Take the time to grieve: A divorce is a loss of a relationship. You need to grieve the memories, the companionship, the relationship. Take time to cry, to express your anger, to blame, to rationalize…all the stages that we go through in the grief process. Remember there is no time limit.
Take time to heal: Take time to acknowledge your hurt, your anger, your guilt. Whatever your emotions are acknowledge them and process them. Processing them entails understanding why you have these feelings and allowing yourself to find peace.
As part of our series about the “5 Things You Need To Know To Survive And Thrive After A Divorce Or Breakup”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Markesha Miller.
Dr. Miller is a leading mental health expert, known for “Putting Mental Health On The Mark”. She is a licensed psychotherapist, consultant, mental health expert for various media outlets, and author. She has been featured on CNN, FOX, CBS, NBC and within Women’s Health Magazine, Cosmopolitan, InStyle, Allure, and many others. Dr. Miller is committed to the mission of healing minds, bodies, and spirits and helping individuals to understand the importance of their mental health.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to ‘get to know you’. Can you tell us a bit about how you grew up?
I grew up in Pageland, South Carolina raised by two wonderful parents, Roosevelt and Minnie B. Miller. As the youngest and the most responsible, lessons and responsibilities were placed on me at a very young age. My mother was an educator, who rightfully is known as a legend in Chesterfield County School District. My father was a farmer, although disabled. When you combine this duo, you produce a daughter who understands perseverance, the quality of education, leadership, endurance, and the power of support. At the age of 18, I ventured off to the University of South Carolina and became a triple alum and was blessed with the opportunity to teach there as well.
Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I often tell individuals that I did not choose this career, it chose me. As a little girl, I always stated that I would be an attorney or a doctor. My mother, however, wanted me to be a teacher. Funny thing…. I majored in Biology at the University of South Carolina for 5 months, 2 days, and 6 hours. (laughter). I quickly realized that it was not for me, although I had dreams of being a neurologist due to my fascination of the brain. I decided to move to the path of law and double major in English and Psychology. After trying law school out for a while, I realized that was not the path either, although I was passionate about advocacy. I took some time to “find myself” and in the process this career found me. I decided to volunteer as a Guardian Ad Litem due to my educational background and passion for family work. During the training, I met the dean of my former graduate program. He basically sold me on the program during training by discussing his work as a psychologist and the various levels of impact he was able to have Well, I applied a couple of months later…was accepted and here I am working with the brain, advocating for individuals and families, and also teaching. My mom did get her desire, in a way. I was a full- time professor for eight years, until I decided that I needed to broaden my scope. Plus, I believe that burn out can happen within academia a lot quicker, especially for a woman of color.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started this career?
Interesting story….well, I think every day of my career has been interesting and continues to be I am fortunate to work with many individuals, including celebrities who value my work and trust me to guide them in their journey. The interesting thing I guess would be that I continue to grow personally and professionally vicariously through my patients and coaching clients.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I would not consider it a mistake. I do not know if I can even legally answer that…. (laughter). However, one funny note is that for the first 2–3 years of my career, I was playing out the textbooks and replicating former professors. It was the most miserable couple of years for me because I did not realize how authentic I needed to allow myself to be. So, I guess that is a mistake…even as the provider, authenticity goes a long way.
Do you have a favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life or your work?
I do indeed! My grandmother, Marguerite Blackwell, had a saying, “Everybody has got to do what they got to do”. My late grandmother had a third-grade education but the wisdom of a scholar. I heard this throughout my entire childhood and early adulthood. This has become relevant in my life and even my work because it drives me to stay focused and do what must be done. I use it within my practice also acknowledging that people are facing internal and external battles daily. Each day, many people are trying to decide how to make it to the next day and for many this constitutes survival. So, I use this quote as a lens to understand actions and to plant grains of hope to keep going.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
Yes, I am in the process of syndicating my radio show, “On the Mark with Dr. Markesha Miller”! Also, Jaylen Bledsoe and I have created a series, “& I’m Not Crazy”. This series is new and exciting because it is our approach to normalizing external and internal conflicts, while promoting mental health and the importance of. There are also a couple of books in the works to be released in 2021. So, yes, lots of exciting things in the works.
Ok. Thank you for that. Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. Can you tell us a bit about your experience going through a divorce, or helping someone who was going through a divorce? What did you learn about yourself during and after the experience? Do you feel comfortable sharing a story?
I have been on both sides of the coin. I have been through a divorce and I help many individuals heal from a divorce as well as couples navigate through it. One thing that I learned personally during the divorce is that I never want to do it again…(laughter). However, after the divorce, I learned the importance of wholeness. Whole decisions, a whole self, a whole relationship, a whole commitment, whole vision…. all these things are important ingredients for a healthy marriage. I recognized that I lacked all of these prior to my first marriage.
In your opinion, what are the most common mistakes people make after they go through a divorce? What can be done to avoid that?
The biggest, common mistake that people make is not taking the time to heal and learn. Many people do not properly grieve the relationship, acknowledge whatever those residual feelings may be, and process and understand what went wrong and how they can grow from it. Even if it was a horrible marriage, there is still a loss. You spent time in this marriage, time you can never get back. There is still an adjustment that must be made. Lessons that must be learned. One way to avoid this, and my most recommended, is to seek counseling.
People generally label “divorce” as being “negative”. And yes, while there are downsides, there can also be a lot of positive that comes out of it as well. What would you say that they are? Can you share an example or share a story?
There are absolutely positives! When you are liberated, you have the opportunity to grow in new soil. Many people stay in marriages that are unhealthy as a unit and individually because of fear, the sake of children, comfort, and sometimes even low self-esteem. When they can remove themselves from the situation, they truly discover themselves. I have had many individuals who have found inner healing from their childhood, created space for themselves within business opportunities, pursued their education, and many healed and moved on to better relationships with their wholeness.
Some people are scared to ‘get back out there’ and date again after being with their former spouse for many years and hearing dating horror stories. What would you say to motivate someone to get back out there and start a new beginning?
First, I would tell them, that as with the grief process…take your time, move when you are ready. There is no time limit to sitting out of the game; get back in when you are ready physically, mentally, and emotionally. I would tell them to think of the possibilities and to trust their healing and themselves. I also would validate their fear. It is very common to experience it after going through a divorce or breakup, no one wants to welcome pain or discomfort. However, it is important to understand that sometimes it is necessary for growth and change.
What is the one thing people going through a divorce should be open to changing?
Themselves. After a divorce or a breakup, it is so important to assess yourself. No one is perfect! There are some areas that you could have been stronger in, some areas that needed growth. Assessing and growing allows you to prepare to be a better individual for your next relationship.
Ok, here is the main question of our discussion. 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?
- Take the time to grieve: A divorce is a loss of a relationship. You need to grieve the memories, the companionship, the relationship. Take time to cry, to express your anger, to blame, to rationalize…all the stages that we go through in the grief process. Remember there is no time limit.
- Take time to heal: Take time to acknowledge your hurt, your anger, your guilt. Whatever your emotions are acknowledge them and process them. Processing them entails understanding why you have these feelings and allowing yourself to find peace.
- Rediscover yourself: Now that you are moving out of that season of your life, who will you be? Who do you desire to be?
- Set Your Boundaries: Boundaries are there to protect you. After you heal and move into your realm of wholeness again, you want to make sure that you protect yourself. What are your personal boundaries, your professional boundaries, your relationship boundaries? Use what you discovered about yourself to set these. What will you say “No” to?
- Trust Yourself: This is a process, trust it and most importantly trust yourself through it. As opportunities present to date again, to love again, you will know what feels right and what fits within your boundaries.
The stress of a divorce can take a toll on both one’s mental and emotional health. In your opinion or experience, what are a few things people going through a divorce can do to alleviate this pain and anguish?
I suggest a couple of things:
- Seek a support group: There are various social media groups and virtual or face to face support groups that can help you to validate your feelings and to move through the healing process.
- Seek therapy: As you move though the process, depression and anxiety may be experienced. Working with a therapist can help you to manage this as well process your thoughts and feelings to promote the healing process.
- Journaling: Journaling is a great expressive technique. You may find that during this time you need to keep a daily track of your thoughts and feelings.
Do you have any favorite books, podcasts, or resources related to this topic that you would recommend to our readers? Yes, I have a few that I think are great reads and can be utilized as supporting resources!
- “Getting Past Your Breakup: How To Turn A Devastating Loss Into The Best Thing That Ever Happened To You” Susan J. Elliot
- “The Breakup Bible: The Smart Woman’s Guide To Healing From A Breakup Or Divorce” Rachel Sussman
- “Uncoupling: How To Survive And Thrive After Breakup And Divorce” Sara Davison
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. 🙂
It would be a movement to prioritize mental health through treatment and education. It is so important for people to understand that mental health plays into the facet of our life. There is a strong correlation between our physical and mental health. We find that when our mental health is strong, we can be strong in other areas in our life. How do we start this movement, you may ask? Education is definitely the key. Unfortunately, there is still a stigma attached to mental health and we must continue to create space for people to seek healing. However, I appreciate it when celebrities such as Charlamagne tha God, Kanye West, and even Michelle Obama come forward to discuss their own mental health concerns. This creates a discussion and allows mental health to be brought to the table. We must continue the conversations, the opportunities for education, and we must make sure that mental health takes a priority stance within legislation also.
We are very blessed that very prominent leaders 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 and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂
It would definitely be Michelle Obama! I relate to her so much. I love her willingness and ability to advocate, to speak her truth, to take up space, and to empower. So yes, please let Michelle know that I would love to treat her to lunch and discuss how she can help me to continue my mission of “Putting Mental Health on The Mark”!
Thank you for these great insights and for the time you spent with this interview. We wish you only continued success!