Thursday, April 26, 2012

Breakup 101, Episode 4: Dance in the Rain

The end of a relationship is often wrought with emotional pain and heartache. If said end is defined by divorce, the process has the potential to be one of the most difficult and harrowing life experiences and it ranks right up there with coping with the death of a loved one.

Some even argue that divorce is like death, or worse.

There are others though, like me for example, who see the potential for starting over wonderful when faced with the end of what was once thought to be forever.  Instead of paying penance for my failed marriage, both self-imposed and inflicted by others' well-meaning "advice", I'm running forward in a celebration that is nothing short of a liberating declaration of monumental growth, positive change, rewarding self-reflection and personal re-invention.

I do not have to wait for my divorce process to be finally over before I get on with living my life. I am living my life because life does not wait for anything.

Life isn't about waiting for the storm to pass. Instead, it is about learning to dance in the rain. 

And I am dancing. Every.Single.Day.

Not because I seek distraction from the difficulties in my life brought on by going through a divorce, but because I am resilient and I have learned the hard way that only I can cultivate my own happiness.  I've also learned that life is too short to put my happiness on hold whenever a shit storm is brewing.  There is always a shit storm brewing. Divorce or no divorce. Married or not. Employed or not. Rich or poor.

Do you get where I am going with this?

Life isn't going to wait for you to live it only when things are as pleasant as a bright sunny day.  How you navigate a breakup, a disappointment, a bump in the road ... or a divorce ... well, in my opinion, you can either live and learn from the experience in a way that further defines how you chose to live your life or you can let the experience define you in a way that prevents you from living your life to the fullest.

Once you've dealt with the God-awful and immediate pain and grief of mourning (because, for the record, dealing with that part is indeed necessary), how do you avoid wallowing in that experience, stuck-in-the-mud as they say, to instead find yourself not just moving on, but dancing in the streets of your new journey?

  • First, ditch the idea of any required grieving "period".  If you've moved on, you've moved on. If you haven't, you haven't. There is no specific time that must pass after the end of a relationship before you can allow yourself to let go of the pain of the past so that you may embrace the possibilities of the future.    

  • Don't confuse the above advice with avoiding the grieving process entirely, however. That is not what I am advocating.  Thoroughly cycle through the stages of shock or denial, anger, ambivalence, bargaining, sadness, pain, hurt and acceptance that are all hallmarks of effective grieving.  Go through the stages as much or as little as you need to in order to embrace or achieve feelings of closure, yes.  But just as you shouldn't expect the process to be linear or straight-forward, you shouldn't expect grieving in itself to heal you. You have to move on from the process of grieving in order to move forward.

  • Next, don't let other people tell you how to feel, when you should be feeling it or, again, for how long.  I spent the latter part of my marriage in mourning. I started grieving the end of it all long before I physically left.  I had to get over it to actually find the motivation to get out, mostly because there was a child involved.  One of the biggest challenges I've faced since starting over wonderful is hammering home the concept that, as the dumper and not the dumpee, my grieving process started long before the divorce process did.  While many expect me to be dealing with things a certain way, I am more often than not, failing to meet their expectations for my divorce. And that is okay. This is my journey.

  • Also, take any and all advice from others with a grain of salt. That may sound ridiculously counter-intuitive considering this blog post may be taken as "advice", but there is value in what I am saying if you can take it at face value.  There is no "one-size fits all" type of blanket advice that is going to apply to your life, and how you should navigate something as personal as a breakup or divorce is no different.  Do not base your decisions post-breakup on the advice of people who don't have to live with the consequences of your decisions.

  • Lastly, practice self-compassion and shove guilt aside.  If you're still dealing with the grief and you haven't achieved closure post-breakup, love yourself anyway and don't let anyone make you feel guilty for not being ready to dance in the rain just yet. You could be a month into a separation or two years post-divorce and it just doesn't matter (remember, we've ditched the concept of a grieving "period"). Your journey is your own and if you're not ready to move on, you're not ready. Love yourself, make no room for feeling guilty about how you feel and soon enough you'll find yourself sashaying forward from grief's grip.  On the flip side, if you're like me and the number one emotion you feel while going through divorce is celebratory relief or liberation, don't feel guilty about that either.  Dance with your head held high and raise your bare left-hand ring finger high in the air ... 

My dancing in the rain has more to do with transforming my life to be nothing but wonderful, despite having to go through the horrendous experience of divorce.  Instead of getting trapped in the process of divorce itself and all the difficulties encountered therein, I'm hoping to rise up out of the ash like a phoenix.  I hope that by reading my ramblings here, I can help others learn how to do that too.

Do you believe in dancing in the rain?  


  1. "One of the biggest challenges I've faced since starting over wonderful is hammering home the concept that, as the dumper and not the dumpee, my grieving process started long before the divorce process did. "

    Amen to that, sister. Been there, done that. It's almost like you are grieving while you are making the decision to dump. That is when you are facing the true facts of your crappy/non-existant relationship. By the time you are ready to announce to your spouse (and the world) that you are leaving, you've done all the heavy grieving work. Mostly alone, I think. Now you're ready to celebrate :).

    I went through the exact same thing. People were astonished with how quickly I fell in love after leaving my ex. And guess what? Six years later, we have grown together, still in love, still working on our imperfect union. I think it was hard when I realized that love #2 also had imperfections, and that it was going to be lots of work. This one is better for me, more willing to do his share of the work, but it's still not guaranteed. Sort of a terrifying concept. But I don't know how I would have learned that without actually jumping in and allowing myself to love again. You don't learn to love by being alone.

    1. "You don't learn to love by being alone"

      True Story!!

  2. Dance in the rain? Hell, I've been throwing a block party!

    I so agree with taking advice with a grain of salt. I wasn't able to pre-grieve (I was a blindsighted dumpee), but I threw myself into healing with gusto and made rather quick work of it.

    We can share our journeys and the lessons learned, but ultimately, each path is one's own.

    1. I totally agree with you that each path is one's own. And good for you for actively attacking the moving on process with gusto. I will be reading your blog and hope to hear more from you here :)

  3. Girl, this is a rockin post!
    I agree with you that grieve is normal, it's part of healing. I've read the book Rebuilding After Divorce and it's been like a divorce bible for me. Of course every divorce is different, every story is different but I so love your attitude. I've been hearing so many unwanted advice when I went through my divorce it's crazy! Now, I can almost...yes almost say that my divorce was the best thing that ever happened to me. So, yeah, let's dance, sistah!

    1. Unwanted advice makes all the hairs on my neck stand up. I can't stand it sometimes. I try to smile and nod and take what I can from any advice thrown my way, but most of the time I just want to tell people where they can shove said advice and to leave me be.


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