Dr. Donna Thomas-Rodgers knew that her marriage of only 2 ½ years was ending several months before her ex-husband finally said, “This isn’t working for me anymore.”
“There was just something about hearing that it was over,” says Thomas-Rodgers, a leadership expert and business manager who lives in Birmingham, Alabama.
After her husband professed this, Thomas-Rodgers recalls falling to her knees filled with sorrow and tears and begged him to stay.
“After all I was 965 miles away from home, I had an infant child and I was swimming in debt,” she says. “As I look back, I really was not crying because he was leaving—I was mad at myself for being so stupid and thought how could I have gotten myself into such a mess? I knew better.”
Nevertheless she told him to leave immediately, thanks to a strong shove from her older sister.
“She gave me a reality talk which pulled me back into a sane version of my former self,” she says.
Once he was gone, each day Thomas-Rodgers woke up to tears and went to sleep crying. She could not find her way and life as she once knew it, would never be the same. She became a single parent, divorced, and broke all in the same day.
“What took a lifetime to create had vanished in an instant,” she says. “I had no plan of attack to move past my circumstance so I decided to go to counseling. It was the best decision for me at that time. I worked on myself and slowly there were days when I did not cry at all. I started to smile and I began to remember what brought me joy.”
After 18 months of counseling, she was even able to begin to forgive herself and her ex-husband. It was a slow process for her to heal but the journey taught her a lot about what she was never going to do again just so she would not have to be alone.
“Today I love my life and I will have love on my terms, and a relationship that is completely filled with someone that is truly meant for me,” she says.
She learned to cope with this experience by going to counseling, writing in a journal, and crying a lot. Soon, each day the pain became less.
“I forgave myself and I allowed myself the time to process my life as a single woman with a child,” she says. “The hardest part about being divorced is running into all of the people that don’t know and you have to relive the moment over and over again as you tell them you are no longer married. I had to change churches. I was angry because my world had already been turned upside down and then I had to change my spiritual path as well. In the end it all worked out for my betterment. Being divorced showed me just how strong I really am. I am a survivor and now I have wings to soar in life.”
The biggest challenge during this time was asking for support from friends, relatives, co-workers, and neighbors.
“I already felt like a loser and a victim and I did not want the help,” Thomas-Rodgers says. “I thought that by asking for help I would appear helpless and hopeless. Once I got out of my own way. The support came pouring in. I had so much support during this time it was amazing. My supervisor would tell me to go to a movie during work hours because he knew that I needed a break. Co-workers would help with my daughter and my mother allowed me to move back home to pay off the debt. There was enough support to allow me the time to heal. Now I see that everyone needs support during tumultuous times.”
What drives Thomas-Rogers today is her 7-year-old daughter.
“I want to be the best so that she can see what is possible when you live a life without limits,” she says. “I feel as though I am just beginning and who knows where this road call life will take me. I am in the best physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual shape I have ever been in my life. It started with the divorce and I have been evolving ever since. I want to be an example for my daughter. I am not perfect and she knows that but, I am determined to achieve all of my life goals and that is my reason for waking up each day.”
Today, Thomas-Rogers knows that she can accomplish anything. She also can tell when she is being manipulated and mistreated and tries to nip it in the bud as soon as it occurs.
“I actually have learned to live life and enjoy every moment,” she says. “Life is meant to be celebrated and being in a dysfunctional marriage just so I would not be alone was not a very wise decision. I know now that I can be totally happy single and if I choose to marry again I can be happy with that decision as well.”
In the end, she says that it was about finding her true self and learning to love and accept all of her flaws. She vows she will never again change who she is to go be with anyone.
“I did that in my marriage and it was self destructing,” she says. “At 37 years old, I can only be me and that is plenty.”
Her advice for others who are recently divorced, widowed, or separated to help them move on to the next phase of their life is to simply change their vantage point and begin to think positively and their lives can be whole again.
“Most people don’t like being alone and how the lost has made them have to begin life again,” she says. “Most people cannot get past the pain and the anger and it stops them from living a life that is fulfilled. They are afraid to love again because they don’t want to get hurt. But they can. I say mourn the loss—it takes as long as it takes. Then heal, forgive and move into a peaceful mindset. Life will never be the same again but it can be so much more when you are willing to move forward.”
For more information on Dr. Donna Thomas-Rodgers, follow her on Twitter, visit her website, friend her on Facebook. You can also email her firstname.lastname@example.org or listen to her Blog Talk Radio Show..