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Monday, December 27, 2010

Why are People so weird with me when I talk about Divorce Pain?

I just got home from a night at the movies with my friend (who will remain nameless). I felt awful. The deflated feeling was what I could imagine an insect feels after being squashed and scraped across a pavement.
I had just retold my divorce story to her (ok, it was the second time) but halfway during my story, she looked out the window. Even when I stopped talking, she was so absorbed in her own thoughts that she just kept staring out the window. I was shocked. Had I said something wrong, was I boring her? Was she that disinterested in what I was saying?
Whilst I sat in silence with her absorbed in her thoughts, the conversation in my head went something like this:
  • It’s ok for everyone if I feel the pain but I cannot be a basket case
  • I am expected to discuss the break up with my friends but only once (don’t overdo it as no one wants to hang around with a miserable person)
  • I must not mope around, it’s not ‘healthy’ – it also makes people feel awkward
  • I must be productive and professional at work (don’t bring emotional baggage into the office)
  • But whilst doing all this, at the same time I must not look ‘too happy’ (or face being branded as insensitive or immature)
ARGH. I stopped dead in my tracks and realised something: I was alone in my break up. No one really understood how I felt.
This thought didn’t make me angry.
I realised that when I talked about my ex-husband’s indiscretions, she was wondering if her own husband could ever do something like that. I could see that all she wanted to do was go home to check if they were ok. (Months later, I asked her about this and she admitted this was the case too) I excused myself quite briskly and left to give her the opportunity to do that. I realised at that moment that friends are fantastic, but we all have our own lives, our own issues and if anyone was going to help me – it would need to be me.
If the truth be told, I totally avoided people after my ex and I split. The first time I told anyone was about 3 months after it happened. It reminded me of going to one of my best friend’s mum’s funeral. I felt so awkward. I was standing next to her, both of us wearing black and her face a picture of despair and grief. We had been playing dolls literally a week earlier and now I had no idea what to say to her and just looked down at my shoes. I couldn’t wait to get out of the church and away from this coffin and away from her pain.
When I got home from my dinner with my friend, I stayed up all night Googling relentlessly and the next day I took myself off to the British library for a spot of research. Surprisingly I found recurring evidence that as people, our ability to handle life’s full range of emotions is limited to the actual life experiences we have had. If nothing hectic had actually happened in our lives, we never had the opportunity to carve those learnings into our neural network pathways and experience knowing, understanding or compassion in drastic situations. For most of us, we are cool with happiness, laughter and can handle slight disappointment and some setbacks but raw despair, grief or overwhelming failure is something, that unless you have experienced it, it’s not easy to navigate through the minefield. If you think about it, did anyone ever pull you back in school and teach you how to deal with a traumatic circumstance BEFORE it happened?
When my friend looked out the window, at first it looked like intolerance but what I actually saw in my friend’s face that day was fear and overwhelm. She was scared of catching whatever disease I had because if we were so close and it could happen to me, it could probably happen to her too. She felt awkward. She wanted to help but didn’t know what to say – I really got it. I remembered feeling totally helpless at my friend’s funeral and I could imagine what she may have felt in that moment with me.
What made people like Nelson Mandela so extraordinary was he had walked through the valley of the shadow of death and he had huge experiences whilst he was in jail for 27 years. Nothing he would ever encounter in coming out of jail would be as huge as what he had encountered during his prison sentence.
So, what is the point?
Divorce grief is normal and natural but as a society we have been ill prepared to deal with it
Grieving after the loss of a relationship is about a broken heart, not a broken brain. All efforts to heal the heart with the head fail because the head is the wrong tool for the job. It’s like trying to paint with a hammer – it only makes a mess.
I found recurring evidence that as people, our ability to handle life’s full range of emotions is limited to the actual life experiences we have had. If nothing hectic had actually happened in our lives, we never had the opportunity to carve those learning’s into our neural network pathways and experience knowing, understanding or compassion in drastic situations. As human beings, we are far better prepared to deal with minor accidents than we are to deal with grief. For most of us, we are able to deal with happiness, laughter, slight disappointment and some setbacks but raw despair, grief or overwhelming failure is something that unless you have experienced it, is not easy to navigate through.

Your Friends and Family may not understand what you are going through

Although your friends and family are an important part of your life, you may find that they are ill equipped to adequately support you with your loss. I personally found that even though my friends and family were well meaning, they often said or did things which were inappropriate. Every time I hung out with them, they would try to take the pain away so we all had a pleasant time together. I would leave their company feeling superficially better but almost like I had moved two steps backwards, invalidating my emotions or my right to have them. It was only a matter of time before I realized that I was going to have to get divorce support elsewhere.
Before you find yourself getting upset with your friends or family for not being better equipped or trained to help you deal with your loss, remember that they are probably trying very hard. They have been conditioned by society to deal with loss in a particular way. It’s really not their fault. They love you very much and whatever actions they take, remember that their commitment in the background is to try and make your pain go away. They hate to see you suffering or in pain. They will do whatever they can think of in the moment to achieve this. Here are some points to bear in mind about friends and family. You may be able to relate to some of them:
  • They are afraid of our feelings
  • They offer intellectual theories and want us to stay positive
  • They have no idea what to say, try to change the subject or pretend to not hear us
  • They don’t want to talk about divorce

Give the people in your life a ‘Weirdness’ Pass

Give everyone in your life a ‘Weirdness’ Pass. This is a ticket you grant to them allowing them to say weird or inappropriate things to you whilst you are dealing with your divorce. They just don’t know any better and no one trained them in how to handle you.
  NOTE: The important thing to remember is not to take on board anything that they say. Remain aware at all times of what they are saying, the myths and possible generalizations in what they say so you guard against getting enrolled in any intellectualization that they might offer you.
Until next time, I wish you well and send you love and light!



Saturday, December 18, 2010

15 Quick Tips for feeling better today

Healing a broken heart and getting over this break up means you have to build a new future but also need a new relationship with the past…
  1. Make a YOU Journal right now – decorate it with images and materials which represent you. EVEN if you are a guy and this idea sounds ridiculous, writing about how you feel could be the single biggest improvement you could make to your current state of mind.
  2. Think about the break-up of your relationship from different points of view and write about it:
    1. What are the generalisations you have made about yourself and your ex?
    2. Think of someone you admire (friend, mentor, character from history). Imagine he/ she is watching a movie of this part of your life and step into their shoes to watch it instead. What would their comments be?
    3. Now imagine a completely neutral observer is watching the movie of your life. Step into their shoes and watch it from there – what do you notice about the interaction from this neutral perspective?
    4. Notice the differences seen from each point of view – what do you notice?
  3. Volunteer at a soup kitchen or home for the aged or football training squad etc.
  4. Schedule a makeover or change your image – go for a drastic change and consult a stylist or friend
  5. Drink many hot herbal drinks and sleep with socks on – rub Vicks Vaporub on your feet (it may seem weird but it works!)
  6. Emotional Freedom Technique: Tapping whenever you feel in complete despair helps release blockages within your body. Negative emotions will literally evaporate before your eyes:
    1. Tap above eyebrow X10
    2. Tap under eye X10
    3. Tap under armpit X10
    4. Tap under collarbone X10
    5. Tap on index finger X10
    6. Tap under pinky finger on back of hand X10
  7. In these stressful times, talking about your problems and fears to them could make you more relaxed. It also makes you feel that you are part of a group and not lonely – phone your Break Up Beautifully coach Adele if you feel you cannot discuss how you feel with friends of family. You can talk about your problems privately and let your emotions out
  8. Do not see them for 60 days – this will help, I promise
  9. Create a playlist of Feeling Better music – SAD LOVE SONGS ARE BANNED!!!
10. Delete them from your Facebook account, log out of their email and delete them from your phone if possible. Following their every move will simply TORMENT you
11.  Play sports or any other recreational activity. Exercise will help pump adrenaline and other chemicals around your body that makes you feel naturally healthier and happier. Furthermore, it makes you forget about your past troubles and you might meet another ‘special’ person in your life
12. Write your ex a letter – in it tell them everything you loved about your relationship and him/ her and everything you hated about the relationship or him/ her. When done burn the letter and bury it
13. Throw out ALL your underwear and get new set – it will flush clean all the old memories you had of your ex everytime you get dressed
14. Have a DUVET day – lie in bed with your favourite movies, books and all your favourite snacks and don’t move. Enjoy the luxury of spending time doing absolutely nothing with no one bugging you or nagging you to do anything else
15. Join a book club or a women’s group. NO – these are not for old gits but such clubs will put you smack dab in the middle of intellectual loop again – AND just think how nice it will be to discuss something other than your  divorce…


With love

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Hello World!

Dear Girlfriend

I know when you are going through a divorce that the roller-coaster ride can ‘feel’ very extreme. It alternates between activity and passivity in the very human and desperate efforts to avoid the change triggered by the divorce.
The initial state before the cycle begins is often quite stable, at least in terms of the subsequent reaction on hearing the bad news. Compared with the ups and downs to come, even if there is some variation, this is indeed a stable state.
And then, into the calm of this relative paradise, a bombshell bursts. The cycle runs as follows:
The Naked Divorce Grieving Cycle
  1. Denial
  2. Anger and Betrayal
  3. Panic and Negotiation
  4. Humiliation, Fear of Failure or Looking Bad
  5. Despair
  6. Loss, Grief and Depression
  7. Space & Nothingness
  8. Acceptance
  9. Responsibility and Forgiveness
  10. Gratitude
Let me explain the stages in a little more detail. There is the initial ‘Shock’ stage which is an initial paralysis at hearing the bad news of the break up, this is followed by…
  1. Denial stage: Trying to avoid the inevitable
  2. Anger and Betrayal stage: Frustrated outpouring of bottled-up emotion
  3. Panic and Negotiation stage: Seeking in vain for a way out. Making deals with ex
  4. Humiliation, Fear of Failure or Looking Bad stage: gradually sinking into a spiral, feeling embarrassed and avoiding seeing people
  5. Despair stage: Realization that something horrible is coming and you are strapped into the rollercoaster with nothing you can do
  6. Loss, Grief and Depression stage: Final realization of the inevitable, surrendering to the grief
  7. Space & Nothingness stage: Once you have grieved and grieved, experiencing loss and pain. There is a feeling of ‘nothingness’ – where you cannot cry anymore
  8. Acceptance stage: Seeking realistic solutions and finally finding the way forward
  9. Responsibility and Forgiveness stage: Taking responsibility for where you may have been responsible for the relationship not working out. Forgiving your ex and yourself for any failings you feel happened during the relationship
  10. Gratitude stage: Transformational experience – learning from your divorce and seeing positives and negatives from the whole experience
 
 
Sometimes just understanding WHERE you are and that it is a process and that you will get through it, really helps. The important thing to keep in mind is that although the graph looks linear – you will bounce between the first 6 ‘stages’ many times.
If you would like to see where you are within the Naked Divorce Grieving cycle, take the How Hung up Are you Test. Click on http://www.nakeddivorce.com/How_Hung_Up_Are_You.html to find out more about taking the test.
Till next time, sending you a big hug!