I have often thought that “before and after” photos of divorce clients would make a fascinating retrospective of what it means to go through divorce.
As a divorce lawyer, I saw the changes in the appearance of hundreds of clients as they went through the divorce experience. The look of a client on the day of the initial consultation and the look of a client at our final conference often differed dramatically.
For some, divorce takes a huge toll on the mind, body and spirit. Significant weight gain or loss, dark circles from lack of sleep, or the sad face are signs. Depression, grief, worry, and exhaustion are evident.
For others, divorce is quickly seen as the beginning of a better life. Improved fitness, a new wardrobe, and a glow of newfound energy emerge. These folks smile readily and have a sense of humor about the challenges of the divorce process.
The summer of my divorce I cut my hair as short as it had ever been. This spring, nine months after the death of my second husband, I had highlights put in my hair for the first time in decades.
In neither case did I ask my stylist to give me a “new look for my new life.” At the time I did not realize this outward symbol reflected a longing to have my life get simpler, easier, and, indeed “lighter.” The change on the top of my head reflected unfolding changes in my life.
When we experience a change in our identity, it is often reflected in our appearance. The student turning professional starts wearing jackets to work. The nun dons her habit. The cashier wears the store uniform. The change in identity from “married” to “divorced” or “single” is one of those identity changes.
As we move through divorce, we might become unsure about who we are. Our status as married, as a family member, and even as a member of our social circle has changed.
Having self-compassion for wherever you are on the divorce journey is critical for your well-being. Your buddy going through a divorce might be on fire to hire a personal trainer, get a tattoo, and hit the singles scene. You might feel like it’s a good day if you get out bed, brush your teeth, and make it to the office in clean clothes.
Your divorce experience is unique to you. Do your best to avoid comparing yourself to how others experience it. Be kind to yourself regardless of where you are. Remain curious as you get clear about the “you” being rediscovered.
The same advice works well for anyone going through a divorce, regardless of whether they see it as devastating or liberating. Take care of yourself. Remind yourself of who you really are. And have confidence that the “real you” will blossom when your spring comes.