You may be inclined to view your divorce as a failure. Feelings of failure are normal. One can not have feelings of failure without feeling some form of regret. Maybe only if I would have done this or that my marriage would not have failed. We all go into the marriage believing that it will last a lifetime. When it doesn’t we feel like we failed. Being women, it is even more common to take total responsibility or blame. In order to move forward through this phase it is important to realize that both parties made mistakes. It is equally important to let go of those mistakes. Forgiveness is the key.
Someone once told me that forgiveness is letting go of the belief that you can change the past. Think about that. Isn’t that true? Mistakes are made, we all do it, if we didn’t then we are not taking risks and are not moving forward. The key is to realize that we all do the best that we can with the information that we have at the time. Sometimes we haven’t evolved to a point of making the right choices. So it is important to say, I can’t change the fact, no matter how hard I try, that such and such happened. I must accept that it did and look to the future and stop trying to change the past. Byron Katie, author of Loving What Is, says “when you argue with reality you lose but only one hundred percent of the time”. The past is reality the future is yours! Embrace the future and put the past to rest.
I felt regret when my marriage of sixteen years ended. Actually, the regret showed up when my husband said to me “I am not sure I want to be married anymore”. Wow, what a blow. Particularly, because he said it after I said to him, “I will be okay, as long as you tell me we will be together in the end”. The regret really wasn’t about me though. I realized this after I had time to sit and think about things. My regret was for my daughter. What I mean is that I regretted all the mistakes I made in the marriage to cause her to be a product of a “broken-home”. I guess deep down in my heart, no matter how liberal I believed myself to be, I did not think divorce was okay, particularly when kids were involved. Trust me, I changed my mind later. But let’s look at where I was at this stage.
So how did I deal with my regret? Well first I felt sorry for myself and cried a lot. I fought with reality a lot and lost every time. Then I discovered that the only way that I was going to be able to let go of the regret was to forgive myself for the mistakes I made. I also needed to ask my daughter for forgiveness and yes, my husband as well. The method that I found to work best for me was to write forgiveness letters. I wrote a letter to myself forgiving myself for all the things that I believe I did wrong, contributing to the demise of my marriage. I then wrote a letter to my daughter asking for her forgiveness. Asking her to forgive me for the mistakes I made that contributed to her losing her stable home. Finally, I asked my ex-husband to forgive me for the things that I did that contributed to us growing apart and ultimately divorcing.
These letters were for my eyes only it was a way of purging these feelings of regret and accepting the fact that I can not change the past. It helped me identify the mistakes I made, accept that I am human and to learn from them going forward.
I challenge you to identify at least one person, other than yourself, who you can write a forgiveness letter. Find time within the next week to sit down uninterrupted and uninhibited and write the letter to yourself and the other person. Just let the words flow, do not censor or re-read them you are not going to be graded on grammar or spelling. If you take me up on my challenge I would love to hear about the experience if you are willing to share by responding to this discussion thread.