When I was going through my divorce, I moved four states away from everything and everyone I had ever known and cared about, to a place not only where I knew no one but was culturally different as well. A northern 50-year old soon-to-be-divorced woman moving on her own to a southern enclave of different foods, customs, style of talking and engaging, and basically different way of moving and being in the world. What was I thinking, I asked myself time and time again?
Lately, I’ve been thinking more about what women experiencing life transitions most need to heal and to reclaim themselves. As I’m doing this, I find myself going back and reconstructing my own thoughts and feelings as I went through one of my own transitions, my own painful separation of the heart from my then life partner.
Panic is what I felt. How will I survive? How will I make it on my own? What will I do? I had my own fledgling business at the time, The Healing Space, and had just made it to a modest tipping point. I didn’t have the confidence to keep going, determining I needed a more stable job and income.
When I think back, I realize there were always two distinct parts of me going through this experience. The grieving woman crying so hard at times I could hardly talk. Crying through every event and workshop at The Healing Space. I just kept going. One, I needed the income and two, I needed the women who showed up knowing they would hold me without question. I cried myself to sleep each and every night.
I continued offering psychotherapy to clients, AND I needed a psychotherapist. We psychotherapists are trained for this, to be aware enough of our own issues and potential blind spots or at least know when we have blind spots we might not be able to see. We are ethically required to seek out therapy and/or supervision to help us to continue effectively working with our clients. Supervision is probably somewhat similar to the idea of coaching.
Then there was the other side of me determined to heal and stand on my own two feet. The manic search for employment began. I did not stop grieving, and I kept moving ahead one tiny step at a time. I also felt a responsibility to all the women in my circle to put into motion all I had been teaching and supposedly modeling. They expected me to land on my feet and to do courageous things. Somewhere inside of me, my Soulfire, expected that of me too.
I moved from Pennsylvania to North Carolina taking the best job I could find. I totally embraced and immersed myself in my new culture and started writing email letters home to all my friends chronicling life as a single northern woman in the South. I signed them “Goodnight from Greenville.” Mostly humorous, there wasn’t a taboo subject. After all, I was writing to my friends. Little did I know, they were sharing the letters with all of their friends. It kept me connected to them and was a lifeline of survival.
At night, I still cried myself to sleep. In my private journal, I wrote about my despair. Yes, I had courage. And yes, I was also so lonely and vulnerable. All I could do was trust that I had followed my intuition and landed here for a reason.
I see these two parts in the women I’ve worked with, one part trying to present as positive, determined, doing it on their own, and the other part in such sadness and near despair. My perception is that there is a good bit of suffering in silence, not letting on just how sad or lonely they really feel. Maybe that’s a fear of being vulnerable or opening the floodgates of tears and not being able to stop them. Maybe it’s not being quite ready to face the truth. Or, the idea that they have to do it on their own to appear strong. I have felt all of those things.
I was lucky in that I had been journaling for years, taught therapeutic journal writing and knew just how to write to heal myself. It’s different than talking to a friend. There are things I put in that journal I would never utter even to my best friend. It’s the only place I can be totally honest. Truth is healing. I was lucky too to have an awesome therapist/supervisor who could see the truth of me and still offer unconditional acceptance.
We all need a circle of women to hold us up, to be vulnerable with, it’s primary to who we are as women. Talking to a friend, though, is not quite the same as talking to someone who knows how to direct your healing path.
For example, this is what I learned from my own therapy. Being courageous and being able and willing to take risks are not just qualities I happen to embody. They come to me at great personal expense. They are part of my survival instincts. Instincts honed and born of experiencing trauma as a child. I have to be vigilant in discerning that my survival instincts are not driving unhealthy decisions. Sometimes the lines get blurred.
I also learned I can be brave and be vulnerable too. I did not have to suffer alone or in silence after my divorce.
YOU do not have to suffer in silence. You also do not have to go at it alone.
There is a path forward. It’s the Soulfire Woman’s Way.
With Love and Gratitude, Dyanne
PS- “Goodnight from Greenville” lives on in “Confessions from the Other Side…of 50”
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