Getting Through The First Few Days
6 Step Survival Guide For The First Week
When you first really understand that your spouse wants out of your marriage, it’s like a shocking slap in the face or a punch in the gut. the kind where you can’t catch your breath and you drop to your knees. I absolutely could not believe that my husband of 33 years had a girlfriend and was willing to give up the wonderful family and the life we had built together for all those years. I kept thinking he would come to his senses. I kept praying for a miracle.
But after three years of struggle, when that day came in 2000, standing on the courthouse steps as a divorced woman, I was a mess. I was devastated on so many levels I can’t even describe them all.Divorce is not only a very personal, but a very public failure, and I felt like a spiritual failure as well. I wondered, what influence can I have for good in this life if the man I want most to please doesn’t think I’m worth being married to?”
I had always been a strong, confident, independent woman who loved life and all the joys it offered.But at the very beginning of this ordeal and the days immediately following, I was having trouble getting out of bed in the morning.I wasn’t eating. I couldn’t sleep.I cried all the time.I was a physical, emotional, spiritual wreck. I had told my children all their lives “¦ just always do the right thing and everything else will take care of itself. Even though I am an optimist and a God follower, I wondered what good could possibly come from the destruction of my marriage. In the beginning of the divorce journey I was so heartbroken I was having a hard time holding myself together.
Early on, I found out that there were several women in my neighborhood going through almost the same thing I had been going through, and about six to eight other acquaintances as well. I called them and admitted that I was really struggling and wondered if they would like to get together every other week or so and just talk about issues we were facing.
I remember telling my counselor that I was worried about starting this group because I felt so weak myself.I told my older brother that I was afraid we might just all sit down around the table and start crying and not be able to stop. He said, Well, the meeting starts at 7 a.m.I’ll call at 7:30 a.m.You just pick up the phone and if all I hear in the background is uncontrollable sobbing, I’ll send help to get everyone home!”
One of the things that is difficult about this journey is that you are embarrassed you are doing so poorly.Our culture seems to say divorce is no big deal.Friends tell us to just get over it he/she isn’t worth it, or you’ll find someone else.”There are no grief rituals for divorce. Widows or widowers have friends and family gather around, casseroles, sympathy cards, offers to help.Divorcees usually get nothing. People don’t give you the space or the encouragement to grieve as you must.
I was a strong, confident woman, and I hated to admit I was doing so poorly.But all of us were struggling.I can’t think of any other situation that is such a devastation to who you are as a person. I went from feeling good about myself to feeling like the biggest failure in the universe. At that first meeting of our group, I wanted to have an agenda in hand so we wouldn’t just start crying, so I passed out a binder that had R.A.D.I.C.A.L. Women on the front.
R.A.D.I.C.A.L. is an acronym for Rising Above Divorce In Confidence And Love, so we became the R.A.D.I.C.A.L. Women.The subtitle was A Practical Resource Guide to Transform the Despair of Your Divorce Into A Revolutionary Good. The sub-sub title was, How to Keep from Strangling Him and His Pathetic Little Girlfriend and Ending Up in Jail for the Rest of Your Life and Instead Find Peace, Joy, Abundance and Even Fun!”
The binder became the Radical Recovery Book and Workbook that was published in July 2007 by Leafwood Publishers. (They made me take off the sub-sub title!) The R.A.D.I.C.A.L. group met and began to talk about practical ways to get better. We started with the basics because we all discovered that when you are going through this storm, it’s hard for you to do even the basic, daily activities of life.
In my first binder, the first page had just two words in the middle of the page. Get Up.”We slowly began developing a list that was later called The Survival Six.”You need to be doing these six basic things consistently before you can move much farther up the recovery ladder.
The Survival Six:
1. Get Up.
2. Take A Shower.
3. Fix Your Face.
4. Get Dressed.
5. Eat Something Healthy.
6. Get Moving.
Those long agonized seconds in the morning when I first came back to consciousness after the restless nights were the seconds I hated most. I dreaded those gut-wrenching moments when I first realized “ again — that the life I had known for 33 years was crumbling all around me. I would cover my head in despair and think I can’t do this again today. Please let me lose consciousness until it doesn’t hurt so much and then I’ll get up.”
In the beginning, just getting out of bed is a real accomplishment.Each morning you will have to mentally and physically will yourself out of bed. One of the women in our first group had a friend who came over in the mornings, help get her out of bed and help get her kids off to school.Another woman said, The day I found out he was really going to leave us and marry his girlfriend, I just kept telling myself Breathe! Breathe! Breathe!”
Life definitely gets down to the basics. Whatever it takes, call on the people you need.Use whatever mind games you can use to get yourself out of bed. Keep an inspirational thought or affirmation by your bed and read it first thing when you open your eyes.While you’re still under the covers, stretch your fingers and your toes. Tense and release all the muscle groups from the top of your head to the bottom of your feet.When you finally get your feet on the floor, say Thank you for this new day,” even if you don’t totally mean it at the moment.Stretch yourself. Reach up as high as you can, put your head back, stand on your tip toes. Stretch in every direction.Then take a deep breath and walk to the shower.
2.Take a shower.
I personally prefer baths.However, when you are going through this ordeal, and you take a bath, it’s too easy just to slip under the water and end it all.That’s harder to do in a shower.So, get into the shower!Don’t stop anywhere.Just get in the shower and turn the water on. Let the water flow over your head and your body.Feel all of your hateful, hurtful, harmful feelings going down the drain.
Get some great soap in a fragrance you love and a loofah or one of those body scrubbers. All the major religious traditions have cleansing rituals. Feel a new spirit and a clean heart within you as you wash the outer you.Start appreciating the little things of life.One thing this experience has taught me is that there are so many tiny/huge pleasures in life that we so often take for granted.
Think about how many people on this earth will never have that exquisite privilege of going into a room, locking the door, getting a bar of great smelling soap and turning on warm, clear, clean water and just washing from head to foot.How many people in this world would consider that an unbelievable luxury?Start paying attention to those all of those precious life pleasures.You’ve got a new day ahead of you.Start it with an energizing, invigorating shower!
3.Fix your face.
Fixing your face probably involves more for women.There is the physiological part and the physical part of fixing your face.Scientific studies prove that if you just turn up the corners of your mouth, physiological changes happen and that watching funny movies actually affects the neurons in your brain.Solomon told us that a happy heart was good for us centuries ago; science is just now proving it to be true.Research has also shown that even if you don’t feel happy or are smiling because a researcher told you to, those positive endorphins start dancing around.Smiling for 16 seconds can do that.The brain can’t tell if your smile is real or fake.So even if you don’t feel like it, do everything you can to notice all the things that bring you joy. Think of things that make you smile.Start a Happy Journal.
Then there is the just-making- yourself-look-as-good-as-possible part of fixing your face. Put on a little lipstick. Comb your hair. During this upheaval there were actually times I would be standing in line at the post office or grocery store, and I would wonder if I had combed my hair or brushed my teeth.So look in the mirror before you leave the house and take the time to make your face look as good as you can!
4. Get dressed.
Getting dressed is another important step in the daily recovery process.Just like nothing sounds good to eat during this time, nothing seems right to wear.I felt like I should be dressing for a funeral for months.I felt old and frumpy and fat.I didn’t feel like wearing jewelry or even putting on my red shoes. It’s easy if you don’t have a job to go to yet, to just hang around in your sweats and slippers all day or just throw on something without thinking about how you actually look.Then, there is also the temptation to try to dress a little too tight or a little too sexy for women, or a little too young for men.In Internet-speak it’s called “teenile” which means being way too old for what you are wearing. Just be yourself. An article in the Wall Street Journal said that people don’t usually figure out their own personal style until they are in their 40’s or so.
Just figure out what you like”¦dress in the way that makes you feel good.How you look is a good indication of how you feel and vice-versa. So make the effort to dress how you want to feel.And smile whenever you can even if you don’t feel like it at first.Start paying attention to your own fashion statement.Right now you don’t have to dress to please anyone but yourself.What colors, textures, and styles do you like? What makes you feel both confident and comfortable?Put those things on. Try putting at least one thing on that has some color to it.Also stand up straight.Put your shoulders back.Head up.And, again, don’t forget to smile.
5.Eat something healthy.
Many, many people lose weight during this ordeal.And that might be a good thing. Just don’t let it get out of control.I felt sick to my stomach almost every day. I had a kind of dull, sick feeling all the time, and I didn’t feel hungry. I would sometimes forget to eat, and nothing tasted good anyway. Grief specialists tell us that grieving alters our senses of smell and taste.That was definitely true for me.I could hardly even think of anything that I really wanted to eat.However, some people eat for consolation and comfort.A few people start eating everything in sight just for the temporary pleasure or distraction it allows.Eating is in the top three responses of people who have just ended a long-term relationship. It’s okay to eat a candy bar now and then, and sometimes it’s worth it, but keep that to a minimum.Sometimes it’s easier to eat six small healthy snacks during the day instead of three big meals. Eat an apple or a bowl of cereal or some cheese and some carrot sticks or a handful of nuts.Use this time to fine tune your eating habits.
Don’t eat junk food all day.Watch your intake of alcohol, too.Drinking to forget or ease the pain is a risky road to go down at this time. It’s a dangerous road anytime, but particularly now.Pretend you are at a Day Spa or at Boot Camp somewhere and you can only get healthy stuff to eat.If you’re not eating much, make sure the foods you do eat are good for you.
All of the women in my first group are vibrant, healthy, active women.But when you are going through this divorce ordeal, it feels like you are walking through quicksand. Everything you do seems to take extra effort. It takes extra energy to get out of bed or off the couch But if you can just get up, take a shower, get dressed, fix your face, eat something and then get moving somewhere, it helps. Even if you don’t feel like doing anything specific, making yourself move your body to do anything is beneficial. Simply interacting with people in the land of the living will make you feel better.
Go workout at a health club.Meet a friend and walk around the block.Walk your dog.Go to the local coffee shop.Just get your body moving somewhere.Do something physical every day. This is a good time to get yourself in shape. It’s not up to your counselor, or your life coach, or anyone else.You have to make that decision yourself.And then you have to actually do it!
People in midlife do marathons, and runs for charity and get in amazing shape.Try something new.Go to a spinning or pilates class.Discipline yourself.You will be amazed at how much better you feel and how much better you look.When you look better, you feel better and when you feel better you look better.That is a treadmill worth getting on!
These all seem like simple, silly things. But in the middle of the grieving that you are experiencing in a divorce, they are often extremely hard to do. The amazing thing is, it’s your choice.The rest of your life is up to you.You can stay stuck in a life of bitterness, anger, fear or sadness for the rest of your days, or you can decide to create the most amazing life you can from here on out.You can be as joyful or as miserable as you decide you will be.
Start doing the Survival Six every single day, and you will slowly begin to see new, even exciting, possibilities before you.Be patient with yourself, but remember, the rest of your life is up to you, and it can be more wonderful than you can even imagine!