Healing Via Gratitude – An Unlikely Path
When my marriage fell apart, I could not imagine the next day, or week, let alone an amazing future full of love and possibility. I struggled to envision what I would do, what was my anchor, outside of my marriage and the role I played in my family? I had a small business, friends, a strong family support system and two college degrees. But the most treasured and important piece of my identity was serving as the hub of my family, and losing that nearly crushed me.
Some people successfully compartmentalize – throw themselves into work or find a new focus as a means to put aside the pain– but I was not that person. I was totally sidelined as I struggled to accept this new reality. I also felt an acute sense of personal failure. I looked inward and wondered what I had done to drive him away. I stayed stuck in that story for longer than I care to admit. But even as those negative voices kept my self-confidence at an all-time low, I heard another voice as well. It was softer but it was there. “It’s not only your fault he wasn’t happy – maybe you weren’t that happy either. You are going to be ok.” It turns out, my inner strength was not entirely gone. I made a critical decision early in the process: I decided to tap into that small reserve of strength and change my story. I did not want to be defined by this single event. I wanted to role model resilience and determination for my children. I committed to pursuing a future I loved, and to taking the high road on my way there.
It was a choice that changed my future and led me toward the wholehearted life – the amazing “Phase 2” I’m living today. I didn’t have those words at the time. I only knew that it hurt more to stay in the pain than to find a way through it, and I focused on gratitude as a means to get through the days. Some days I was grateful just to have a bed to crawl into, or a friend to call. Other days I focused on a particular connection, or being outside, but I was consistent in my quest to recognize the good in my life. I started to believe that something great was out there for me. Perhaps most important, I decided that I was worthy of love – from myself and others – even if my marriage had ended, or I cried all day, or I was scared (which I was).
You could never have convinced me at the time of the many gifts hidden in my sadness, but there they were, revealing themselves like shiny shells on a beach when I was willing to look closely. Resilience, determination, strength, compassion – they were really there! It surprised people when I chose the high road and sometimes I surprised myself as well. But making choices based on love and good intent became a cycle of positive reinforcement that thankfully got easier over time.
Six years post-divorce I am deeply grateful for the many roads that have brought me to this exact moment. Each decision – especially, not despite, those I’m not proud of – contributed to who I am now. And for the first time in my life, I truly love who that person is! I was able to change my story – to heal and create my amazing “Phase 2.” And if I can, you can too.
“When you recognize that you will thrive not in spite of your losses and sorrows, but because of them, that you would not have chosen the things that happened in your life, but you are grateful for them, that you will hold the empty bowls eternally in your hands, but you also have the capacity to fill them? The word for that is healing.” Cheryl Strayed – Brave Enough