I thought it could never happen to me.
I was living what I perceived, and others witnessed publicly, was an enviable life. I had just celebrated 18 years of marriage. I was the grateful mother of five beautiful, thriving children. I enjoyed a full-time job as the founder and CEO of a booming public relations and marketing firm working with world-class clients. I served on several high-profile nonprofit boards and had a closet filled with beautiful clothes, designer shoes and handbags. I had all the external signs of a privileged and lucky life. And then the bottom dropped out from under me one day in February 2016.
Through an accidental unveiling of a simple email exchange between my husband and a woman, I fell to my knees and knew many of my dreams—and everything that I had envisioned for my future with my husband and kids—were over in a split second. I will never forget that horrific, life-altering moment, but I am grateful that it happened.
Yes, I said grateful.
Over the past two years since that fateful day, I have dealt with my share of court appearances, legal meetings and endless bills that resulted from my ex-husband’s infidelity and deception. Of course, like any normal person, I fell apart. I couldn’t imagine how my life would ever be OK again. I was worried about the welfare of my children. Would they be scarred for life? Would I be able to pay for college that was right around the corner for my eldest? Would my 15-year-old business suffer due to my absence?
I was devastated. I was broken. I felt defeat. And then, after a few weeks of intense grieving and caring for my bewildered five kids, I had to go back to work and actually start figuring out how to live again.
I have learned some exceptional lessons from my journey through divorce (which was final in August 2017) and believe that this situation has propelled me to be a better mother, a more focused professional and a more discerning friend. Here are the things that enabled me to get back on my feet and focus on the work that I love:
1. Give yourself space to grieve.
It’s completely normal after filing for divorce to feel failure, have sad moments and have many ups and downs during the divorce process. Same goes for any other personal tragedy or setback. I really tried allowing myself to actually feel my emotions and let them out, and then it was much easier to move on and be productive at work. I took some personal days off to rest, take long walks with my dogs or just cry. The people in my personal and professional life understood, empathized and gave me encouragement. You don’t have to be stoic all the time. Find a few trusted friends you can laugh and cry with to help you process your good and bad days. You will be surprised how more good days begin to emerge.
2. Practice gratitude.
I have always been a very positive and optimistic person, but it was even hard for me to see the sunny side of a painful divorce caused by infidelity and financial deception. However, I made it my mission to thank God every day for something. Whether it was a friend who called, a dinner that was delivered from a loving neighbor, a sweet card from a colleague or a great business call with a new client lead, I made it my mission to look at the “glass half full” side of life. I reveled in all the good that happened during such a terrible time. So many people wanted to help in any way. And that kept me going.
3. Focus on “one day at a time.”
When you’re going through divorce or tragedy, you are often overwhelmed with so many emotions while trying to juggle work and care for your kids. Your “to-do” list can often propel you into a near-nervous breakdown. The way I handled my super busy life, and all that came with it, was making my daily “to-do’s” a revolving list. I started becoming kinder to myself and realized that I might not be able to get everything on my list done when I wanted to, but that’s OK. I eventually got it all done. I just tried to do my best every day and then go to bed knowing that was all I could do. The next day, I just picked up where I left off. I ended up being a little less “Type A,” and that was a good thing!
4. Accept help if you need it.
I have always been much more comfortable being on the “giving” side of things. In my pre-divorce life, I rarely asked for help from anyone and found great joy in being the person everyone called for a connection, reservation or referral. But I began to learn that the world only can go ‘round if we “givers” sometimes take on the role of “receivers.” When people started offering my kids’ rides to practice (and I no longer had a sitter/nanny to help me out due to my budget), I said I’d be so thankful. When someone offered to run an errand for me, I took them up on their kindness. If I had something break at my house, I called my neighbor down the street and he came right over to help. I saw so much beauty and love by accepting help from others.
5. Find ways to love yourself.
And speaking of love, while my marriage had ended, I still needed to feel comforted and taken care of, and I realized that the very last person on my list to get attention was ME. So, I began to embrace yoga, which really helped me find inner peace and some quiet time. I also tried to get a monthly massage and my nails done. Little things can go a long way towards making you feel good about yourself when you’re feeling so low inside. It was wonderful to find small ways to take care of myself, and I encourage others who are going through divorce or struggling to put self-care higher on their to-do list.
As I reflect on where I started, my sad divorce journey and where I am today, I feel like a more evolved, focused and grounded human being. I find more enjoyment and deep connection in my time with my kids because we have been through so much together. I embraced weekly therapy to purge my frustrations and learn productive ways to cope with the inevitable stress that comes with being an uber-busy single working mother.
I have started dating again, and it has been a fun and flattering reminder that I have plenty of life left and there are lots of adventures to still be had. I have edited out people that haven’t been helpful along this process and don’t deserve my precious, limited time.
And, most of all, I have decided to be brave and share my very personal story to reassure other women who are just starting the terrible divorce process they will truly and really be OK at the end of it—and perhaps even better than where they began.