Susan Birdseye Rodenberg
Divorced! Are you serious? Me? Never! Not possible! How could divorced be an adjective that describes me? Never thought my life would change so dramatically in such a short amount of time. Never saw myself as a single parent to five children.
Divorce is never pretty. It isn't ever uncomplicated, simple or easy. It is difficult, time-consuming, and painful – not to mention, emotionally, physically and mentally exhausting. It is just plain awful most of the time – no, make that all of the time. Divorce is not a solution. It is just another problem on top of a problem. Unfortunately, sometimes it is the only course of action that is appropriate.
Whether you chose this path or were dragged down it kicking and screaming, you can and will survive. Finding those things that give you strength, direction and hope can change this marathon of misery into a victory lap in your personal growth.
These are simple finds but priceless and necessary. Many will seem like no-brainers, but during divorce it is easy to forget the simplest things. Divorce is consuming if you let it. Don't let it. Find the person you were meant to be through this process.
7 Simple Divorce Survival Finds
1. Find support for yourself and your children.
Our support came through our church family who not only reached out to us through calls, letters and prayer, but also dinners, yard work, household help and just plain old company. It ministered to my children as much as me to see the outpouring of love and encouragement. You might find it with your family, at work, in your neighborhood, through your children's school or outside activities. Don't be afraid to share your struggles and needs. People care about you and your family. People like and want to help. Be bold and ask!
2. Find trustworthy advisors and friends.
These are the people with whom you can discuss the details of your divorce – friends who will not shy away from slogging through the crud with you. It is so helpful to be able to thrash out the details and dilemmas of custody, visitation and possessions. There are so many decisions, and each one is important and life-changing. It is exhausting just remembering the process. Don't walk this path alone.
3. Find time for yourself.
I don't mean that you need to hide away and ponder great truths – unless that is your bent. Do find the things that relax you, encourage you and energize you whether it be prayer, movies, exercise, coffee with friends or all of the above. I found prayer, Bible study, journaling, pounding on the piano, talking with friends and exercising to be helpful. I also found out that there is a Dodgeball league at the Field House --- I'm just saying!
4. Find your faithful friends.
These are the friends that will listen to the same venting over and over and over and still answer when your number comes up on caller ID. I can't tell you how blessed I was to find friends who didn't mind my saying the same things repeatedly. They listened patiently and encouraged daily while I plodded through the pit of disbelief and divorce. Be sure to buy a massive amount of thank you notes!
5. Find the strength to continue when you want to give up.
There were so many times when I was just plain done. I desperately wanted to quit the whole process. I was often heard saying, "Done, didn't want to do this in the first place. He can figure out how to do this without me. I don't care anymore." I just wanted to focus on getting my children through this crisis. I didn't have time for this ridiculousness. My friends all gently got my head back in the game. Divorce is a game and it is awful and it is exhausting, but it will end. And, if you have children, it is important to play the game well. There are no real winners, only survivors – be a strong and positive survivor.
6. Find the person you always were, always wanted to be or already are.
I realized that I was still me. I didn't need to be defined by the labels separated or divorced. I am still little ole me. Because I am a Christian, I define myself by my beliefs and values. Those have not changed because my circumstances have changed. I still love passionately, play happily, care deeply and work diligently. I am determined that I will be a better person in spite of and even because of these circumstances. Divorce will not define me. It is just one of many adjectives that describe me.
7. Find the other adjectives that describe you.
I have five children – one in every stage of development from teenager down to toddler. The adjective that best describes me is exhausted. I am at my limit most of the time – mentally, physically and emotionally. I refuse to simply survive this life and live stressed, frustrated and tired. I want to show my children how to thrive in challenging circumstances. What words do I want my children to use to describe their mom? Loving, cool, fun, available, patient, tender, joyful and real. Those are just a few – there are probably 100. What are your adjectives? (Only positive ones, please!)
Finding yourself seems like a trite phrase, but there is a new you on the other side of divorce - a person and parent who will be stronger, bolder and willing to fight for his/her family at any cost. You will rise to challenges you didn't think you could ever face. You will conquer things you would never have imagined you could. You will be the parent you always wanted to be because that is what your dear children need most. You will find in yourself the strength to be the person you were made to be – a loving, caring and faithful parent and person.
Some Area Resources:
DivorceCare is a "special weekly support group and seminar conducted by people who understand what you are experiencing. Most importantly, you'll learn how to deal with the pain of the past and look forward to rebuilding your life."
DivorceCare also offers support for children ages 5-12 and teenagers.
DivorceCare is hosted by several area churches. Please call them for more information. There is a very small materials cost of about $12.00.
For more information, visit www.divorcecare.org.
The following area churches offer this program:
Spotswood Baptist Church 361-1880 Fridays 7-9pm
Salem Fields Church 786-6212 Fridays 7-9 pm
Freedom Worship Center 898-0757 Fridays 7-9 pm
Grace Church of Fredericksburg 785-2273 Time TBD
There are a few meetup groups in the area which support separated or divorced individuals. The groups I contacted did not want to be listed, but rather recommended that anyone interested check out the meetups website: divorcesupport.meetup.com/cities/us/va/fredericksburg.