Divorce is an overwhelming experience. Your body is bombarded with a kind of stress that goes well beyond the surface and into the core of your being. It isn’t as simple as feeling run down, or having dark circles under your eyes from poor sleep. The stress that comes from loss and grief over separating from your partner in life is a kind of stress that takes its toll even as it goes unnoticed. As women, we are used to taking care of others, forgetting that we have to take care of ourselves, too. But during a divorce, it is crucial to take extra care of yourself, beginning with your mind.
Finding Peace in the Eternal
When I was first separated from my spouse, I was so down that I rarely left the house. I stopped responding to messages and calls from friends, and spent my weekends mostly in bed, not wanting to face a world where my marriage no longer existed. I isolated myself from everyone, and stopped doing things that used to mean the world to me, like farmers markets on Saturdays and walks through valley trails. I stayed indoors and cried. One afternoon, I decided to go out for a few groceries, and drove along a road with one of my favorite views. It was nearing sundown, and the light over the rolling hills was so beautiful that I pulled the car over, and stared at the horizon for a long time.
For the first time in months, I felt something that resembled peace. Happiness even. I knew in that moment, that I would be okay. The world would go on without me whether I decided to be happy or not, so I made my choice. I stayed and watched the sun go down, and for many evenings afterward, I made myself go outside to appreciate its beauty. It is a beauty that is eternal, and exists outside of divorce, and outside of you and me.
Taking Comfort in Friends
Appreciating nature is a good first step to healing, but you can’t always do it alone. Humans are social animals. We need each other, and when your heart is broken, you need to be surrounded by people who care. I had to make the effort to reach out to people again, even when I really just didn’t feel like it. I found that when I did, something as simple as a walk outside with a neighbor made a big difference in my frame of mind. Spending just a little time with another person reminds you that you’re not alone in this world. It’s perfectly okay if you’re not up to hosting dinner parties or attending parties. Have a coffee one morning with a friend. Go outside and say hello to someone you pass on the street. Open a door for someone. Open your heart.
Learn To Be Kind To Your Body
While bringing tranquility to the mind is important during divorce, it is equally crucial to take care of your body and age you beyond your years. You will one day be filled with joy again, and you want your body to be healthy enough to enjoy it. In the early days of my divorce, I would eat all of my meals standing at the sink, many of them rushed and flavorless. I felt too emotionally exhausted to exercise, and every night ended with me eventually falling into a fitful sleep induced by the stupor of the television. I had no energy, and I was growing more and more unwell. I finally had to make the decision to cook one nutritious meal for myself everyday, and sit down to eat it. Cooking was something I used to love to do when I was married, but making dinner for myself just didn’t seem worth the effort. I was afraid it would remind me the life I used to have, and that I missed.
One night after work I stopped at a roadside vegetable stand on my way home. The lady selling tomatoes and squash and herbs handed me a fresh basil leaf to try. Smelling its delicate, spicy aroma brought back a rush of senses that reminded me that I do enjoy food. The memory of freshly chopped herbs and garlic simmering olive oil came flooding back, and in my awakening, I went home and made myself a meal of tomato and mozzarella salad with basil leaves. I arranged it on a plate, and sat down at the table. I poured myself a glass of wine. I was back.
If I could do one healthy thing for my body, I knew I could do two. The following day I went on a long walk, and I kept the routine. Eventually, I would start going to the gym again, but all in my own time. I made a routine for myself to go to bed on time, and even if my sleep was restless for a while, eating well and walking outside and enjoying the sunset with a friend eventually calmed my body enough to fall into a deep sleep. When you make the effort to treat your body kindly, you find that it will at least meet you halfway.
Image Courtesy of TCS.net
The Sun Will Rise Again
Healing is a process that takes time. When you are already suffering from the many stresses that come along with a divorce like the financial worry, the feelings of rejection and loneliness, the fear of being alone forever - that time can feel endless. As the days drag on, don’t drag your body down. Be kind to yourself. So, prepare yourself a nice dinner tonight. Go to the movies with your best friend. And tonight, when you close your eyes, know that the stars are illuminating the sky the way they always have, and in the morning, the sun will rise upon a day that it’s up to you to enjoy.