Navigating From Shame to Healing After Divorce with Nicole Cleveland
Nicole Cleveland, mother of 3, married for 20 years, and a church woman, once considered “divorce” a taboo topic that can’t be mentioned in her home– until it happened. For someone who is the leader of their church and preach about building strong marriages, Nicole felt like wanting to dig a hole to hide. She felt like a fraud. But someone reminded her that, “This has nothing to do with you. This is a choice someone else has made. Let us not change the fact that you have the power to speak and encourage these women. Your story just changed. That’s all that happened.”
Fast forward to the present day, Nicole stands stronger than before, launches her book, and empowers more and more women towards healing.
The Aftermath of Divorce
No one enters marriage expecting a divorce along the way, thus it is difficult to face this situation when it does come. The first thing that most of us would do is internalize. “How, when, why it happened?” “Was it my fault?” “What did I do wrong?” “I should’ve been doing this, I should’ve been doing that.”
Then you would go to your car and scream. After, You would have to show up and look strong in front of people, and do what was required of you to do. Then you would need to go to work because we can’t turn our lives off. You have to be a boss, be a manager, do your responsibilities, and then go to the bathroom then ball your eyes out. You would cry it out, then shake it off, and go back to your office and do it all over again.
Us women tend to hide the situation and don’t want people to know because there’s so much shame revolved around divorce or break ups. Nicole realized she needed to stop running from it and deal with it– that she needed to focus and deal with the problem, and get some help for it.
“You need to stop pretending to be alright when you’re not.” – Nicole Cleveland
The Healing Process
We could cry our hearts out and sulk in the corner of shame, but we know we couldn’t just stay stuck, and we have to pull herself up no matter how tough. How can one be a mother to their children, how can one be the woman they need to be when they are all broken? In the process of healing, remember the following:
- Speak to someone. Going to a counselor is key. Stop pretending to be alright when you’re not. You need someone to unpack those troubles, the shame, and the blame. For Nicole, it was taking time for herself and spending time with her friends that helped her a lot.
- Don’t listen to “You haven’t prayed enough” sort of advice. It’s best not to depend solely on prayers because asking people for help is not necessarily lacking faith. There are tools available out there that could help in the healing process. Think of it this way: if you have hypertension, diabetes, or other health concerns, you take medicines. If you need to heal from your mind, then you take counseling. Remember that God also bless people to become counselors or psychologists to help us. It’s up to us to take that help.
- Ask yourself what direction do you need to go. This way, you could motivate yourself to keep going. Because you couldn’t run from yourself, or the assignment that God has placed on you.
- You need to be selfish in your healing. Take time for yourself and do what’s best for you and your family. There will be people in your life that will make you feel bad for your choices towards healing. We have to take ownership of our lives because there’s no one way into healing, as it differs for each of us.
When You are the Friend or Community
If you are a consoling friend that is happily married and you have a partner that you go home to, never say “I know what you’re going through.” Because how can you know what this person is going through? The best advice is to just LISTEN.
Let your friend talk to you, scream and cry their lungs out, say obscene things, and all you have to do is let them be themselves. Let them grief. Allow them to cry and then heal. If they wanted you to talk, then do so. If not, then don’t. The best thing to do for a friend who goes through trenches is just to show up. You could also do small things that could make things bearable, like when you see your friend going through a rough time, you could initiate to pick their baby up and bring to the daycare for them. Or you could bring them food so they don’t have to cook themselves. Just be there and be a friend.
Consider it a death.
Divorce is like a death. There’s a mourning process, as they have to mourn the death of marriage. Now when you are the friend who comforts, you just let that person grieve. How do you deal with a friend who just lost a loved one? How do you treat that person? The default is to not say anything. Because oftentimes, the best thing to do is not necessarily to show up and say the perfect things, but just to show up.
Cry and scream yourself out all you want. But when you’re done, dry your eyes out, open your blinds, fix your clothes, and live again, dream again, and breathe again. Because it is going to get better. It is so much brighter on the other side. You may be crying buckets of tears now, but trust us, that crying will stop. Along the way, you will also discover a lot of things about yourself!
Things will get better until one day you wake up and you are healed. And once you are, it is imperative that you help the next sister that goes through it too…
Nicole Cleveland is an mother, radio host and TV host, author, motivational speaker and minister. Despite coming from a difficult past, she has motivated herself to get back up and prove herself. In 2006 she founded Breathe Again Magazine, an online magazine designed to encourage, uplift and inspire women. Her career then moved forward by becoming an author of three books and a show host for women empowerment. In March 2014, she was honored as one of 25 Women in the Arts from Southeastern Virginia Arts Association ( SEVAA) and was chosen as the winner in the Literary Arts Category. Nicole is now an Award Winning Best Selling Author.
Social Media: @nicoleconline