When you need support, do you look for someone who has never experienced what you are going through, or do you find someone who understands your emotions at the gut level?
Faydra Koenig has been in the fire and she has emerged like the Phoenix; singed, but stronger.
Faydra grew up in an abusive and fractured household. She’s been divorced three times. So why should you take advice from someone who has had these struggles? Faydra has taken all of her life experiences and she has found her strength in the struggle. The mother of two is a Certified Life Coach, mental health professional, author and motivational speaker. She helps people find new ways cope with divorce in her practice as America's Divorce Coach.
Like the Phoenix, Faydra is someone seems to emit light, the kind of light that comes when you’ve found your center and your truth and you feel whole. You can feel her spirit in her words, and that kind of resilience is built by overcoming life’s challenges.
First Wives World had the pleasure of speaking with Faydra about surviving divorce with dignity.
Your positive outlook and sense of humor is apparent in your work. I like how you introduce yourself on your website as “Faydra Glass-Maeder-Rector-Sargent-Koenig”. How did you overcome the challenges you faced as a child in an abusive home and later as a divorced mother of two?
Faydra: My childhood was certainly not ideal. I carried a lot of wounds from that time into my young adulthood and it did affect my interpersonal relationships. I didn't get brutally honest about my childhood until I was 40 (almost four years ago). I was always honest about many aspects of my childhood and fully believed that we must make the choice not to be a victim, but I held back one big and icky part of my past that I didn't feel safe talking about. I blogged about being molested repeatedly for ten years on Snarky Evolution one day and everything changed.
Being completely transparent about what I endured as a child has led to my ability to authentically help other people. I was honored by Girls Inc. for my work and it really helped solidify that my mess could be a message and not just another person lamenting about childhood dysfunction.
You are absolutely right about my positive attitude, it is a uniquely annoying aspect sometimes. I just refuse to give up. I am determined that all of it, every single moment that was awful, has value. In my humanness, I do sometimes get a case of the blues but that cheerleader who lives in my head just picks up her pom pom's and starts in on my inner Debbie Downer and kind of kicks her ass.
Where did you get the passion and energy to continue your education, become a court investigator for the Superior Court and start your coaching practice? What was your inspiration for taking this path?
Faydra: My first marriage ended after my young husband, a Marine in the era of Desert Storm, suffered from a hereditary mental break after the birth of our daughter. The end of our marriage was due to his illness and subsequent inability to be a husband and parent. I was a young, divorced mother trying to find my way. I was determined to be the type of mother I never had and it was through that commitment that I started taking every class I could about child development.
Later, when I began my upper division classwork in college, I branched into psychology. Armed with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology, I began work for the local mental health dept. I found a natural fit working with troubled teens and their often times troubled family systems. In my work, I used practical interventions to build families back up and get them functioning better. In my experience, it was the practical assistance that helped families most. More so than counseling where families were not authentic in sessions and counselors, who were stuck in their offices, had a false sense of reality for what their clients were facing. I went back to school for a Masters degree, determined NOT to be a therapist. Instead I studied conflict resolution and mediation.
Along the way, I remarried and had another daughter. I was happily married and living what I felt to be a very fine life for about ten years until my husband announced he wanted a divorce. It appeared he and one of our family friends had been having an ongoing affair and they had come to a place in life where they wanted to develop their commitment to one another. So, there I was divorced again, this time with two daughters and a mortgage and a lot more responsibility than the last time. Oh and did I mention the anger? Yeah, I had a surplus of that to manage.
My initial reaction to the end of my second marriage was not dissimilar to many of the clients I help. I was in the blame game, I was a total drama mamma and I had waged war against myself and my circumstances. I was pitiful and filled with self-righteous indignation. It took me a couple of years of seething and unwillingness to let go before I got sick and tired of feeling so miserable. When I started to change, I just simply wanted to feel different than I did. I don't think I set out to become a more enlightened woman overall, I just wanted to stop needing to use Lamaze breathing techniques every time I was in the same vicinity of my ex-husband and my ex-friend...his wife...or whatever protocol required her title to be. I got therapy, I required better of myself and I got really, really in tune with my feelings and I studied everything I could about people, infidelity, and all of that sort of thing. Over the course of a few years, I became healed and my whole perspective changed. It was pretty miraculous.
At the same time my marriage disintegrated, I had a wonderful opportunity to change employment, I became the Administrator of a program that served chronically mentally ill adults. Over time that position allowed me to expand into other things. The court house was literally across the street and I had made a connection there that led to my being an investigator. Even after I left my administration position, I have remained working with the courts and loving it.
Back when I was still in the throes of my divorce angst, I started blogging. Over the years the content of my posts started to morph from bitter to better. This caught the attention of a local newspaper and they asked me to become a columnist for them. I have been doing that for over seven years now. My content is a no-nonsense approach to life.
When I left the admin position, I decided to expand my education again and became a certified Life Coach. It was very important to me to be certified as a lot of people just hang out a shingle and call themselves coaches. My resume and education certainly backed up my qualifications to help others tackle life issues, but I wanted to become certified nonetheless. I started working with men, women and young adults about anything and everything from choosing a career path, interviewing and landing their dream jobs and more. A curious trend developed where men and women were seeking me more and more about divorce. Locally, people who read my column started coming to me and word of mouth spread about my ability to help with all the aspects of divorce.
A PR firm in San Francisco heard about what I was doing and asked for a meeting. They encouraged me to author a book and that's how “Divorce: No-Nonsense Practical Advice” was born. I trademarked the name America's Divorce Coach and things have just been exploding since.
When should someone seek out a divorce coach and how does the process work?
Faydra: Here's what's cool about divorce coaching. Divorce coaching will help you at any time of your journey. If you see a coach at the beginning of your divorce, chances are you are going to be focused and not have to deal with many meltdowns. You probably won't gain or lose too much weight, you probably won't humiliate yourself via social media and you probably won't lose your shirt or your fair share of custody. If you get into coaching part way through or after you are divorced, you will find that all of a sudden you have a neutral champion in your corner and you feel empowered to stand up for yourself, your kids and your wallet. There is no wrong time to get divorce coaching.
Coaching with my company is easily accessible. You can simply access coaching right from my site on americasdivorcecoach.us. Once you access the coaching page, you have an opportunity to complete a questionnaire that gives me a snap shot of your current situation and alerts me to the unique challenges you are facing. Then we meet over Skype or on the phone for one-to-one time and tackle your specific issues.
Depending on the type of assistance you are looking for, I can offer services on an as needed basis or do whatever it takes to get you through this time. It is not unheard of for me to talk to clients just before and right after big court appearances or before and after custody hearings. I have even done a three day retreat with a client who wanted to get a total immersion in divorce 101.
Even after their divorce is final, I work with clients about reinvention and transitioning from married to single to healthy and whole all the way through dating and sometimes blending families.
In addition to coaching, I have books, tons of blog posts, a great podcast and lots of free info to consume. I have been featured on Huffington Post Live and other podcasts and blogs and links to all of those resources are available right from my site.
What is the difference between a coach and a therapist and do you ever recommend therapy for a client?
Faydra: Therapy is an important part of the process of a divorce and some of what I do with clients is undoubtedly therapeutic; however, divorce coaching is very practical. Sometimes I work with clients about nuts and bolts issues like finding an attorney or managing the fiscal aspects of their divorce. Other times I work with clients about their behaviors and the behaviors of their ex's and their children. Therapy is all about finding out how you tick and why you do what you do. Coaching is about solving immediate problems and avoiding wounds, self-inflicted or otherwise, as you travel through this time in life.
It is very common for my clients to see a therapist and work with them in tandem with coaching. If I see a red flag in an area of life, I always encourage my clients to get in and start engaging in therapy. It makes my job and the client’s life much easier.
I’ve been listening to your excellent “Coming out of the Fire” podcasts. For Thanksgiving, you’ve provided some excellent advice for getting through the holidays when you are divorced. This is such a difficult time. Can you tell us about your “Surviving the Holi-Daze” plan?
Faydra: My first few holiday seasons alone were brutal. I was so Grinchy I am sure my heart shrunk two sizes each year. I was so full of pity and anguish and I wanted nothing more than to disappear right around Halloween and re-emerge after the Rose Bowl. I totally fell into the Hallmark Trap. That is my term for all of the saccharine associated with the holidays. The glorification of function that is soooo not really possible in most nuclear families, let alone fragmented families of divorce. I completely bought into the BS that I would never have a happy holiday again because I was – dare I say…. divorced….more than once….
After I sobered up from my egg nog and fudge induced pity-coma, I realized that there was no penalty book handed out in divorce court that required me to be side lined during the holidays. I took charge of my holiday planning and ended up offering myself and my kids’ years of holiday whobilations that have been incredibly meaningful. By the way, is my obvious attachment to the Grinch movie showing up too much?
This year, I took all of my tricks, wisdom and love for setting myself free and created a great product to help families do what I did years ago and take back their holidays. I created tips, videos and shared some of my best secrets for saving money, dealing with uncomfortable situations, and reinventing the holiday's with your kids and put it all together into one easy to consume product.
You’ve written some insightful books, including one for children of divorced parents, “Two Homes for Daniel”. How did you help your children through the process and do you recommend counseling for children who are having a difficult time with the divorce?
Faydra: “Two Homes for Daniel” is the first in a series of books about issues that children and families face when living with divorce. They are a catalyst for opening up dialogue between parents and children about uncomfortable aspects of divorce. Reading the book allows families to use the characters as guideposts and transfer their conversation from what Daniel and his family and friends are facing to what their family is facing. Children love Daniel and resonate with him, making them feel like someone else knows how they feel. I do encourage families to seek counseling if there are emergent issues. Sometimes families manage their dynamics just fine and sometimes the issues of divorce don't manifest until later in life. It is all about timing and getting help when it is most beneficial.
Do you find that writing has helped you through the difficult times and do you recommend that process to your clients?
Faydra: Writing is my way of sorting out my feelings and processing information. I am a story teller by nature. I have always been a talker. Writing and speaking are my innate talents and have afforded me to help others. I know men and women who have amazing talents expressing themselves through art, music or other mediums. I am in awe of the ways we as humans can process and share our wisdom. If I sense that a client is a fellow writer, or reader, I will encourage them to journal and write letters or use other exercises during coaching. If I learn of another way that my client expresses themselves, I will help them connect with their creativity and use it in the same practical way. Sometimes taking a long run in the country or completing a marathon can be as therapeutic as writing a book. It is all about tapping into what lights their fire.
How does someone take that first step to creating a new life after divorce?
Faydra: I love this question. The first thing each of us has to do is choose it. The path to making the choice is the hardest part. Sometimes men and women are so mired in their angst that they won't choose. The indecision is paralytic. The lack of deciding keeps people emotionally married to someone long after their court papers state they are legally defined as single. When the pain of staying the same is greater than the pain of changing, people take action. Once the choice is made to create a new life; one that is independent of the dissolved marriage, people tend to soar.
Thank you, Faydra, for your wonderful insight and encouragement.
Are you struggling with your feelings after a divorce, especially with the holidays coming up? Share your stories in the comment box below.