This blog was originally published in December, 2012.It is sent out with love to women struggling with their first Christmas post-divorce. You are not alone.
The experts will tell you that you need a full year to recover from divorce. This is based partially on the fact that you have to go through all of the holidays once without your former spouse. Christmas was already a difficult time for me since my dad died a week before Christmas during my first marriage after I’d taken care of him as a hospice patient in my home for months. I remember putting him in a wheelchair from his bed in the guest room and wheeling him in to watch my children decorate the Christmas tree. After divorcing FP in October, the first post-divorce Christmas came quickly and I had to find a way to cope.
Wanting to put on a brave face, I decided to gather up my women friends and have a party. I sent out an email: “At this holiday time you always hear about the wise men but what about the wise women? I am inviting the wisest women I know to a ‘Women of Wisdom’ gathering at my home. My two daughters will be in attendance. Please come with two gifts for them: your best piece of wisdom and the one song they need on their iPod.”
I invited a vast array of women with various backgrounds; a physician; a therapist; a marketing guru; a daycare director; a stay- at- home mom who got her nursing degree at age 50 after an unexpected divorce; a teacher; a Greek woman who had come to this country not knowing the language and had earned her undergraduate and master’s degrees; a techie; a retired grandmother; a woman who had just graduated from college and was headed to medical school; a former lieutenant governor of our state, and others whom I admired.
We had more food than my table could hold. Pasta, bread, salads of all types, olives and cheeses, wines and brandy, chocolates, nuts, pastries, all the foods from which we women usually deprive ourselves. The women were decked out and absolutely beautiful and the smell of perfume filled the air. The female energy was exhilarating and my tiny townhouse could barely contain all the laughter and cheek kissing. Wine was flowing, candles were lit throughout the house, and the fire in the fireplace warmed us from the cold and snow outside.
Eventually we quieted and put my two daughters, ages 19 and 22 at the time, in the middle of the room on the carpeted floor while we encircled our chairs around them. One by one, we spoke as my daughters sat at the feet of the elders. Each woman told her personal story in her own way and on her own timing while the others listened. Although some of us knew parts of each other’s stories, hearing each woman’s story on that particular evening was a chance to hear it told from her own heart to a loving and attentive audience. At the conclusion of her story, each woman told the wisdom she had gained as a result of her life’s experiences. I‘m not sure whether the women knew it or not, but I was trying desperately to draw strength from each of them, worried that if I got any weaker in spirit I might turn into vapor and float away.
The Wisdom was profound. As each told her story it was clear that her wisdom had unfolded as a result of the challenges and hardships she had faced, not as a result of the smooth parts of her journey. Some had buried husbands. Some had been in painful divorces; some had major life disappointments. Each woman’s story was threaded together with the one told before hers in themes of strength, courage, persistence, and triumph. The themes depicted all of those qualities that I knew I would need in order to heal from my devastating divorce. I drank up the energy my sisters exuded as they spoke from their hearts, sucking it in like an elixir.
The songs ran the gamut. The daycare director was so terribly sad and in the middle of a divorce caused when her second husband ran off with the wife of her son from the first marriage. She cried as she put forth the title “Endless Love” by Diana Ross and Lionel Ritchie and the women sitting around her put their arms around her shoulders and hugged her. The women were outraged at her life’s circumstances but encouraged her to be brave and offered their support. It made me remember that at any time we are suffering, we are not the only ones trying to navigate life’s struggles.
Others gave more powerful theme songs: “Climb Every Mountain”, “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”, “Higher Ground”, “We Are the Champions”, “Here Comes the Sun”, and “I Am Beautiful.” As a woman spoke the name of her song, our “techie” pulled it up on her laptop so we could hear it. We gathered the songs into a play list and every woman received a CD we burned of the selections. I later learned that one of the women in attendance told a friend about the party, and a group of women in England held a “Women of Wisdom” party inspired by our group’s experience.
As I looked around the room that Christmas holiday time, I saw the collective strength of so many amazing women. Many had suffered with worse circumstances than I was facing at the time, yet all were triumphant. I saw my two beautiful daughters who had been distant from me in my second marriage, and who both would shortly thereafter end up moving in to live with me for a time while they attended college and graduate school. We would not be able to reclaim the time we had lost together, and I would not be able to reclaim the piece of my soul I’d lost in my marriage. But moving forward, I could create a new bond and memories with all three of my children. Most importantly I could model for my two daughters what a woman does when life throws her a curve ball. She learns valuable lessons about herself and her life, and she goes on to accomplish great things, like my sisters had testified that night.
After hearing the wise women’s stories, I was reminded that I knew deep down, I would also heal from divorce.
I had incredible gratitude for the women in my world after our gathering. What I didn’t know was that the next lesson would come from women who were not “in the world”.
*This post is dedicated to Voula Bennett a true woman of wisdom who was with us that night. May her memory be eternal!