Cultivate patience and self-care. Become your best friend. It’s a stressful time both during and following a divorce. We need to be forgiving of ourselves when we are having a hard time. We all want to feel better, and fortunately, there are things we can do for ourselves. Exercise daily, even it’s just taking a fifteen-minute walk. Do one nice thing for yourself every day, something that feels restorative or nurturing. I really like to hike, so I go out with a group of women every day. I also like to cook, so I buy nourishing food and experiment with new recipes.
As part of my series about the “5 Things You Need To Know To Survive And Thrive After A Divorce Or Breakup” I had the pleasure of interviewing author Cindy Rasicot who is a retired Marriage Family Therapist. Her life has been a spiritual journey that took on new dimensions when she and her family moved to Bangkok, Thailand for three years. There, she met her spiritual teacher, Venerable Dhammananda Bhikkhuni, the first fully ordained Theravada nun⎯an encounter that opened her heart and changed her forever. This deepening relationship led to writing her memoir, Finding Venerable Mother: A Daughter’s Spiritual Quest to Thailand, which chronicles her adventures along the spiritual path. Sylvia Boorstein said about her book, “Cindy Rasicot’s loving account of her own transformation through knowing her is a joy to read.”
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I became a Marriage Family Therapist because I am a healer at heart. I will say that my initial curiosity came from my desire to understand myself and explore my relationships with other people. I really enjoyed studying child development. It gave me a road map to understand how important early child relationships are in molding our character as adults.
Can you explain to our readers why you are an authority about “divorce”?
I feel like I’m an authority on divorce because I have lived through the experience. Having gone through a separation gives me the empathy to understand what a rocky road it can be for people to let go of their significant other.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started this career?
I think being a therapist taught me a lesson in humility. When I first started my career in my twenties, I worked in residential treatment for young schizophrenic adults who had just been released from locked facilities. Being young, I had a “savior” complex. I thought I had the expertise to cure people with pretty serious mental health conditions. A heavyset young woman with curly red hair pulled me aside quietly one day. She asked me to sit down. I thought, for sure, she was going to start talking about herself. Instead, she looked me directly in the eye and said with all seriousness, “Cindy, you need to stop and smell the roses.” I will never forget her words.
If you had a close friend come to you for advice after a divorce, what are 5 things you would advise in order to survive and thrive after the divorce? Can you please give a story or example for each?
- Fear is not unsurmountable
I was terrified of being on my own after being with my husband for thirty-three years. I had days when I simply held on for dear life. I was scared all the time. I would wake in the morning, sit out in my front garden, watch the humming birds at the feeder, and pray for help. My prayers were earnest and simple, “Help me make it through this day.” And much to my surprise I did. Day after day, moment after moment, hour after hour. But not without a lot of help from friends, therapists, and support groups.
I learned several valuable lessons from my personal struggles. The first thing I learned was that my fear was not insurmountable. I could survive it, but in order to do that I needed to feel it. I didn’t need to fix it or “overcome” it; I just had to live through the experience.
2. Don’t be afraid to ask for support
I learned that my connections to other people were tantamount to my healing process. I would reach out to close friends who listened to me and validated my feelings. Mornings were the hardest time for me. I called one dear friend every morning at 8:30. She listened patiently as I cried my heart out. “What can you do to take care of yourself?” She would ask me. I just needed a plan to get through the next 30 minutes. Connecting with people was really important to maintain peace of mind. I discovered a world full of people who listened and supported me through my grief, tears, and anger. They didn’t think I was crazy or strange; they simply stood by me.
I met with my therapist one a week, a wonderful woman who kept reassuring me that I was strong, brave, and courageous. She assured me that I would get through this. The funny thing was I didn’t feel brave at the time. I thought my pain would never end, and all I wanted was for it to be over. She believed in me until I was able to believe in myself.
3. Give yourself permission to heal
Rage, grief, fear, sadness, and anger are common feelings that can accompany this process. Give yourself permission to feel the intensity of your feelings and time to heal. A good friend told me that even though she was the one who decided to leave her marriage of thirty years, she felt tremendous grief and pain for the first year after the separation. Post-divorce, it takes time to grieve, rage, or express whatever feelings surface. Knowing this in advance helps.
4. Cultivate patience and self-care
Become your best friend. It’s a stressful time both during and following a divorce. We need to be forgiving of ourselves when we are having a hard time. We all want to feel better, and fortunately, there are things we can do for ourselves. Exercise daily, even it’s just taking a fifteen-minute walk. Do one nice thing for yourself every day, something that feels restorative or nurturing. I really like to hike, so I go out with a group of women every day. I also like to cook, so I buy nourishing food and experiment with new recipes.
5. Learn to love yourself
People ask me what was the hardest thing about divorce, and I tell them learning to love myself. I get lonely sometimes but my life is filled with good friends, and writing. I am blossoming in ways I never imagined. I am grateful for all I have gone through and for the gifts I have received along the way.
What are the most common mistakes people make after they go through a divorce? What can be done to avoid that?
One of the most common mistakes people can make after they go through a divorce is rushing into another relationship because they are afraid of being alone. It’s important to not run from our aloneness, so that when we are ready to enter into another intimate relationship, we feel secure within ourselves.
A second mistake people can make is becoming impatient with the time it takes to recover. We think we should feel better than we do. Especially with grief. Grief has its own timetable and we can’t rush it. Or we may have a lot of resentments and that anger needs to be felt so that it doesn’t leak out in unexpected ways on a new partner. Take time to “feel and heal.” Join a support group, or get into therapy and begin to release some of those deep-seated feelings.
A third mistake people can make is not taking care of themselves during major holiday times. Holiday times are particularly stressful post-divorce. Plan in advance to take care of yourself in case strong feelings come up. Be with close friends, or family members you love so you get the support you need.
Do you have any favorite books, podcasts, or resources related to this topic that you would recommend to our readers?
Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
Heatburn by Nora Ephron
Aftermath: On Marriage and Separation by Rachel Cusk
I’m Grieving as Fast as I Can by Linda Feinberg
When Things Fall Apart by Pema Chodren
Divorce & Other Things You Can Handle with mediator Mandy Walker
The Morning Glory Podcast: Stories of Determination with Betsy Graziani Fasbinder
Individual Psychotherapy. This is not an option for everyone, but if you can afford it or have Behavioral Health Coverage it can be a tremendous support. Usually, the best referral is through word of mouth. Ask friends and family who they would recommend. Don’t be afraid to interview two or three therapists before you make your decision.
Al-Anon is a marvelous support group that’s free. Al-Anon is all about learning about our relationships and how to take care of oneself. These are issues we all face during and after a divorce. You don’t necessarily have to have a family member who drinks to be part of their support network.
Divorce Support Groups are a good source of emotional support and not as costly as individual psychotherapy. Research options, however, again, a recommendation from a family member or friend is your best bet.
Spiritual or Meditation Groups are really beneficial in helping deal with anxiety and stress. Setting aside time to meditate every day is one way to take care of yourself. Even if you can only sit for a few minutes a day, you may find it brings some relief.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote” that helped you in this work? Can you share how that was relevant in your real life?
The day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom. Anais Nin
I discovered this Anais Nin quote was true when it came to making the decision on whether or not to divorce my husband. Change is not inevitable; it happens through conscious choice. If I did not have the courage to cross the precipice of my fear to ask for a divorce, I would never have arrived at the place I am now, peaceful and happy.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
I am currently working on a second book project, on the life of my teacher Venerable Dhammananda Bhikkhuni. She is a great spiritual teacher and a courageous woman because she was the first Thai woman to be ordained in her country since Thailand forbids the ordination of women. She is the most compassionate and loving woman I have ever met. I want to write about her life because she is a wise teacher and has many profound lessons to teach people about how to overcome their suffering.
Because of the position that you are in, you are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
My movement would be very simple. Begin with ourselves. If we can learn to be kinder, gentler, more compassionate with ourselves, we will lead happier and more fulfilling lives. When we are joyful that joy spreads to others, and the world becomes a better place. The Dalai Lama said, “My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness.” Wouldn’t that be something if the world were a kinder place?
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂
Jamia Wilson — Executive Director The Feminist Press at CUNY
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.