Journal Your Way to Self-Discovery After Divorce


woman in robe sitting on bed journaling


For years I wrote journals after my ex-husband left me. I literally started writing a day after I discovered he had been having an affair in 1999 and continued writing for many years.

I had an insatiable need to get the thoughts out of my head and onto paper. Thoughts that made me feel vulnerable and unprotected. Thoughts that actually frightened me.

I felt that if I put them down on paper, it forced me to look at the words and become familiar with the fear. Maybe if I did then I would be less paralyzed. I felt like a crime had been committed against my heart and against the very soul of my young family. It was like a survival instinct I couldn’t suppress. So I wrote.

The best protection any woman can have is courage Elizabeth Cady Stanton

I am currently working on a project that has forced me to go into the garage and excavate the 11 journals I wrote from 1999 to 2007. In 1999, I had a 4-week-old baby girl and a 4-year-old boy. Within each journal, I poured out my heart expressing my deepest desires on every level to feel whole again. By 2007 I had a 7-year-old girl and an 11-year-old boy.

I must have just been too busy raising a family alone to keep up the writing past 2007. Those are busy ages for kids, and we had a lot to do. But in my journals, I read about so much fear, vulnerability, and sadness. But surprisingly, it was also laced with equal amounts of growth, empowerment, and courage. It was an amazing thing to see how I grew wings to someday fly again.

I was thinking of how, when we think of loss in our life, how our sense of home was the first thing to go. You know, we lose that place of childhood innocence, of feeling protected. And so many of us spend the rest of our lives trying to reclaim that place called home, that life made simple again. Tabitha Vohn

As I looked back and carefully read my thoughts, I came to a collective theme as those initial years of being a divorced single mother rolled by. In the early journals, I was experiencing the process of my divorce. Journal 1 reflects a very frightened woman. A woman who was nothing more than a victim of the circumstances of the newly ordained word in her life: Divorce. Child support, time allocations, court dates, and an endless array of legal documents and legal bills. Bills that reflected every desperate call made to my attorney with an actual price tag attached to each frightening word. Developing calendars of time with our children that resembled nothing short of two people pulling on the wishbone of a turkey.

By the last journal, I was strong, or maybe stronger. I had not just survived the previous 7 years; I had even thrived a bit in them. And I was divorced, but I was still standing. In fact, standing with my head held higher than I could have ever imagined. In reading them I could see the quicksand under my feet had started to harden and become firmer with each passing year. I was evolving and rediscovering myself.

It was an interesting journey for me to pick up these journals so many years later and read about this woman. A woman I remember but no longer am. During the years of writing in my journals, my perspective changed. I no longer wrote to get the fearful thoughts out of my head. I wrote so that in the years that would follow, I could go back and pick up a journal and read them to see if and how I had grown.

And I reveled at seeing my evolution. I cheered myself on as I read my words. I was proud of that woman who started this walk into the unknown with so much anxiety and trepidation. She ended up winning! She ended up being and doing everything that she set her sights on.

In journal 5 I found an insert of a card my mother had written to me after my father had just passed away. A man who had been my greatest cheerleader and supporter through the tumult of my divorce. If there had been a Booster Club for Team Karen, he would have been the President. And my mother would have been the Vice President. They are both gone now so this note will always be gold to me.

Thanks always for being the “honest you”. Thanks always for your conversations and for being such a good mom and daughter. I’m sure your dad is smiling down on you and remembering the day you were born. Congratulations on taking what life has offered you in the past years and conquering it!



The real reason I journaled through my divorce

For me, getting through my divorce was just part of the reason for my journals. At the time I started writing, I thought it was the only reason. But I can now see that the real purpose would reveal itself to me 22 years later.

Yes, I saw growth in myself and my family for sure. But I also saw a new family developing as well. I now see and read about not just the tough days. I wrote about the great days too. Little things like first steps for my daughter and the first loose tooth and visit from the tooth fairy for my little boy. I read about how my family rallied around us as we celebrated my daughters 1st birthday and my son’s 5th birthday.

What I thought would be a rough day for me because my ex-husband would not attend, turned out to be a wonderful day. Inside the warmth of the celebration, I read about the love I felt for each and every family member who made my children feel special. And made me feel important too. I see how lucky I was to have these special moments that my ex-husband missed. He missed a million more too. Moments he doesn’t even know he missed.

The words that I wrote changed with each journal. But they all mattered and made me feel like I was loving and supporting myself along the way. I now know that this was exactly what I accomplished. I made it! I won the prize! I won my life back!

Yes, I have had some tough days for sure. But the strength I read about myself only fortifies me with even greater resolve to know for certain that whatever challenges lay ahead of me, I am able to tackle. I also learned that I wasn’t just someone who could be easily discarded or thrown to the side. I was and am valuable! For a man to lose a woman like me and a family like mine, was a greater loss for him.

I learned that I have reinvented myself to a new and improved me and my journaling helped me to find a new path. My children and I are happy and healthy and have flourished through the years, Divorce was not my death sentence; it was my Baptism!

I urge you to journal as you navigate through the trials as well as the triumphs of being a single parent. You will be thrilled to see that the Hero you may have been looking for to protect you through the tough days, has been inside you all the time!

You’ve always had the power, my dear, you just had to learn it for yourself. Glinda the Good Witch

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