Jacobson also advocates tapping into self esteem — she knows from personal experience! "One of the reasons that I was able to navigate the mucky waters of divorce clearly, with great fortitude and stamina was through discovering my toolbox for increasing my self-esteem, slowly, slowly, bit by bit. Though there were many tools from which I drew, the one that seemed to anchor both hope and courage for my budding self-esteem was self-love as expressed through kindness and compassion directed at yours truly."
Compassion is one way to foster a healthy self-esteem, but don't forget a big "don't" for cultivating it. Says Becherer: "Negative people lurking among your family, long-time friends, co-workers and, of course, the ex. Try to stay away when they are judging and critical. This just erodes the foundations you are building, sapping your strength when you most need it." On the other side of the coin, accept help from those who want to give it to you: "Even if you are usually the strong one that everyone shares their troubles with, this is a time to ask for help. Lean on their shoulders for a change."
Jacobson also offers this trick you can practice throughout the day: "One of the easiest ways to start is by simply drawing your awareness to your inner self-talk. Our tendency is to want to acknowledge the negative thought, push it away, and then implant a new positive thought. However, experts in self-compassion teach that without truly acknowledging the thoughts, they will continue to resurface, creating that continued barrage of fight-or-flight madness. Many practitioners of self-compassion instruction liken the negative thoughts to a persistent child tugging at you. If you simply tell the child to go away, he won't budge. If you recognize the child and tell him that he is seen and heard, he will be pacified and compliant. Anchor in your new practice of self-talk awareness with a ritual or routine that allows you to consistently witness your thoughts."
No matter how low you are feeling, there is hope for moving on. Make tangible and concrete decisions to do so, says Becherer: "The fifth stage of grief recovery is acceptance. So many things — kid time, financial support, ex-spouse's family, holiday rituals, house and home — have changed forever. Stop struggling. Work (and it is definitely work) to let go of the way it used to be. Create new patterns."
But all that work is worth it. As Richards puts it: "Now that I am being honest about who I am and what I need, rather than hiding certain parts in order to please others, I have found that my relationships are much simpler and my connections are much deeper. Yes, it requires facing the discomfort of confronting sensitive issues as they arise instead of avoiding them as I once did, but I have learned that they key to this is knowing how to have "safe conversations". My journey continues, but I have to admit that I have begun to fall in love with the real me. She's far from perfect but, at least, she's found the courage show the world who she really is. And THAT is empowering."