Going through a divorce was undoubtedly one of the most challenging experiences of my life. The emotional rollercoaster, the uncertainty about the future, and the feeling of isolation were overwhelming. 

However, as I navigated this tumultuous chapter, I discovered five crucial steps that not only helped me survive, but allowed me to thrive post-divorce. With these resources, I rebuilt my life with hope, resilience, and newfound strength.

Step 1: Survivor Post-Trauma Growth—Finding Hope

In the aftermath of my divorce, I felt broken and lost. The emotional scars seemed insurmountable. A friend recommended the book, Supersurvivors: The Surprising Link Between Suffering and Success. I found it shocking when authors Feldman and Lee wrote: “the
disorientation and groundlessness experienced by many people after trauma can ultimately be advantageous.” 

Their words guided me in thinking how I could move forward. They said, “grounded hope, an approach to life involving building one’s choices on a firm understanding of reality.” I liked another point Feldman and Lee made: “Stop thinking positively and start thinking
realistically.” I was tired of everyone telling me that everything would be fine. In the book, they said to bravely ask, “What now?” or “what next?” This guided me to transform my pain into a source of personal growth and hope. 

It allowed me to see that I could emerge from this experience stronger than before. The process of post-trauma growth is not a linear one. It involves acknowledging your pain, accepting your emotions, and gradually finding ways to move forward. The book’s definitions were the first time I realized I could forgive when I saw it this way. “Forgiveness is giving up the hope that the past could be any different…Forgiveness means breaking the psychological ties that bind you to the past, giving up the quest to change what has already happened.” This is how instead of focusing on the past and driving looking out the rear view mirror, I could now focus
on the forward-looking question: what next?

It encouraged me to see my divorce not as the end of a chapter, but as the beginning of a new one, filled with possibilities and opportunities for growth. I realized that healing takes time and effort, but it is possible.

Step 2: Self-Care and Therapy—Seeking Help

As I grappled with the emotional turmoil of divorce, I realized the importance of self-care and professional help. Lori Gottlieb’s book, Maybe You Should Talk to Someone, was a revelation. It
reminded me that seeking therapy is not a sign of weakness, but a courageous step toward healing. 

Therapy provided me with a safe space to process my emotions and gain valuable insights into my life.

Therapy was not only a place for me to express my feelings, but also an opportunity to learn about myself in a deeper way. My therapist helped me navigate the complexities of my emotions,
uncover patterns in my past relationships, and develop strategies for healthier future connections. 

In addition to therapy, I prioritized self-care, which doesn’t always involve grand gestures. It can be as simple as taking a long bath, going for a walk in nature, or indulging in a good book. It’s about nurturing yourself physically, emotionally, and mentally.

Step 3: Connect with Nature—Healing in the Outdoors

Amid the chaos of my divorce, I found solace in nature. Spending time outdoors, whether it was a simple walk in the park, a weekend skiing, or scuba diving, allowed me to reconnect with myself. I delved into Florence Williams’ book, The Nature Fix, which illuminated the science behind nature’s healing power. 

It inspired me to embrace the therapeutic effects of the natural world. Nature has a remarkable ability to soothe the soul and provide perspective. It allowed me to step away from the noise and distractions of everyday life and find clarity in moments of stillness. Whether it was the calming rustle of leaves in a forest, the vast expanse of the ocean’s depths while scuba diving, or the majesty of a coral reef, nature provided a sense of serenity and connection to something greater than myself.

Incorporating nature into my daily life became a form of self-care. I took a meditation class, and the professor talked about walking meditation. I made it a point to walk often as a way of meditating outdoors, and immerse myself in the underwater world through scuba diving. These practices helped me stay grounded and centered, even during the most challenging moments of my divorce.

Step 4: Join Women's Groups and Communities—Finding Support

One of the most significant sources of strength during my divorce was the sense of community. I actively sought out women’s groups like Wanderful, Women’s Travel Fest, and Journey Woman. These communities provided a space where I could share my experiences, connect with like- minded women, and find solace in knowing that I wasn’t alone on this journey.

Women’s groups and communities offer a unique blend of camaraderie, empathy, and inspiration. These groups provided me with a sense of belonging and a platform to share my challenges and triumphs with others who had walked a similar path.

Our shared stories and shared resilience served as a reminder that strength comes from embracing our vulnerabilities and seeking support when needed.

Step 5: Embrace Passions—Rediscovering Myself

I embraced change with open arms. I joined a salsa dance team and returned to activities that fueled my passion, such as scuba diving, which I had given up in my marriage since my spouse hated that I loved it. These experiences boosted my confidence and made me happy.

Instead of dwelling on the negative aspects of my divorce, I started focusing on the opportunities it presented. I reframed my thoughts and began to see the end of my marriage as a chance for personal growth, independence, and a new beginning.

Engaging in new and unfamiliar activities was a powerful way to embrace change. Joining a salsa dance team allowed me to connect with others in a fun and energetic way; scuba diving took me to incredible underwater realms where I could explore the beauty of the ocean’s depths. These experiences challenged me to step out of my comfort zone, try new things, revel in old joys, and discover hidden talents and interests.

Divorce is a challenging and deeply personal journey, but it can also be an opportunity for profound growth and empowerment. By following these five steps and utilizing a slew of recommended resources, I found hope, healed, and built a new and fulfilling life after divorce. My experience taught me that, even in the darkest moments, there are paths to healing and self- discovery. You are not alone on this journey, and there are supportive communities and resources available to help you not only survive but thrive.

As I look back on my journey, I am filled with gratitude for the strength I discovered within myself and the connections I made with others. Remember that healing is a continuous process, and it’s okay to have setbacks along the way. 

Be kind to yourself, seek support when needed, and know that the road to recovery is paved with small victories and moments of self-discovery. With each step forward, you’ll find yourself not only surviving but thriving in the beautiful life that lies ahead.

Finally, I chronicled my journey and the baby steps to healing in a memoir, called Brave-ish: One Breakup, Six Continents and Feeling Fearless After Fifty. To reinvent myself after my divorce, I did fifty challenges before I turned fifty. I hope my small steps to begin again might help you on your journey.

Lisa Niver is the author of Brave-ish, One Breakup, Six Continents and Feeling Fearless After Fifty and an award-winning travel expert who has explored 102 countries and six continents. Discover her articles in publications from AARP: The Magazine and AAA Explorer to WIRED and Wharton Magazine, as well as her site WeSaidGoTravel. For her print, podcast, digital and broadcast segments, she has been awarded three Southern California Journalism Awards and two National Arts and Entertainment Journalism Awards and been a finalist 22 times. Niver is also the host of the award-nominated podcast Make Your Own Map. For more, visit: lisaniver.com/braveish/