Healing After Divorce

The day my divorced finalized was one of the most liberating days of my life. I’m going to tell you the story (the short version anyway), but keep reading to the end, because there is a message in here that I need you to get.

Divorce day…. I dressed up, far too dressy for the City Court, but it felt right to look sharp. I walked in, met my ex…. we pulled a number tab and waited our turn…. signed a bunch of papers and I walked out. Got in my truck and went to the nearest bar. Ordered one shot of whiskey, tipped the barkeep a twenty and walked out…no I STRUTTED out. Elated. Empowered. Free. I was a FREE woman. I’ll never forget that day or that feeling.

Here’s where I need you to keep reading….

That empowered feeling was a high that I couldn’t explain, and propelled me forward into the unknown with ferver and resolve. BUT, like most highs, it didn’t last. Life, as it tends to do, kept moving, and I found myself in a space of hurt and brokenness that desperately needed repair. If you’re there right now, you know the feeling that I’m talking about. But do you want to know the most amazing thing about that space?? It’s rich with the power to heal. I had a unique opportunity to shed the bullshit, get to know myself and rebuild with honesty and love. I didn’t need a crazy high, I needed long-lasting peace. So how the hell do we get there?? Glad you asked.

Here are my top 9 post-divorce healing tips ( Why 9? Well, I originally had 100, but 9 seemed like a good, digestible number to throw at ya):

  1. Find Your Tribe

Image from my 35th birthday camping trip. These are my people. Thank you  Melissa  and  Sami , for this and for everything else.

Image from my 35th birthday camping trip. These are my people. Thank you Melissa and Sami, for this and for everything else.

I have always been independent. In fact, I’ve been called “overly independent” numerous times during my life. I’ll tell you, this was only partially due to my personality. The overarching framework of my “over-independence” came out of necessity…. it came from needing to survive, on my own. Ace Fanning put it best during one of our mid-divorce chats…. “The only person Co Hodges can truly depend on, is Co Hodges. You need to let others in.” And he was right. Not only did I not want to continually burden my amazing friends with the shit show that had become my marriage, but I figured I could handle it myself. But I’ll tell you this, when your best friend drops everything and hauls ass to come get you out of a bad situation…. you realize two things. One, that you need the help of those who love you; and two, that you are loved.

I would not be in the same space that I get to enjoy had it not been for the incredible tribe that surrounded my kids and I. I am eternally grateful for their continued love and support. I can count on them, and they can count on me… period. To me, THIS is family. So, find your family and love them hard.

2. Relinquish the Control You Don’t Actually Have

Image of my best girl and me, by my love,  Sami Chesley

Image of my best girl and me, by my love, Sami Chesley

Damn. This was a tough one for me. Stepping into the realm of divorce, I was armed with my projections and expectations of how this should go. I wanted an amicable split, a solid, respectful co-parenting situation where we still celebrate Christmas and birthdays together, and a true honoring for what we had meant to each other in the past. Here’s where I went wrong…. I thought I had control over ANY of that. But the truth is, whether you are married or separated or divorced or whatever… you have zero control over anyone but YOU and your actions. You cannot make your ex look at divorce the same way that you do. You cannot make someone else believe the same things about divorce OR experience divorce the same way you will. Trust me, I fought for my ideals…. for what I thought the story SHOULD be. I cried over it, perseverated over it, was angry about it….. and then I let it go. The only person I can control… is me. The second I let that truth wash over me, I found a beautiful peace and a new perspective. Now, this doesn't mean that I still don’t want what I want in relation to divorce. And YEAH I want this rainbows, butterflies and unicorns version of co-parenting. Maybe one day. But for now, I have accepted what IS…. and have relinquished the control that I didn’t even have to begin with.

3. Say Yes

Image by my darling  Laura , on the kids’ and my first night in our new home.

Image by my darling Laura, on the kids’ and my first night in our new home.

When you are in the deep shit that is divorce and post-divorce…. it can be really hard to be motivated to do anything except exist. There will be days where it takes you two hours to accomplish a small task, because all you really want to do is go lay back down. Unfortunately, if you have kids, that’s not always an option. They need things like food and clothes and attention (god, they are so needy huh? 😏 ) and you must provide, both financially and with your physical presence. So, you have to be up and in the world anyway, so….. say YES to things. If a friend wants to take you to a dive bar to people watch, say YES. If you get asked to speak at a conference, say YES. If you get an opportunity to go to Australia and teach some awesome people photography, say YES. If your best friend offers to come photograph you and your kiddos on your first night in your new, post-divorce home together (even though you are running on about an hour and a half of sleep and look a big ragged)…. you say FUCK YES to that.

4. Grieve When You Need To

My first self portrait in our new home

My first self portrait in our new home

Here’s where I need you to give yourself some grace. With any death, their is a grieving period, and you must allow yourself the time in which to grieve the death of your marriage. No matter how bad it may have been and no matter how glad you are that you got out, it’s still a loss. You lost “what could have been”, even if that was never a possibility. Most of us don’t even realize that what we grieve the most is the loss of our own projections for our marriage….what we WANTED it to be, not necessarily what it actually was. Allow yourself to grieve the loss of that story, that frame of mind, that wish/prayer/whisper in the wind/whatever. It’s ok to grieve. Give yourself the space in which to do that.

6. Let Time Pass (spoilers, it’s going to anyway)

Self portrait: Spring break, post-divorce at our favorite beach

Self portrait: Spring break, post-divorce at our favorite beach

This is both the easiest and the hardest thing to do. Easy, because you have to do nothing… I mean, time is gonna pass regardless of your wishes. The hard part is the waiting. By human nature, we struggle with patience (I know I do), and when you are really hurting, one day can feel like a month. But that day will go by, and then a week, and then a month, and then a year…. and you’ll look back on this time as though it passed in a blink. And on the other side of all of this, you WILL feel better, trust me. So, KNOWING that the time will pass anyway, go do something to make it go by faster. Plan a trip. Do something you’ve never done before. Start writing that book you always dreamt about. Train for that marathon. Do all of the tings. And time will pass more quickly…you will see.

7. Sleep

Image of my babes and I by the one-and-only  Anna Harris .

Image of my babes and I by the one-and-only Anna Harris.

Easy tip. SLEEP. Your body wants more sleep during this time, and not just because it’s sad. It’s because it’s working overtime to KEEP YOU ALIVE. All of that stress and angst and maybe drinking too much and maybe eating too many McDonalds Spicy McChicken sandwiches and not going to the gym….. yeah all of that takes a toll on your body, and it needs to heal. So sleep when you can. It’s ok, Co has given you permission.

8. Laugh

Bria + me, by  Ace Fanning

Bria + me, by Ace Fanning

Wise old adage: “Laughter is the best medicine”

And it’s true. Laugh. Laugh with your friends and with your kids. Don’t have the kids for a night? Rent a funny movie, pop a gummy and crawl into bed. I promise, you’ll wake up a new person.

9. Give Back

Image by me, of my darling friend  Haley , post-divorce and pre-cancer treatment. This woman is solid as a damn rock and one of my personal heroes.

Image by me, of my darling friend Haley, post-divorce and pre-cancer treatment. This woman is solid as a damn rock and one of my personal heroes.

I truly believe that in the wake of something difficult, lies the possibility for something extraordinary. After my divorce I was searching for a way to give back to the post-divorce community. I thought “what do I actually have to give?” and the answer was simple. “I take pictures, so that’s what I’m going to do.” I now offer free lifestyle family sessions to single mothers. Click HERE to check it out and apply. And if you’d like to get involved in a similar way, you do NOT need to ask my permission to do so. I did not coin this concept, and the more people we have out there, genuinely loving on others, the better. So get to it, you beautiful soul you.

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So remember that elated, empowered high that I experienced post divorce? Well, that has been replaced with a long-term peace and a knowing that I made the right choice. What’s better than a crazy, short-lived high?? An awesome, mellow buzz that lasts indefinitely. It’s possible, trust me.

Coleen Hodges9 Comments