A very respectful and warm salaam to all my sisters; especially those among my sisters who have experienced divorce at some point in their lives. Divorce, even if it is amicable, leaves its scars and disappointments. It is one of the most difficult experiences a human being can go through. I wonder if you have asked questions like, “Why me? What did I do wrong, what could I have done differently? Why did this have to happen to me?” These questions, among others, are very common after such an experience, so you’re not alone. Whatever the circumstances of the divorce, there is usually a need to do some work to rebuild not only one’s life, but one’s sense of self as well.
Divorce not only impacts our outer circumstances, such as where we live, our finances etc, but also our very sense of who we are. Samina* really struggled with her divorce. She blamed herself for not paying attention to the warning signs she had supposedly seen before the marriage. She had never mentioned her concerns to anyone, and had continued with the marriage. Not only was she extremely hurt by the abuse, she was also really angry with herself. Through the coaching process, she realised that she did the best she could do; being the person she was then. She worked on forgiving herself for the mistakes she made. She found a new career as well. She is now stronger than the person she was then.
A divorce can sometimes make us doubt our decisions, and ourselves, which then impacts who we become in the long run. This can change us into someone we don’t really want to be, so it is vital to place some energy into rebuilding our sense of self. It is an opportunity to create a renewed sense of who we are, and even create a person who is more true to herself. Here are some tips on getting you started on this challenging, but very rewarding journey.
Discover what you love to do
Were you very busy with your home-life and in-laws while you were married? Perhaps you didn’t get the chance to meet up with friends, or maybe you forgot that you had some hobbies and interests of your own. As responsibilities grow, we may well put our interests and passions aside. Rebuilding yourself is about rediscovering what made you the person you are. Think back to some of the things you used to love to do. Were you good at them? Did doing them add to your confidence? Our passions and interests play an important role in not only bringing us joy, but also allowing us to express ourselves in the world. Make some time, beginning with once a week, to do something that you really used to enjoy doing, but haven’t done in a while. If you can’t think of anything to start off with, then connect with friends who know you well and ask them to remind you about things you used to do together. The intention is to begin to reconnect with a sense of fulfilment and joy. The more joy you begin to feel, the easier the journey to rebuilding yourself and your life will become.
Learn a new skill
One of the biggest aspects of rebuilding our sense of self is to rebuild our confidence. Confidence grows when we believe that we can do something well, or accomplish what we set our mind to. Divorce can often impact our ability to notice what we are good at, especially if we have relied on someone else to provide that affirmation. Once this dynamic changes we need to find ways to reassure ourselves. A useful way to expand our confidence is to learn a new skill, or perhaps build on a skill we had previously. If you were working, or are currently employed, this may be a good opportunity to acquire the next level of skill to enhance your career options. Perhaps you haven’t worked before, or are unsure of where to start. Now may be the right time to explore learning a skill that you can use to be employed, or turn into a career. If you are starting something new, then be sure to look for something that resonates with your values. Insha Allah it will then remain as a useful skill for years to come, and something you will find fulfilling. If you are unsure about where to start, volunteering in a few different areas could be a great way of testing the waters.
Ask for help
Have you been going through your challenges all on your own? Maybe you didn’t want to burden anyone, or didn’t want to keep talking about your problems, so you decided to manage things all by yourself. Going it alone is a courageous thing to do, but a little help can go a long way. Divorce brings emotional and mental obstacles that need to be overcome. It is challenging for friends and family to help in such a situation as they are emotionally invested, and it is difficult for them to see you hurting. Often, people don’t feel comfortable speaking about such personal matters, but keeping things inside will only make the problem linger. If you are finding that letting go is challenging, or things seem overwhelming, then reach out and speak to a professional who can help. A little support can go a long way in helping you transform your mindset and your life.
Forgive the past
One of the biggest obstacles that many of us face in rebuilding ourselves, is the emotional hurt and regret that often remains. Are you angry with yourself for certain decisions you made? Perhaps there is anger or hurt towards your ex-spouse and the family. Whoever they are aimed at, these emotions will stop you from rebuilding yourself and moving on. It is extremely challenging, but practicing forgiveness is crucial in regaining a sense of peace and inner confidence. Do the following exercise: write a letter addressed to yourself, or the person(s) involved. Write down all the emotions you’re feeling, express all that remains unsaid, no matter how negative it is. This is the opportunity to release all those pent-up emotions in a productive and halal way. Next, express your desire to let it all go, and put it behind you. Once you have said all that you need to say, then tear up the letter and dispose of it in the proper way. The intention of this exercise is to practice letting go of all the negative emotions you’re holding on to. Insha Allah you will not only feel lighter, but will have done so in a way through which you’re maintaining your integrity, and sticking to your values. If you find the emotions coming back, then write another letter and soon you will find the emotions releasing.
Create new hopes
It is vital to our happiness to create hopes for the future. It is absolutely natural for us to have an image of what life with our spouse will be like. Unfortunately, those dreams come crashing down when the relationship is terminated. So what do we do then? Do we just live in those disappointments, or do we create a new dream for our lives? It is essential to create a new vision, as that will support you in rebuilding your life to one where you’re fulfilled. Perhaps you’ve tried, but it has been challenging as no new dreams come to mind. Don’t lose heart just yet; begin the process with this step-by-step exercise. Clear space on a wall, or poster board. Each time you see a picture in a magazine that either inspires you, or you like, just cut it out and put it on the board. Look for pictures that represent each area of your life, such as your connection with Allah (SWT), parenting (if you have children), your ideal home, and so on. Cut them out and put them on your board. Soon your vision board will be filled with pictures that represent your new hopes for life. Keep looking at your vision board at least once a day. Allow yourself to connect with these new hopes. Insha Allah soon you will find yourself naturally taking action towards making them happen.
Insha Allah I hope that you will find these tips useful in moving on, renewing your confidence and creating a sense of wellbeing and hope in your life. My best wishes to you for your journey.
Sayeda Habib works with Muslim sisters who are experiencing difficult relationships or want to rebuild their self-esteem post divorce. Her work has been widely featured on television and radio. To get in touch with Sayeda log on to www.makelifehappen.com, call +44(0)207 402 0786 or email Sayeda@makelifehappen.com
*Name changed to provide anonymity and maintain confidentiality.