Surviving Divorce: My Phoenix Process

One of my all time favorite poems is Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken.” I remember telling someone a while back that I’d wished I could have lived a simultaneous life. That of the mother I am and of a single person able to travel and explore new adventures. My separation and subsequent divorce gave me an unexpected “gift.”  Which is how I chose to “embrace” my unplanned role as a single woman.

While I am sad that my marriage ended and that I must share my children with their father, I am grateful for the time I’ve had alone pushing myself out of my comfort zone exploring new things and challenging myself physically, mentally and spiritually. I am also proud to be able to see the contribution to the failure of my marriage. I no longer point fingers but am able to see my choices and how they impacted the marriage so I can make changes for any future relationships.

I’ve read two great books that both speak to The “Phoenix Process,”  Elizabeth Lesser’s “Broken Open” and “Crazy Time: Surviving Divorce” by Abigail Trafford. Take my advice, read “Crazy Time” before you start dating. It might spare you a bit of heartbreak. In fact, I wish someone had sat me down and told me absolutely positively not to date until I was a year past my divorce. I would have saved myself heartbreak and lots of disappointment because I learned the hard way, you attract where you are at. 

I thought if I was with a partner, I could avoid the pain and despair of loneliness. Jumping into a relationship too soon is like getting drunk to forget your problems. It’s all going to be there when you sober up.

If you focus on rebuilding your life and finding value in yourself, you will enter a relationship and have a life far better than any you can imagine when you are just starting the divorce process.  Not to mention the example you’ll set for your children and the peace you’ll bring to all your relationships, including the one with your ex.  

I love the image from Harry Potter Movie of the Phoenix rising from the ashes. This is how the process really felt for me.

The Phoenix Process is essentially the process of shedding who you once were and reemerging as a better version. Even though I went through the worst two years of my life, crying more than I think I cried in my entire life, I also had unbelievable moments of connection with people I would never have met. I hardly recognize the person I’ve become and if I’m being honest, I’m really proud of this.

Rules of the Phoenix Process when surviving divorce:
  1. Change is the nature of life, and nothing changes without loss, which is a form of death. 
  2. When we turn toward what is changing—when we keep our hearts open and allow ourselves to feel a loss all the way through—we move with more grace into a new, energetic and constructive phase of life.
  3. We can transform loss into growth, change into insight and suffering into joy if we turn and face that which frightens us most about ourselves and our changing circumstances. 

Adapted from Broken Open: How Difficult Times Can Help Us Grow, by Elizabeth Lesser.

In the five years since I’ve separated, I have done more than 1,300 yoga classes, studied Kabbalah, done the Landmark Education Curriculum, rock climbed (I hate heights), joined a single parent meet up, started a business, lost 10 pounds (and gained it back), hiked areas I’ve never explored, took up paddle boarding, had a couple boyfriends, read more than 100 books, had a spiritual awakening. I discovered who I am outside my role as wife and mother, boss, daughter or friend. I’ve learned to get in touch with my gut and most importantly distinguish when the voice inside my head is worth listening to or turning off.