letting down our walls and letting people in. Perhaps this is our current black hole. Talking about it and shedding light on the fact that we both suffer from what we like to call “Dating PTSD” is the only way to get past it and move forward with the hope to find love.
We all have our demons and we all get stuck in a black hole for a time. The key is to figure out which hole you’re stuck in and climb your way out. Self-awareness is the only way to grow from the challenges you face after divorce. If you don’t look within and you continue to stay in those negative feelings or worse deny your feelings altogether—you will stay stuck in that dark hole. Take a minute to see which one of these places resonates with you. Ask yourself the following questions:
Are you holding on to the past? Still in love with your ex?
Are you bitter? Holding on to the anger and hurt?
Are you playing the victim–blaming them for everything that went wrong?
Are you in denial? Are you blissfully unaware of the pain this has caused you and your family?
Are you wearing a protective shield? Have you built a wall around you not letting anyone in for fear of getting hurt again?
If you answered yes to any of these, then take some time to reflect on why you feel this way. Cry it out or punch something if you have to…but just sit with it for a while. Ask yourself, “Does it feel safe here?” Once you answered that question, then ask yourself, “Do I want to stay here forever?” If the answer is no, then find a way to move forward. Walk out of the black hole you’ve been in for so long and make the decision to change. Your life is not meant to end after divorce. It’s simply a new beginning. Take hold of it. Hold that picture in your mind of what you want it to look like. Then go towards it. You can’t hide in there anymore. It’s time for you to leave.