“Every cloud has a silver lining…”  In Georgia I grew up hearing this proverb, which suggests that every bad situation has some good to be found in it.   Looking for the silver lining in divorce can be a challenge.  Whether you are coping with divorce that is your partner’s choice, or you have concluded that divorce is your only viable option, you should search for the silver lining.  Seeking the company of positive, mature people and seeking support from others who are not in crisis can help you gain perspective.  Dunwoody, Sandy Springs, and Brookhaven have divorce support groups that can be helpful.

Phrases.org informs us that John Milton first penned the phrase “silver lining” in 1634 in Comus: A Mask Presented at Ludlow Castle:

I see ye visably, and now believeKaren-Hindson
That he, the Supreme Good, to whom all things ill
Are but as slavish officers of vengeance,
Would send a glistening guardian, if need were
To keep my life and honour unassailed.
Was I deceived, or did a sable cloud
Turn forth her silver lining on the night?
I did not err; there does a sable cloud
Turn forth her silver lining on the night,
And casts a gleam over this tufted grove.

Your silver lining might not feel like a glistening guardian, at least not at first.  But in the midst of divorce, pause to consider that good can come from a bad situation.

Good coming from evil

Jewish and Christian tradition speaks of good coming from evil.  The book of Genesis includes the story of Joseph whose jealous brothers sold him into slavery.  Through a circuitous route including false allegations, an undeserved prison sentence, and gifted dream interpretations, Joseph winds up as Egyptian Pharaoh’s right-hand man at a time of severe famine.  As a result, Joseph is able to provide life-saving grain to his entire family and is reunited with his father and brothers.  Rather than be angry with his brothers who had betrayed him, Joseph says to them, “Don’t be afraid.  Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.  So then, don’t be afraid.  I will provide for you and your children.  And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them.”  (Genesis 50:19-20, NIV)

The Gift of Adversity

I recently heard an interview of Dr. Norman E. Rosenthal, author of “The Gift of Adversity: The Unexpected Benefits of Life’s Difficulties, Setbacks, and Imperfections”.  Dr. Rosenthal believes that life’s most important lessons can be best learned from experiencing adversity.  Dr. Rosenthal grew up Jewish in apartheid-era South Africa.  As an adult, he suffered a violent random attack from a stranger.  He focuses on finding something of value in each negative experience.  Rosenthal’s personal philosophy is that you can become a stronger person if you learn from your mistakes and misfortunes.  Information about his book on Amazon.com says “Rosenthal shows that engaging with our own failures and defeats is one of the only ways we are able to live authentic and meaningful lives, and that each different type of adversity carries its own challenges and has the potential to yield its own form of wisdom.”

Divorce is adversity

Whether contested or uncontested, coping with divorce is adversity.  Most divorcing clients have regret or a sense of having failed in some significant way.  Many encounter financial, social, moral, and legal challenges as part of coping with divorce; many residents of Dunwoody, Sandy Springs, and Brookhaven seek both legal and social support when facing divorce.

Tips on coping with divorce?  Rosenthal suggests the following response to adversity:

  • Accept that the setback, obstacle, or challenge has occurred
  • Analyze the situation carefully
  • Respond proportionally
  • Stabilize your own physiology – don’t compound the adversity by unhealthy habits
  • Reach out for support
  • Cultivate good habits (sleep, exercise, eat right)
  • Make the decision not to let one bad event erode you.

Many religious and community organizations offer divorce support groups.  Consider joining one.  Intentionally reach out for support in new and healthy ways.  Divorce does not define you.  Search for a silver lining in your cloud, opportunities for personal growth, and the gifts of adversity.

© Karen S. Hindson, Hindson & Melton LLC  October 16, 2013