Three Tips for the Winter Solstice–and Living Through a Divorce
Ending a marriage can be like your own personal winter solstice. It can be among the darkest days of your life, feeling as if the cold will never end.
But nature is a good teacher. The shortest, darkest day in December is followed by days that each add just a few minutes of daylight.
By June there are 15 hours of daylight rather than only eight in December. It happens gradually but steadily, and so it is with healing.
There are several ways to help your healing during divorce which act like sunlamps in the middle of the winter. Unlike sunlamps, this inner healing requires only your willingness to choose healing and going forward. Here are some tips that will move you into the sunlight and longer and happier days.
Tip 1: Self Talk
Most people agree that we are our own harshest judge. We rarely speak to others as we speak to ourselves. If we trip, we call ourselves “clumsy.” If we forget to pick up milk at the store, we mutter about being “stupid.” While going through a divorce, we can be very hard on ourselves.
Divorce is a fragile, highly emotional time; you need to be your own best friend. There is a difference between reflection and accountability versus harsh self-talk. You may want to reflect on your actions and gently soothe yourself by admitting you are scared or grieving or angry. These are not excuses but feelings. Feelings are not right or wrong; they just are.
Speak to yourself as you would to your child sobbing about a friend who hurt her. Think about how you support your best friend who lost a job and needs empathy, not criticism. Most people do not have skills to sit with someone else’s pain, and even less with our own. Rather, we are taught to comfort others, fix their problems, or insist they get over it.
For ideas on how to do this, consider reading a very good book, Nonviolent Communication: A Language for Life by Marshall Rosenfield. It is an excellent primer on self-empathy.
I often suggest to clients to get and nurture a plant. Water it, clip it, and care for it as a symbolic reminder to pause and take care of yourself. If you can interrupt the critical voice, even a couple of times a day, and replace it with understanding and gentle soothing, you will move out of the darkness into lighter days.
Tip 2: Release Resentment
The second tip is about resentment. The message is summarized in a quote by the iconic Nelson Mandela:
“Harboring resentments is like taking poison and hoping it will cause someone else to die.”
Resentments are toxic and not only distort your thinking, but they can also affect your health. They show up in the body as a bad feeling in the pit of your stomach, clenched teeth, or shoulder pain. They can even make it hard to breathe. As your spouse (or ex-spouse) is living the life of his/her choice, your resentments simmer and even boil over.
Your resentment will not influence someone else’s behavior; it will only harm you. Letting go of the resentment or pain does not mean letting go of your truth. It means shifting depleting thoughts to replenishing thoughts and thriving.
Tip 3: Forgiveness
Many people don’t realize that when you forgive someone else, you are helping yourself more than you are helping them. Forgiveness is not reconciliation, forgetting, or agreeing with someone else’s actions. Forgiveness is a shift away from revenge and harmful wishes toward the person who wronged you.
One outstanding resource on forgiveness is Mediating Dangerously: The Frontiers of Conflict Resolution by Kenneth Cloke. He writes:
“Forgiveness is not something we do for someone else, but to free ourselves from unhealthy pain, anger and shame. Forgiveness is a gift to our own peace of mind and self-esteem. It may appear weak, but it actually makes you stronger and less vulnerable to others.”
Thriving, Not Just Surviving, Is the Goal
You may hear people say they “survived” their divorce. The goal is not surviving but thriving. The tips above may seem like an overwhelming assignment, but they are the Rx of healing. It may help to have a sounding board or therapist who can help guide you through healing.
It is the fire of the kiln that makes the pottery shine. This is your chance to shine and to consider the question poet Mary Oliver asks:
“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”
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