Six Divorce Lessons From Autumn –Time To Let Go
The last weeks of autumn can be hard. We let go of the warmth of summer. The clocks have gone back. We are losing daylight and with it our energy. The long winter is ahead of us. (Sorry if I have you quietly weeping into your coffee right now!).
And this year, lockdown restrictions make life even harder. Add to that the emotional and practical demands of divorce, and you have a recipe for very gloomy days indeed. (And now you’re full-on sobbing!).
But. It doesn’t have to be like that. The darker days have a lot to teach us.
In Six Divorce Lessons From Autumn, we look at taking inspiration from the season. In particular, we see how it’s time to let go.
That’s what the trees are doing at the moment – letting go of their leaves in spectacular style. Every day is a riot of colour in my local park, even on the greyest days.
Letting go is necessary for any change in life. Both the big ones, like divorce, and the smaller ones, like changing a job. Without this crucial shift, there is no spring, no brighter days. It’s true for the trees and it’s true for you.
Here are six divorce lessons in letting go inspired by autumn.
The six divorce lessons from Autumn
Let go of the past
Deciduous trees need to let go of their leaves because the leaves have served their purpose. All through summer leaves create food for the tree. As autumn arrives, the leaves die off. If the tree held onto them the whole of it would die – there wouldn’t be space for new leaves to create food in spring.
What’s the lesson here? We need to acknowledge when nature has run its course. With any separation comes grief, and you will probably be experiencing a range of emotions from the grief cycle. You can read more about the grief cycle here.
Allowing that grief is essential. And that means acknowledging it’s time to let go.
You might need to lovingly let go of the good times. Maybe your marriage was happy for a while. And you have lots of memories from your time together – holidays, homes, adventures. It is ok to enjoy the memories and what they mean to you. You don’t need to forget. But you do need to let go of the expectation they will happen quite like that again.
You will build new happy memories, I promise. They won’t be quite like your past ones. And, honestly, that’s okay. It means there’s space for new and different sources of joy.
You might need to let go of the bad times. Maybe you’ve suffered at the hands of your spouse, and your marriage was far from happy or healthy. You need to let go. That doesn’t mean you forgive your ex for any bad behaviour. But it does mean you forgive yourself, if you are harbouring any guilt.
And it means you don’t let the past dictate your present or your future. From now on you get to put your needs first.
Let go of old stories
Of all the Six Divorce Lessons From Autumn, letting go of old stories is a biggie. We all have stories we tell ourselves. And for most of us, the stories we tell ourselves are not happy ones – more like gruesome horror!
Maybe you say you’re no good with money – especially if your ex was the one who took care of the household finances.
Or maybe your story is that you’re disorganised. It doesn’t come naturally to you to put structures and order in place.
Or you say you’re an idiot for staying with your ex so long, especially if friends and family were concerned about you.
The thing about all these stories is they’re just that. Stories. They don’t exist anywhere outside your head.
Maybe you don’t have much experience with money and you feel daunted. It’s ok to feel daunted. But you can learn. And you can get people to help you.
If you’re disorganised, it’s simply a matter of creating new habits that help you.
Let go of beating yourself up
And if you’re beating yourself up for staying in an unhealthy marriage, please stop now. You have decided to make a change. And that means you have courage and integrity. Being brave isn’t the same thing as being fearless. You can be scared and do it anyway.
Whatever your story is, whatever speck of truth it may be based on, you have the power to change it. I’m not pretending it’s easy. It is hard to change our ingrained ways of thinking overnight.
But here’s a simple way to start, for now. Next time you think you can’t do something, you don’t have what it takes, add the word ‘yet’.
“I’m no good with money, yet.”
‘Yet’ opens all sorts of possibilities. And nicely leads into our next autumn lesson in letting go…
Let go of having all the answers
Navigating divorce is tricky. There are so many issues to negotiate: the decision-making, the impact on your emotional wellbeing, the needs of your children, getting to grips with finances, managing any shared assets. It’s your whole life thrown into disarray.
Many of my clients feel like they’ve got to be and do it all. It’s like taking personal responsibility – which I’m all for. But on steroids. The truth is, with something like this, you need help. And my advice is to seek as much help as you can. You don’t need to know it all. In fact, it’s far wiser to accept that you don’t know (yet) and reach out to the people who do.
Don’t just accept offers of help – ask for them.
I talk to my clients about being CEO of their divorce. When you think of a CEO, what comes to mind? Is it an overstressed exec racing around getting everything done? Not for me. For me, a good CEO recognises they can’t do it all. They’re not meddling in every detail of their business. They look at the bigger picture, see what needs to happen, and they delegate to people who know what they’re doing.
Accept what you don’t know, or where you’re feeling weak, and get support. When a friend offers to take your children off your hands for a few hours, say yes. If you need support to process your emotions, work with a therapist. If you don’t know what the next step is in your divorce – get my help. I lay out everything in my Amazon bestseller, ‘How To Be A Lady Who Leaves’. And I offer 1-1 and group support too.
You don’t have to do it all yourself.
Let go of having none of the answers
Asking for help doesn’t mean you’re weak. Quite the opposite. It means recognising where you have gaps and proactively filling them. That’s strength.
But it does rely on you being at the centre of it all. In every divorce journey, it’s likely you’ll get to a point where you want to give up. Walk away, let your ex have it all, let the solicitor rack up their bills. Ask everyone else what they think is best and be overwhelmed by the contradictory advice.
Let go of the desire to be passive. You need to stay present in your divorce. You need to hold onto the fact that you are the expert in your own life – and the CEO of your divorce. Remember, you are at the helm. And it’s ok to want to disappear, and cry, and hide under the duvet. And, in fact, it’s fine to do all of those things. As long as you come back again.
There’s a famous quote from the artist Banksy: ‘If you get tired learn to rest, not to quit.’
So let go of the idea that you don’t know anything or you can’t do this.
I promise that you have what it takes to work through your divorce. I promise you have what it takes to move towards the life you want. Yes, you need help during one of the most difficult life events you’ll ever face. So as you seek help from those around you, remember you’re not handing over your power to any of them. The power lies with you, and you are building a support network to strengthen you.
Seek out the people – both the professionals and the friends – who will empower you. Who recognise that you’re the centre of your own life and will support you in that.
Let go of feeling lonely
I’ve said a few times in Six Divorce Lessons From Autumn, you don’t have to do it on your own. And yes, it’s important to get a support crew around you. But what about others going through the same thing? Your fellow divorce CEOs? People who get it, because they’re navigating their divorce now too?
Without a network of other people in the same boat, it’s can feel lonely. Yes, your sister might be super-lovely, but she’s happy in her marriage and doesn’t truly get where you’re coming from. Your best friend might have been divorced but all her advice is coming with five years of hindsight.
Don’t feel guilty if you’re surrounded by well-meaning, loving friends and family and still feel lonely. You might have lots of support. That doesn’t mean they fully understand what’s going on in your head.
And if you don’t have lots of support around you, chances are you feel very lonely indeed. You need people who get it, who get you.
That’s why I created The Absolute Academy. It’s a community of women who are going through their divorce right now. They’ve let go of the idea they need to do it alone. They’re drawing strength, inspiration and wisdom from each other. And, they’re having fun as they do it.
The Absolute Academy is a private group. I provide training and weekly Q&As. So you get the answers you need. And you get the support you need. You are not lonely.
If you want in, come join us here. And do it soon to lock-in the current monthly fee of £147 – price rises in January.
So, as the nights get darker and the trees let go of what they no longer need, take a moment to reflect on the Six Divorce Lessons From Autumn. What can you let go of this autumn to help you and your future life?
Emma Heptonstall, the Divorce Alchemist is author of the Amazon best selling book How to be a Lady Who Leaves, the Ultimate Guide to Getting Divorce Ready. A former lawyer, Emma is a family mediator and founder of Get Divorce Ready the online self-study and group programmes. Emma has been featured on BBC Radio, The Telegraph, the iPaper and in Marie Claire Magazine. To find out more visit www.emmaheptonstall.com