Going through a divorce in a Small Town is like....
Been There, Done That.
One question I get when I first talk with a potential client that still surprises me is "Do you keep our conversations confidential? Is Divorce Coaching confidential?”
YES. 10000% YES.
I get it. I make my life in Small Town, USA (AKA Peoria, Illinois.) Everyone knows everyone and if they don't, they know someone else who does.
Considering that I live in Central Illinois, this question shouldn't surprise me…yet it always does. It surprises me because of how seriously I take your confidentiality and trust in me. I honor your privacy with the greatest intentionality. In my mind, privacy comes first and the process comes next.
When you work with me I have the policy that I will only acknowledge, if I'm even asked, that "I know of you" if your name happens to come up in conversation.
If I see you in public I'll wave back or say "Hi" ONLY if you greet me first.
I even go so far as to only scribble basic notes without your name attached to anything. I file them where I can refer back but no one else could ever decipher and connect them to you. (Also for the record, my husband who formerly taught middle school English tells me my handwriting is worse than a 7th grade boy's, so there's that factor too).
I have no doubt you already have enough unwanted onlookers. My promise to you, as your Certified Divorce Coach, is that I will do everything in my power to protect your privacy.
Personally speaking, I remember how it was during my divorce. I remember that I had a trip planned to visit a college friend and his new girlfriend. The friend had been a mutual friend of my ex-husband’s and mine, but I had stayed more in touch with him. It was NOT a romantic relationship in the slightest. More of a ‘he’s kind of like a lovable but sometimes annoying older brother.”
I needed a vacation. Remember, I was working 50-60 hour weeks at my job as a mortgage loan officer at a local bank during the wildly busy mortgage boom of the early 2000’s. I also was opening my new coffee shop, Eli’s Coffee Shop, in Morton, Il at the time. I was stressed, overworked and desperately needed a vacation. This seemed perfect. Money was tight for me after the divorce so I could stay with him and his girlfriend for free and was really excited to finally have something planned. I went on the trip and enjoyed myself. I met some of their friends, relaxed and had a nice time away. I went home rejuvenated and ready to get back to work.
And then I heard the rumor. Or rather, RUMORS. Plural.
The rumor was “Katie flew back to Colorado to reignite an old relationship.” “Katie tried to see if there was anything between her and their friend but he turned her down and she came home disappointed.” “Katie came home from Colorado rejected.”
How did that even happen?
I think I know how it happened and someone near and dear to me was in the middle of it. It involved a local Bible study, a relative and a connection to my ex husband’s new girlfriend’s mom (say that 10 times fast!) Essentially, a recipe for disaster in the divorce world.
I was stung by the unfairness of this group of ladies who were gossiping about me. The ultimate game of telephone as adults. I knew then and there that I never wanted to be part of something like that.
Another scenario I was out with a group of ladies. I really only knew one of them. The rest were her extended friends. At one point it came up that I was going through a divorce. One of the ladies was horrified, even though we had just met. She spent the next 20 minutes lecturing me on why I should NOT get a divorce and why ‘you should try harder to save your marriage.’
I had never met this woman before in my life and she knew nothing about my marriage.
But she had all the opinions.
It’s a lot, you guys. I’ve lived it and I know what you’re worried about going through. I pride myself on confidentially helping my clients understand the divorce process. The last thing anyone needs is one more person to gossip about them and spread false rumors.
Valentine’s Day 2024
A lot of us have a Love-Hate Relationship with Valentine’s Day. While I’m happy to, heck I even ENJOY, showing my love to my kids and husband on Valentine’s Day, I don’t love the marketing behind it. I don’t love that the showing of love is EXPECTED and is marketed to be done in a certain way or else it ‘doesn’t count.’
I distinctly remember going through my divorce while I worked as a loan officer at a small local bank outside of Peoria, Illinois. All day long there was a parade of flowers being delivered to my female co-workers. Every time a different florist delivery driver stopped in, all the ladies excitedly stood up to look over their cubicle walls to see if there was a delivery for them. One lady even had a singing telegram!? Okay…I mean, that was a little much. And weird. She just stood there awkwardly while we all stared at her and she was sung to by the troupe. That part certainly didn’t make me feel envious!
Notwithstanding the singing telegram, I remember having a pit in my stomach. Everyone knew what I was going though. NONE of those flowers were going to be for me and we all knew it. I worked hard to show happiness for my friends and co-workers as they beamed with pride. I hope I did a good enough job. They were not trying to rub it in my face (at least I don’t think they were!) but it still hurt my feelings. It also felt like my divorce stood out extra that day. Like I was wearing the proverbial Scarlet Letter.
What was wrong with ME that I didn’t have that love? That no one cared about me enough to send flowers? That I didn’t have dinner reservations with someone special? That I didn’t have a new piece of jewelry to show off and get the oohh's and aahh's over that day?
Nothing. Nothing was wrong with me. Although I didn’t realize it then. It just took me awhile to figure it out.
A day filled with Facebook and Instagram posts by friends receiving the coveted dozen red roses, flowers showing up for co-workers who blush and giggle that "He remembered!" and images on television of handsome men suddenly latching a new diamond pendant around their significant other's neck when she is not expecting it is not an accurate gauge of how lovable we are.
Brace yourselves, my friends. No matter the stage of separation or divorce that you are in you may feel triggered multiple times today. You may not even be at that stage but in a marriage struggling to hang on by a thread of hope. You might be barely able to make it through dinner without a fight or tears. The word ‘divorce’ maybe has not even been uttered. But if there is no romantic love in your life to celebrate, you may feel just as empty and lonely.
Showmanship on the holiday that marketers of flowers, cars, jewelry and chocolates live for is not a mutually exclusive sign of your worthiness of love (or a strong marriage for that matter.)
Just because you may not be in a wildly loving relationship TODAY does not mean you are incapable of receiving or giving love. Just because you do not receive a dozen red roses does not mean you are less worthy of love than your cubicle partner.
There are so many ways on this planet to love so many different people or creatures. If you think you might be triggered today, start a list of how you give and receive love, and to whom. I’ve found it’s much better to have a list ready to go to refer to when I am navigating a stressful life event. A lot of times we don’t have the energy in those specific moments to come up with ways to love or good deeds or whatever it is we need to fill our cups.
Here's a few to start:
Feeding the birds
Buy a special treat for your pup
Pick up doughnuts for your kids
Schedule coffee with your favorite aunt
Make a phone call to your grandmother
Bake cookies for a neighbor
Plant a tree
Buy a new houseplant
Pick up garbage in your neighborhood
Welcome hugs from your friends
Write love letters to your kids
Journal to yourself
Call your parents
Volunteer at the local Crisis Nursery or Homeless Shelter
Sign up to be a CASA for a local child
Donate blood at the American Red Cross
What would you add?
"I will never have this version of me again, let me slow down and be with her" Rupi Kaur
Going through a divorce, like any kind of grief, can often make us wish it away sooner than later. We do this in any variety of ways. Drinking too much. Dating too soon. Stuffing our emotions. Exercising too much. Scrolling all night. Netflix binge, again.
This moment. You feel like it will never end. You feel like you will never get through it. But it will. And you will. Be gentle with yourself. With this moment. With this challenge. Slow down. Don't rush the process. (Don't drag your feet either but that's another post for another day.)
After all, this is the only time you get to be this version of you. So who is she when she goes through grief? What does she need? What can help empower her? What will rebuild her life? What goals or desires has she put on the back burner for FAR too long that maybe NOW is the time to explore? What can she learn from this process to help her in the future?
In my experience as a divorce coach, I've noticed that a lot of people start dating far too soon. I get it. There often is that new person that is the final catalyst for a divorce that should have happened YEARS ago. Or maybe you finally feel desired again. Perhaps you haven't felt attractive in who knows HOW long and finally someone looks at you like *that*.
I get it. I know. Believe me. I REALLY know.
Suddenly you're not just juggling the emotions of an ending marriage. Of a divorce. Of your children who also are feeling big emotions. Of financial stress. Of legal paperwork. Of court dates. Of social changes. Of awkward conversations. Of lost friend circles. Of family drama.
But also you're navigating the topsy-turvy emotions of a new relationship. Which really, is enough in and of itself.
There's only so much our souls can handle and this is too much. If you don't allow yourself to properly work through the grief, anger, sadness and yes, even excitement of the divorce process, those emotions about your ex will continuously pop up through your life. You're doing your future self a huge disservice by not letting those flow freely.
You're also not in the best place to be starting a new relationship. You're seeking a thrill. You want to feel desired. Which means you just might not have the best lens of personality judgement on. I have had many clients come to me while we are not only working through their divorce challenges only to ask my help with an argument they've had with their new lover! Of course I will do this but this is such a stretch for anyone's emotional capacity, even my most emotionally intelligent clients.
The last thing you want to do is go from the frying pan into the fryer for lack of better analogy. I remember my mom joking that when you're dating someone new, you really need to give them three months because often that's when their heads begin spinning and they start spewing green vomit. Three months is usually when things start to get weird in a relationship. Or the red flags start showing at the very least.
She wasn't wrong. If we get swept up too fast and don't give the thrill of the new relationship time to show it's true colors we can find ourselves in a WORSE situation than we were before.
Slow down, please. Pause and take a breath. Get outside. Take a walk. Take your kids to the park. Go to the library and get a new book. Join a service club (my personal favorite is Rotary!) Take an art class. Sign up for a yoga series. Try out a new church. Learn or refresh a language. Start a garden.
One of my favorite bits of life magic is when I've tried something new only to have it turn into something I never would have expected. I would encourage you to be brave and try something new. Just for you. That's not toxic. That will help you GROW and EXPAND. That's not just to mask emotions but to help you soak up and round out who you really are RIGHT NOW. A wonderful bonus is that you will meet new people who are also interested in those things too. If you lost friends during your divorce, this is a great way to find a social circle of kindred spirits.
My personal story: I dated pretty quickly post divorce. I was only 25 and had no kids. I remember finally getting SO fed up with dating (you know...the whole spewing green vomit thing???) I finally heeded my own advice that I am now giving and PAUSED. I stopped. I decided I was only going to focus on me and my well being. I poured my energy into my fledgling business, Eli's Coffee Shop. I moved into the 2nd floor tiny studio apartment. I worked 16 hour days, almost 7 days a week. I quit my day job as a loan officer. I was ALL IN for me.
I met new people. Some of my best friends now were my customers then. I joined the local Chamber of Commerce and developed a network of business partners that still support me to this day. But best of all?? My husband walked in there. He was the cute new 7th grade L.A. teacher in town. He would come in and order a green tea and grade papers. He liked to shoot photography in the summer months and one day sent a message to me on MySpace...yes the MySpace days! He asked if he could hang his photos there.
We both were simply pursuing our passions and working towards our dreams. We were both well out of relationships by the time we met, his heart broken earlier that year too. We were focusing on ourselves and mending our souls. By doing so we were able to notice whom we really were and what we really desired.
Somehow the first month of 2024 is almost over! I've been wildly and joyfully busy in all areas of my life! It took a little bit to get a routine back in place with what felt like too many snow and ice days keeping our kids home from school, but this week, FINALLY, I should be able to get five straight work days!
I thought it would be fun to share five topics with you all to connect on a more personal level. Let me know what you think!
1. One Win: I’ve been stepping back from social media and working to connect more on my website, in person, my email list and blog. I have clients all over the country, but I had someone reach out to me from the farthest state yet….Alaska! They live in a small village that is only accessible by plane to boot. Amazing! Divorce knows no boundaries. It will definitely be an interesting experience taking into consideration the remoteness of their location.
2. A quote I'm pondering that I think aligns with the moment that it all 'clicks' for my clients:
I'm right there with them every step of the way, but they have to be the ones to make the decision to divorce. Often my clarification of the process helps with that part but I still cannot tell them what to do.
3. What I'm reading: Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman. I'm about 4/5 of the way through and it reads like a novel and history book in one. Sometimes biographies can be bland but this writer does a marvelous job of keeping the reader intrigued.
4. One personal note: My husband and I started a podcast! I have always been fascinated with religion, history and sociology. We are visiting a different house of worship every week and then blogging and podcasting about it. This isn't a debate about religion or an attempt to sway or convert. It's a personal exploration of faith across all world religions. If you find that sort of thing interesting I hope you'll check it out!
5. One review from a client: "What a lifeline!! Katie helped me through the intense rollercoaster of one of the most complicated divorce processes ever. She has an incredible gift of staying relational and calm AND is able to be focused and factual. This is a rare find in a human! Her ability to help me stay focused on next steps despite the chaotic events of the divorce kept me grounded. She helped me fill out complicated court paperwork one step at a time. She helped me talk through and formulate my questions before I called my lawyer so I could be articulate and precise. Before I secured Katie’s services, I remember wondering if I could afford a divorce coach. The truth is, I couldn’t afford to go through my divorce alone without Katie. Highly recommended."
This was an amazing client who started out quite timid and constantly worried about her future. To see her transformation into an empowered and confident women was such a gift to me!
“Life is hard—not because we’re doing it wrong, just because it’s hard.” Glennon Doyle
As my first marriage crumbled, I remember wondering why this was so hard? I thought I had made the right choice in my first husband. I imagine he felt the same. We were both intelligent, hard working, frugal and almost always did the right thing. We were good people; shouldn't this be easy?
Except that we got married and it wasn't working. Divorce was hard but NOT divorcing would have been exponentially harder.
Once I accepted it was OKAY for two good people to not be good TOGETHER the idea of my divorce became a lot easier to handle. Once that I accepted that our hard working personalities were not a determination of marital success it became easier to continue on a path of personal success as I learned how to be single. Once I accepted that there was nothing wrong with my ability to love just because I was divorced, it became a lot easier to move forward with my life.
Was the divorce hard? Yes. So hard. But we weren't doing anything wrong. In fact, I think we did life just right by making the choice we did.
Because what if we hadn't? Would we have had children only to divorce a decade and a half later once life with teenagers pushed us over the brink? Would I have had the energy to do what I do now with my gallery, ceramic art and property management? I'm sure I wouldn't have the idea to be a divorce coach. Or would I have fallen into a slump, unenergetic to do anything except survived each day?
That decision is hard. Toggling is harder. Not divorcing is harder. So many clients, once their divorce is finalized, tell me how mad they are at themselves that they haven't done this SOONER. That it feels like a massive weight has been lifted. That life seems so much brighter now. You can read more about what they have to say HERE.
Have you decided? Or maybe you just need a little bit of clarity to make that final decision. Maybe you need to understand the timing or logistics of the divorce process, let's have a call. 30 minutes to clarity.
Hello again! It’s been absolutely FREEZING here in Central Illinois the past week. Sub-zero (by a lot) wind chills. We have hardly left the house and if we do it’s only to run from one warm place to the next as fast as we can. Today reached a balmy 24 with abundant sunshine and it makes me so happy!
We’re at that time of the year where the divorce filings are also abundant. Everyone who wanted to get through the holidays is doing it now. But even those who have waited for the perfect timing, knowing their divorce was inevitable, still feel all the emotions. Sadness, anger, jealousy, envy on one end to excited, anxious, and relieved!
One storyline that seems to cause the most frustration with my clients though is that of the spouse who has borne the brunt of emotional abuse. The spouse whose life has been made miserable. The spouse who has been told they are worthless. The spouse who has been made to feel like they can never do ANYTHING right. But yet, their partner never files for divorce.
“Why are they making ME do it??” they ask me.
“They can’t stand me so much, but yet, they won’t file.”
“My spouse hasn’t touched me in almost a decade but yet they say they won’t file because they made a vow to me.”
“I’ve asked them to go to marriage counseling so we can work on our issues but they refuse!”
“Now that I’ve told them I want a divorce, they’re blaming ME for the downfall of the marriage!”
Ay yi yi.
This is all too common. Insanely common. I can *almost* finish the story when I hear someone start to explain to me what their marriage is like and why they are hiring me as their divorce coach. Now, I’m not a therapist, but this sounds like some major anger and control issues to me!
Spouse A, the offender, wants things their way and their way only. Spouse B tries for YEARS to make it work. The behavior of Spouse A ebbs and flows *just* enough, and after all, they never actually HIT Spouse A, so it can’t be *that* bad, right?? And of course, there are usually children involved and Spouse B hopes they can tough it out until the kids are older. Suddenly though, Spouse A starts treating the kids like they’ve been treating their spouse. Spouse B realizes they’ve had enough. Spouse B realizes this doesn’t just affect them, it’s going to affect the children. Spouse B suggest marriage counseling. Spouse A flat out refuses, OR shows up to one counseling session in the best of spirits and twists the stories to make Spouse A look (and feel) a little crazy.
Do I need to go on?
There are so many examples and versions of this same story.
If this is what you are experiencing, you are in good company (unfortunately).
This is far too common.
The good news is that you’ll eventually be divorced and it will be like a 180 pound dark veil has been lifted off you that’s been covering your entire body for as long as you can remember. Suddenly, you’ll wonder (and just a forewarning…maybe be a little mad at yourself) for not doing it sooner.
This tactic is common among gas lighters, narcissists and those that love to manipulate the story to make themselves look good and stay in control. It’s not going to be smooth sailing to get out of that situation. They do everything they can to make you feel bad. They’ll do what they can to make you miserable.
They don’t think you’ll actually do it.
And suddenly, one day, you do.
Happy New Year! Our kids are still out of school here in Central Illinois, so I haven’t quite hit my New Year’s groove yet but it’s also nice to have a few more slow days before the school and activity schedules start back up.
My husband and I spent time one evening last week working on a Goal Board. Not quite a vision board but still a visual representation of what we want in our life. We picked about seven different aspects of life like Financial, Work/Career or Relationships and then each declared goals for those categories. Some goals are static, meaning when we achieve them we can cross them off. Others are dynamic, meaning they are habits we want to form. It was nice to come to some similar goals but also see what each other is shooting for so we can support when needed.One of my big static goals is I want to be able to do five hanging pull-ups at the gym. I can barely hang right now. Let’s do this!
I’ve been thinking though too about BAD habits that we all have that we want to break. I’ve been working on less social media time. This means less posts for my Focused Forward page but if it comes at the benefit of my mental health and more time with my kids, I’m okay with that!
Interestingly, I have noticed a trend with some people in what I would consider a bad habit and that’s an addiction to trying to save a marriage that is unsalvageable. It’s not unlike gambling. The marriage is filled with toxic attitudes and behaviors and is generally negative in spirit, but Every So Often there’s a glimmer of positivity. It’s like when the slot machines let you win JUST enough to convince you that the next pull might be the big one. But of course, it isn’t. So you keep pulling (figuratively, of course) to keep your marriage together. Keep pulling to find that positive glimmer again. And you get JUST to the point where you are ready to quit and BAM there it is. A smile when you least expected it. Hand-holding. Flowers on the counter when you come home. A cuddle in bed when you haven’t touched in five months. And just like that you’re thrust back into the cycle.
Like any addiction, you have to own your healing. You have to take charge. You have to WANT to get better. No one can force you to do it. No one will ever come to save you. You have to save yourself by taking that first empowered step.
What does that look like? That looks like saying “Enough is Enough.” There’s the phrase “stop throwing good money after bad” and I think that applies to emotions too. Stop throwing your good emotions, your good energy, your good time, after bad.
Does this sound familiar to you? Have you lived this reality? I’d love to hear from you! And if you need help with that first empowered step, let’s get started with clarity and confidence.
Hello! I’m sitting down to write this just a couple of days after Christmas and a few days before New Year’s Eve. That weird time where we forget what day it is if we don’t look at a calendar.
I also know it’s a very uncomfortable time if you’re considering divorce. So many emotions as you work through the holidays. Thoughts vary from “This could be the last time I spend Christmas with my spouse’s family” to “What will Christmas morning look like next year if I move forward with filing?” to “This is so stressful and I can’t get out of here fast enough!”
You may be excited for the changes, sad about what’s to come, angry that you’ve been forced to make this decision but more likely all of those emotions! The holidays bring added stress even in the best of marriages, but add hurt feelings, being ignored, gaslighting and arguments it’s enough to make someone feel crazy.
Isn’t it interesting that we often don’t want to leave our marriages so we don’t feel lonely but yet being in a dysfunctional, toxic marriage is one of the loneliest places to be? If you’re having those feelings, believe me, I COMPLETELY understand. I’ve had those feelings too. Especially with social media where we see everyone else’s ‘highlight reel’ of their ‘perfect’ lives.
If you’re not sure what to do about your marriage, I always encourage people to look ahead. Ask their future self what they need. Sound too “woo-woo-ey”? Let me explain.
You want to do a Future Self Meditation. I walk clients through it in my course in greater detail but I’ll explain the basics here. You want to picture your IDEAL self ahead a number of years. You pick. Depending on your age it could be 5 years if you’re older or 30 years if you’re younger. Where are you? What kind of home do you have? Does anyone share the space with you (Human or furry!) What type of clothes do you wear and how do you decorate your space? What are your hobbies and do you work?
Now, that is a VERY brief version of this but what you want to do next is ask your future self, either writing this or meditation on this, what he or she needs you to do NOW to get there. Do they need you to find your strength to move forward with divorce? Do they need you to give marriage counseling a chance? Do they need you to get individual therapy or perhaps some medication? Do you need to have that tough conversation with your spouse with specific boundaries/expectations in order to consider staying married?
I practice this from time to time when I meet a crossroads and it has been very effective in guiding me. Let me know if you try and how it works from you! If you get stuck, I work with my 1:1 clients with this and also like I mentioned before my course offers a much more detailed version.
Wishing you all the best and sending lots of strength and love through the New Year.
I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving! I spent it at home; we hosted about 14 people. It was the perfect number to have a full house with lots of conversations and kiddos running around but not too many that we were stressed. Everyone brought something and it made for a fairly laid back day for us.
A week later was my birthday! 44! I feel very deeply rooted in middle age and honestly, I love it. I’ve reached the feeling of no-nonsense confidence about what I do as a Divorce Coach, helping people work through the divorce process in the most dignified way possible. When I started out I felt a lot more nervous about it. I was worried about people judging me and thinking I was encouraging divorce which is SO far from reality! It feels so good to help someone get through something so challenging and on to the other side of it all. It's amazing when they get there and they are SO PROUD of themselves. Proud of how they handled the divorce. Proud that they handled it with grace but didn't give up. And very often, although maybe not right at first, surprised by how GOOD they feel to be divorced.
Ben surprised me by inviting my closest friends and family for dinner at my favorite restaurant Blackband. I was SHOCKED! I thought it was just going to be the four of us for dinner and suddenly we were led to the mezzanine where parties gather and I quickly figured out what was going on. It meant so much to me that so many people took the time to come out, get a babysitter and have a really nice meal just for my birthday.
Ben really is a dream. I’ll get more into the reality of that in a moment but he’s just such a neat guy. He’s creative, funny, cute, athletic and loves to write and play his guitar. He’s a wonderful dad, husband, brother and son. Elderly people, children and dogs love him, so you know he must be the real deal!
Back to my comment about him being a dream. Maybe not exactly a dream but after my divorce my wonderful friend Chrissy who sat across from my cubicle at my bank job and I were talking. I was in the throes of the dating world and listed off what I wanted in a guy. She laughed and said, “okay, good luck with that…sounds like the perfect guy!” But I knew EXACTLY what I wanted.
Not long after that, who showed up at my coffee shop? You guessed it. Ben. He was the handsome new teacher in town (yes, VERY Hallmark Movie - esque!) who rode a motorcycle but sat at the coffee shop and wrote poetry. He loved football but he also was thrilled to pack up charcuterie and have a picnic on Grand View Drive (where we had our first date, got engaged and got married!)
Manifesting. Dreaming. Wishing. Call it what you want, but if you name it, you can get it. I am a big believer in this and I’ve experienced it over and over again for myself. An even more powerful tool in discovering what we REALLY want is to make a Vision Board. I’ve done this a few times in my adult years and almost everything I’ve ever had on mine has come true.
A vision board is a powerful tool often used in personal development and goal setting. It's a visual representation of your goals, dreams, and aspirations created by collecting and arranging images, words, and symbols on a board. The goal is to create a tangible and vivid representation of what you want to achieve or manifest in your life.
Now, of course as someone who has been divorced and helps others navigate their divorce process, I am keenly aware that life often feels hopeless. If you've experienced heartbreak, a vision board can be a valuable tool for healing and moving forward.
I am so excited to offer an in-person Vision Board Workshop at MUSE in January! It's not just for people who have divorced or are in the process of it; in fact, we won't even talk about divorce unless it's something that comes up organically through conversation. Anyone can come and this would make a great gift for someone!
January 20, 2023
Lunch, light snacks and drinks provided.
Please bring a pair of scissors and magazines if you have them that can be cut up
Everything else will be provided.
Sign up here: https://forms.gle/Cv3EKmnZHtoZjw8A6
It's Thanksgiving week and while there is a lot to be thankful for, I am keenly aware of the feelings that occur when it's someone's first Thanksgiving after (or during) a divorce. I had a client talk with me today about it and it thrust me back to MY first Thanksgiving after my divorce. In fact, I think I literally finalized my divorce the week OF Thanksgiving if I recall correctly! I remember feeling so alone and having it feel like a bright red mark that I showed up solo. No partner to walk in with. No one to leave with. No one to sit close on the couch with after a delicious meal. And seeing images on social media of couples gathering with their families was painful. I remember my ex was traveling with his family and I was so envious. I had a new business I was running and could not leave. While my family was all local, it just all was so painful. I was stressed about my new business, still working hard at a very busy full time job and had no time away from my job or new business. I was sleep deprived, sad, depressed and felt unlovable. I've definitely learned that being sleep deprived makes everything seem worse and so much harder to manage emotions!
My client today was also feeling sad and frustrated. She found out her ex husband was HOSTING Thanksgiving for a large crowd....and doing all the cooking with their kids to boot! He had never done anything like that before. She had done all of the immense amount of prep work, cooking and clean-up. She sighed...."if only he had done those things while we were married." And while she has been invited, it just feels like a slap in the face. It doesn't feel good. She feels like an outsider.
"If only." I hear this a lot and remember those feelings myself. When suddenly you see your ex do the things you had wanted/asked/begged them to do. And it hurts. "Why did you not care about ME enough to want to do those things?" "Now that I'm GONE, you do those things!?" "Why was our marriage of so little value to put that effort in before?"
It's hard to wrap our heads around those feelings. The feeling that WE weren't good enough to inspire them. The feeling that it seems they WANTED to go against our wishes just to hurt our feelings. The feeling that MAYBE they're now doing these things out of spite.
Getting in shape finally. Going to church. Taking the kids shopping. Cooking dinner. It's not just the holidays where we'll see those new actions out of our exes.
The best thing we can do is prepare ourselves to witness their change. Divorce is a change. And suddenly, even in their anger, they feel our absence. The absence of what we did. And while most of the time they'll never admit they miss us (and maybe they don't) they DO miss what we did. Just like there are things THEY did for us that we'll miss. We won't miss the stress and fights and frustration, but now someone needs to mow the lawn and blow the leaves out of the gutters. If not them, who? Us? A service we hire?
Feeling angry or sad during the holidays during or after a divorce is 100% normal. Don't add to the stress by telling yourself that you 'should' be happy or 'should' be thankful. You can be thankful for what you have and I definitely believe making a written list while you sip your favorite tea is a healthy practice, you can also allow yourself to grieve what you don't have this year. Allow the anger to pass though you. Write about it too. You'll get through this, and eventually, that anger will be a distant memory that will only creep up when someone you care about goes through it themselves. Like what happened to me today. This year, for the 16th? 17th? year I get to celebrate, still locally, with my family. But I have my sweet husband Ben and our two kids. We are hosting, together. I no longer have to work Black Friday with a retail business. Despite that hard, hard Thanksgiving, fresh out of the judge's chambers with signed divorce papers, I've only grown. I just told my husband last night that I wish I could go back in time and give my 25 year old self a HUGE hug and tell her how proud I am of her. She did that for me. She did that for Ben and my kids. She didn't know how it would turn out but she trusted her gut that it was the right thing to do.
I'm thankful for you and for those of you who trust me to help you navigate your divorce process. I don't take that trust lightly. I know this is the hardest challenge that many of you will ever have in your life.
About Katie VAndenBerg
Katie makes her life surrounded by river valleys and surprisingly beautiful cornfields. Her days are spent helping her divorce clients, working with her tenants, spending time on her pottery wheel and loving her family.