A Month for Gratitude

It is possible to be grateful, even during divorce. This month, let's focus on gratitude for the good and the bad in our lives.

By Alisa Peskin-Shepherd, J.D.

Taken with permission from the November 2014 newsletter of Transitions Legal.

Did you know that research reveals the importance of gratitude and gratefulness in coping with, and healing from, difficult times? It's true! And whether you filed for divorce, or your spouse brought it on you, there are always positives that come out of challenge. This month, let's focus on ways to bring gratitude into the divorce process.

I know a man whose first wife initiated the divorce. During the process, which he had hoped to be amicable, he learned she had been cheating on him - and that she planned to marry that man as soon as the ink dried on the divorce decree.

This man was devastated. On his nights with his young daughter, he tried hard not to break into tears, but sometimes he couldn't hold it in.

As time passed, though, the hurt healed, and he came to see the bright side. If he hadn't married the first wife, he would not have learned important lessons that made him a better husband when he found the love of his life. He knew how to choose better and he knew himself better, so the resulting relationship could be stronger. And ultimately, the new guy in his ex's life was a good stepfather to his daughter.

Talk about making lemonade from lemons! Keep in mind, this gentleman healed his emotions and gained perspective over several years. It does take time, so be gentle with yourself and understand it is a process!

When you focus on finding the silver lining, you can't help but be happy. Seeing the good details of your life reminds you they ARE there, even when all the days seem dark. Inspirational author and speaker Brene Brown, in her book The Gifts of Imperfection, says that every person who describes living a joyful life actively participates in a daily gratitude practice. Keep a journal and jot down those things for which you're grateful. Write thank you notes - by hand. Say a prayer, even if it's only to thank the universe for giving you another day.

Earlier this year, I spent time in Sedona, Arizona with friends. We hiked in bright sun deep into a canyon, red rocky cliffs spearing up all around us. It was breathtaking. There's nothing like being in nature, and among friends, to remind us how full and rich our lives are. In a time of divorce, friendship and fresh air can be great antidotes to sadness and grief.

Here are some other ideas for looking at your divorce with gratitude:

  • Most children are calmer and more peaceful without the ever-present anxiety and fighting in a pre-divorce home.
  • You have the time and space to reflect on where your relationship went wrong and what you can do to avoid making similar mistakes in future relationships. Look for the pattern - it's there! And learn from it.
  • It's ok to grieve the loss of the dream - of a perfect family, a movie-like marriage, a forever-after. But, you can also make peace with what IS. Good mental health comes from being present, and appreciating the moment we are in right now.
  • Create a letting-go ceremony. Write your anger and sadness and problems on little scraps of paper and burn them in your fireplace or wash them down the kitchen drain. Let it all go. Start fresh.
  • So many times in our adult lives we do not have the opportunity to make new friends or try new things. After divorce, you have a clean slate, a blank canvas. Choose your colors and paint!

Opportunities to Show Gratitude

Shine your focus on helping others, shifting your perspective to giving back

Saying we should be grateful, and actually putting it into action, are two very different things. Here are some great resources to help you focus on the good things in your life this month!