‘I want a divorce.’ I was blindsided. In one moment, my entire life turned upside down. I needed to escape it all.’: Woman shares healing journey after divorce, ‘You WILL be happy again’

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“I’m a quintessential Southern Belle, originally from Chapel Hill, North Carolina. When I was growing up, I became very passionate about dancing, with aspirations to one day be a dancer on the famous stages of New York City. After graduating from college, I moved there to pursue my passion and follow my dreams. I fell in love with living in the city and ended up staying for 12 years. For over a decade, I worked and lived in the hustle and bustle—working, playing, and falling in love in the greatest city in the world. In the early years, my friends and I spent our nights out eating, drinking, and laughing over traded war stories of the New York City dating scene. We excitedly explored, attending shows on Broadway, going out dancing to live music, and seeking endless adventure that lasted well into the early morning hours. I was young, happy, and free.

I graduated during the 2008 recession. I quickly realized I would not be able to survive financially on sporadic dancing gigs alone. It was very challenging to afford being an artist in New York during this time. I decided to change careers so I could afford to stay in New York and live out my dreams. I was a trained dancer with little experience in other industries, but ultimately, landed a job working for New York’s premier event group, 583 Park Avenue. The company was run by a very well-known family in the city with over 50 years of experience. They were the best and most well-respected family in the industry, and I was given an opportunity to learn under them. All of the sudden, I was at the epicenter of New York’s most exciting and elite crowd, planning events for celebrities, A-list actors, famous athletes, and politicians. It was exciting, exhilarating, and unlike anything I could have imagined growing up in my small, rural town.

Courtesy of Meagan Woodward

My drive, ambition, and hunger for knowledge helped to quickly cement myself as an integral part of the company and establish a successful career. It was a dream job, one I ended up staying at for the next 10 years. My coworkers became my family. We watched each other grow and experience different chapters of life together, went through engagements, marriages, and children together. I was lucky and very grateful. When I was 24 years old and barely looking for love, it found me. When I met now ex-husband, I was not expecting to fall for him and certainly not looking for a marriage. But that’s the thing about life, you can never plan for it. We instantly clicked, and I was taken aback by how quickly we fell in love. Within 2 years, we were engaged. We bought a house together in Montauk, and my career was thriving. They say in New York, you only get two out of three: a great career, love, or apartment. I was lucky enough to have all three. I had a thriving career, a wonderful husband, a gorgeous apartment, and a home in the Hamptons. By all accounts, I had a perfect life.

And then suddenly one day, it all changed. My husband dropped a bomb on me. All of the sudden, out of the blue, he told me he wanted a divorce. I was blindsided, confused, and heartbroken. In an instant, our entire life together we had was over. In one moment, my entire life was turned upside down. I was lost, confused, and heartbroken. The house we designed together, built together, and created so many happy memories in, was no longer ours. Suddenly, I was a stranger in my own home, and I had never felt more alone. Going through a divorce is an emotional roller coaster. It is mentally, emotionally, and physically draining to adjust to your new reality. It can feel like you’ll never be able to move on. But you will. Everything will get easier over time and eventually, you’ll be able to see the light. After my husband and I separated, I packed my bags and took a trip by myself to the Greek Islands so I could escape it all. I found myself in a strange new place. I began to heal, I gained more confidence in myself, and began to move on past the demise of my marriage.

Isabelle Lindbergh

The rest of 2019 came and went as all of my ‘firsts’ alone as single passed by. I hadn’t been single in almost a decade and suddenly, I was going through a lot of firsts: my first family wedding attended alone, my first birthday spent by myself, my first solo vacation, my first holiday season alone. As I encountered each of these firsts, they all represented the demise of my marriage. The first year we separated and were starting our divorce was single-handedly the hardest, most challenging, and overwhelming time of my life. I went through a severe depression and for a long time went through my life on autopilot. I was going through the motions of my daily routine, but I wasn’t present. I felt trapped in my own life. More than anything, I wanted to leave New York City, to leave my life, escape it all—escape my marriage, escape the house I was now a stranger in, escape my exciting but stressful career, and escape my heartbreak. Here are some of the lessons I learned in my year of firsts:

Let yourself grieve: Even if the divorce is something you wanted, a divorce represents a loss. It is akin to death. All of your memories with your partner are now in the past and you are mourning the loss of a lot of things at once. A lot of emotions will come up in the aftermath of a separation. You will feel there is an empty space where your life with your partner used to be. It’s okay to cry! Accept and work through your feelings, mourn the end of the relationship, and deal with your grief.

Do not dwell on the past: You may feel remorse for the things you did or didn’t do in the relationship. Work through these emotions to the best of your ability everyday. You will soon realize it does not serve you to carry heavy baggage from your previous relationship into your new life. Letting it all go will help you move forward, and eventually with time, you will forgive your ex-partner for all of the hurt and pain you’re feeling.

Live in the present moment: Instead of letting your mind become overwhelmed with stressful thoughts, stop and look around you. Focus on your environment and choose something to be grateful for. If you are with your family, hug them, cherish them, and laugh with them. Take the time to appreciate the beauty around you. It will help center your body and calm your mind, and you will more easily be able to tap into the present.

Practice gratitude and focus on the positive: Take a moment to be thankful for the positives in your life: the people you love, the people who support you, the things that are going well, the positive influences in your life.

Learn to let go: Do not hold onto regrets and bitterness. It will only hold you back. Quiet down the inner voice that asks the ‘what ifs’ and ‘if onlys.’ Thinking these thoughts over and over again will not change anything or make you feel better. Instead, try to calm the mind, acknowledge your feelings, learn from your past experience, and let go. Create space for the next exciting chapter of your life.

Do not fall into the trap of feeling like a failure: Just because your marriage is over does not mean you failed. Remember in the moment, you thought you were making the right decision for the rest of your life. Forgive yourself. Take this new chapter as a chance to grow and learn from your mistakes. You have an opportunity to make a change and come out of this process stronger and more confident than ever. If you value this time as a learning experience, it will allow you to make the very best of the situation.

Realize you will survive: Divorce is a very difficult time, but realizing you can and you will make it through is the first step in your healing process. Use the tools you have and lean on the support around you.

Know there is no timeframe for recovering from divorce: There will be days when you’re sad, lonely, and depressed, and there will be days when you feel light and free. Recovering from a divorce is not a linear process, so take as much time as you need to heal.

Talk it out: It’s common to sweep our emotions under the rug, but your grief is something you will need to actively work through. Speaking to a therapist and spending time with close family and friends is a great way to heal from the trauma of divorce. Allowing others you trust to take care of you and provide their love and support can be a great way to work toward a better future.

Journal: Write down your emotional struggles and your current experiences. Be honest, raw, and real. Processing your thoughts and emotions through writing can be very healing. It will help to track your improvements and inspire you to move forward.

Take time for yourself everyday: Give yourself permission to do something special for yourself. It can be something simple: take a walk, enjoy a cup of tea, take a bath, get a massage, work out, or spend time outside. This will build your happiness on a daily basis. The happier you are, the easier it will be to move on.

Practice self-care habits: Many people feel a sense of rejection after divorce. You may wonder what you did wrong, or why your partner walked away. You have to work on gaining more self-confidence and believing in your own self-worth. Remember who you used to be and appreciate all of the uniqueness you have to offer. This a journey of self-love and discovery. Commit to doing whatever takes to putting yourself first.

Re-discover who you are: Shake things up and try a new lifestyle. Travel to a place you’ve always wanted to go. Explore your passions and do something new. Try something adventurous! Do something you’ve never done before. Step outside of your comfort zone and try something that scares you. Do something you never would have done with your ex.

Become the best version of yourself: Going through a divorce can allow you to re-embrace your real self and escape the version of yourself in a failing relationship.

Set intentions and find what makes you happy: Think about what really matters to you. What are your passions? What is your true purpose in life? Write them down. Knowing your purpose can give you a better sense of who you are as an individual. It will help to give your life direction and make better decisions for your future. Focus on what really matters to you. Think about what changes you want to make and what direction you want your new life to head in.

Build your self-confidence: Make a list of all of your great qualities and read it every single day. Keep reading the list until you believe it. See the magic within you. Examples: I have a beautiful smile. I am kind. I am generous. I am loving and caring. I am intelligent. I am strong. I am resilient.

Dare to be alone: It’s scary to be alone. Instead of rushing back into another relationship, try to be alone for a while and reconnect with yourself. Take yourself on a dinner date or the movies. Learn to be comfortable alone. Look for opportunities to meet new people and make new friends. Find different kinds of groups in-line with your new interests. Instead of focusing on the negatives of starting over or being alone, focus on the good that can come from being single. Divorce can be your second chance at happiness. Your life is once again yours. Being single is actually not bad. You are not tied down. It’s very liberating. You are free and are not committed to anyone. You can do what you want, whenever you want. Embrace and enjoy this time alone. Once you are comfortable in your own skin, it will feel good to be single.

Embrace your new role: If you were married for a long time, it’s likely you and your partner handled different aspects of your life. Now, everything is up to you and it brings a whole new realm of learning and responsibility. Dealing with new responsibilities successfully can teach you life skills and grow self-confidence in your own abilities. You can handle being alone. You will be okay.

Work on creating new memories: Everything represents a memory. In order to look forward to the future, you need to close your heart to memories of the past. Begin to create new memories and traditions.

Move forward and be happy: Going through a divorce is difficult, no matter what. Use these steps as a guide to heal, and eventually, you will be able to move forward onto the next chapters of your life. You will be happy again and want to embrace everything this beautiful life has to offer.

Courtesy of Meagan Woodward

While in Greece, I was able to relax and reconnect with myself for the first time in a long time. I explored the Greek Islands, met the amazing locals, devoured some of the freshest food I had ever eaten, and most of all, let myself get away to just breathe. The simple fact is, it is not easy to rebuild yourself after a divorce. You are losing the partner you built memories with, shared your dreams with, and thought you would grow old with. You are losing financial security, your home, your routine, your date to wedding and family celebrations. You are losing your roommate, your bedmate, your best friend, inside jokes; your ex-spouse’s family and friends. You are losing your own sense of self-worth, and maybe the faith that you will love or be loved again. Coming home to New York, I was immediately overcome with stress and anxiety again. The life I had known for a decade was over, and I was having a hard time establishing a brand new life for myself in the same city.

Everything reminded me of my ex-husband. Of our life together. A few months later, the coronavirus pandemic began. I watched as everything began to shut down and stay-at-home orders were put into place. I was all alone. I left my small apartment to spend two months on the beach in Charleston, South Carolina. I needed the time away to think about what I wanted for myself and my future outside of New York. I have always dreamed of traveling the world, but never could pursue it because of work, my marriage, and general life commitments and obligations. Here, I found myself alone, with my entire industry shut-down and no work in sight. If there was ever going to be a time to leave everything behind, it was now. I decided to take a chance on leaving Manhattan, my career, and my entire world behind to explore new places and re-discover myself.

Isabelle Lindbergh

I flew back to New York, packed up all of my belongings into storage, and booked a one-way ticket to explore the beautiful island of St. Barths. Every part of this journey so far has been incredible. I am traveling to different places, immersing myself in other cultures, and connecting with parts of myself that have been shut down for a long time. Through focusing on my yoga practice and achieving mindfulness through meditation, I’m learning to love myself in a way I never knew before. Through yoga, daily meditation, and journaling, I am healing my pain. This process has changed my entire perspective on life and the beauty this world has to offer. Over the last year, I’ve been on a journey towards healing my heart and growing in self-love.

Isabelle Lindbergh

One thing that helped me through such a difficult time was the adoption of writing morning pages into my routine. Morning pages are a stream-of-consciousness type of journaling habit. You are meant to handwrite three full pages in your journal every morning before you do anything else, including looking at your phone, eating, or drinking. By writing your morning pages, your mind is free of any outside influences and you can reach your innermost thoughts. I wake up each morning and immediately begin writing. I write about whatever is weighing on my mind, I write about the dreams I had the night before, or even delve into creative writing. This has enabled me to free my mind of busy thoughts and approach the rest of the day with more clarity. I’ve found writing in my morning pages allows me to let out my deepest thoughts and feelings in a way I wouldn’t in therapy or standard journaling, but doing so has been a key factor in helping me process my emotions and heal from my pain.

Courtesy of Meagan Woodward

Going through my divorce was incredibly overwhelming—on top of all of the emotional and personal stress, living in New York felt like I was constantly bombarded with people, things, and unceasing energy. Writing helped me to grieve and process what I was going through. Knowing I would never look back on these entries made a significant difference—I could finally release my innermost and deepest thoughts with no fear of judgement from a therapist or from my future self. It became my quiet space, just for me, where I could really indulge in all of the thoughts and feelings weighing me down and affecting my emotional well-being. On the days when I wasn’t writing about my divorce, I found forcing myself to come up with something to write was also very therapeutic. In fact, this really helped to foster my creativity. Most people are unaware that being creative actually takes a lot of discipline.

Isabelle Lindbergh

I’ve used the events of my own life to write short stories, inspirational quotes, and even some fiction. By decluttering my mind, my creative side has flourished. It’s amazing how much lighter, more focused, and mentally healthy I became once my mind was clear. The simple fact is, it is not easy to rebuild yourself after a divorce. You are angry, shocked, sad, and hurt. I promise you, there will come a point when you are no longer thinking of your ex, when your divorce is no longer hanging over you, when you are looking forward and not backward. It gets better. There is a light at the end of the tunnel. In the end, you will realize you are stronger than you think you are. You will survive. Do your best to stay optimistic. Lean on your friends and family. Use this as an opportunity to rediscover who you are. Think of this time in your life as an adventure to discover what you really want. And the end of the day, you are strong, resilient, and you can do anything. Remember, you have the choice to live a full, whole and happy life. You can emerge from divorce stronger than ever before (I would know!).

Courtesy of Meagan Woodward

I decided to start my blog in the hopes it would inspire others to go chase their own adventures and discover the beauty and magic this world has to offer. I have found travel, yoga, and meditation to be the best kinds of therapy, so go get lost, live in the moment, stop caring what others think, and learn to let go. I am lucky to have such an amazing, supportive, and loving group of family and friends. I have also met so many wonderful people after my husband and I split. I first started to meet new people in Greece, then in Charleston during quarantine, then here in St. Barths. Each of the people I have met have impacted me in a positive way and I am super grateful to have them in my life. My family has always been there for me. They loved on me when I needed them the most and I don’t know what I would have done without them by my side. I also had an amazing therapist who really helped shape me and gave me the support and love to pursue my passion.

Courtesy of Meagan Woodward

2020 taught me to not be afraid and to take risks. The bravest thing I have ever done is leave the life I knew behind. I learned you need to take risks in life, risks you never think you can take. You can’t let fear keep you from whatever it is you want most. I have to say I have no regrets. I eventually started to get my feet back on the ground at the end of 2020. It’s scary when you lose yourself and you have to find who you are again. I decided to learn and grow from my experience, but none of this happened overnight. It’s been a process, and I honestly doubted myself at times. Being in St. Barths has been healing to my soul and heart. Salt therapy is just what I needed. I learned to forgive and let go. I now find myself traveling alone, single after a divorce, living in a new environment, and facing my fears with a sense of newfound freedom.

Isabelle Lindbergh

How am I moving forward in 2021? I am being present and living in the moment. Practicing gratitude everyday. I am proud of myself for doing this. For the first time in my life, I don’t have everything planned out and I am okay with that. I am taking it day by day. I am doing things I never thought I would be doing. I am stronger and happier. I have my independence, and I’ve gained my self-confidence back. I am finding a new path and working on laying new foundations down this year for the future. Starting a brand new life is hard to do and I am learning as I go. Taking the risk is the hardest thing to do, but if you believe in yourself, I promise you will not regret the decision. Don’t let fear keep you from whatever it is you want most. Trust me, it’s worth taking the chance.”

Courtesy of Meagan Woodward

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Meagan Woodard of St. Barths. You can follow her journey on Instagram and her website. Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.

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