8 Gifts of Starting Over

starting over

Every problem has a gift for you in its hands.

– Richard Bach

If your inquisitive nephew gets into the china cabinet and knocks over your Royal Copenhagen glass vase, you’re going to find a thousand pieces of shattered glass scattered across your living room floor.

A summer wildfire that burns down your apartment will leave soot, a blackened structure, and ashes that were once priceless belongings and memories.

And when you hit that dead end while driving, you can’t keep going.

Broken glass, ashes, dead ends—there’s something so hopeless and melancholy about each of them. A place that’s used up, burnt up, broken forever. A place where you can’t go any further.

So it is with the dead ends in our lives.

My dead end.

Without question, my personal dead end was the ending of a relationship and a divorce less than three years ago.

This soul-crushing life event cut like glass, burnt like fire, and made me feel like I had nowhere else to go.

I felt that it was my greatest failure because I couldn’t be the man and the husband I wanted to be. I wasn’t able to find ways to adjust, compromise more, or grow up quickly enough to make our marriage work.

I felt horrible for letting her down. Letting her family down. Letting my family down.

And I felt helpless in a situation that I had absolutely no control over anymore. The events that were unfolding were completely out of my hands.

The days that came after separation were suffocating, breathless, and paralyzing.

I mourned in this unimaginable place of grief and sadness that was slowly becoming my reality.

Hope in shattered glass, burnt ashes, and dead-end roads.

Each day, I did the only things that I could: wake up, get dressed, go to work, and make it through the day.

I cried at night. I cried in the daytime. I cried in my office. I cried in the car. I cried when I heard Adele on the radio. She seemed to be haunting me, “Someone Like You” playing incessantly on every station. “Sometimes it lasts in love. But sometimes, it hurts instead.”

My journey back has been a long and arduous one—working through pain, hurt, grief, sadness, sorrow, loss, and a personal ground zero.

It was a journey that took me through anger, hatred, resentment, frustration, and hopelessness.

It was a journey that led me toward forgiveness, letting go of the past, letting go of the bitterness, letting go of grudges, and choosing to move forward. It was a journey that reminded me that second acts are possible and that our lives can be rebuilt from the ground up. It was a journey to my better self. A journey to my higher self.

Without any doubt, my divorce was the absolute lowest point in my life. Yet, strangely, I will never exchange that experience for anything else.

Although the path I walked was filled with pain and struggle, the experience of having gone through this life-crushing change also resulted in some of the greatest gifts that I could have possibly received. Gifts that have built up my character, perspective, and resilience for life. Gifts that have helped me grow as a person and have transformed my life forever.

Here are eight gifts that you, too, can give yourself no matter how bad of a hand life has dealt you:

1. The gift of resilience.

You can make it through the darkest and loneliest trenches in the world and come out alive. You can stand up again, you can move forward again, no matter how much pain, struggle, or hurt you’re experiencing.

You can continue when the path is pitch dark. Trust yourself and be guided by your intuition. Although you might not feel like you’re doing very much today, do something. Get out of bed. Take the smallest step. Just wake up and do something to move yourself forward. Believe that things will get better and know that circumstances have always gotten better in your life.

Know that once you make it out of this difficult situation, not too many other things in life can shake you.

 2. The gift of becoming a better person.

My divorce inspired me to improve myself.

When you’re on the outs and you’ve been personally rejected in something as intimate as a relationship, you start to wonder not only what went wrong with your relationship, but what’s holding you back in life.

You might be doing things in your life that are preventing you from becoming your best self. You could be playing life too small. It doesn’t matter if you lack confidence, procrastinate, are fueled by anger, or have a general unease with life.

You can change whatever is holding you back.

It takes awareness, a desire to improve, knowledge, and practical steps toward making change. You can use everything from books, courses, and coaches to self-awareness and mindfulness practices to help you understand yourself better and make the necessary changes in your life.

3. The gift of forgiveness.

I was upset about the divorce, and it was easy for me to blame everyone involved: myself, her, my family, her family, the family astrologer, and anyone in between.

But what I’ve learned is that you can forgive no matter how hard it is, and that your true healing will begin once you let go of resentments and grudges. You can pull out the dagger of hate that’s stuck in your body.

You can take responsibility for what happened and let go of the parts that you had nothing to do with.

Set the intention to forgive. Write a letter of forgiveness to each person who has hurt you and release the poisonous resentment within. Tear up the letter if you must, but send it if you can.

You will feel a million pounds lighter and freer after you forgive in your heart.

4. The gift of vulnerability.

When you’re torn down, fallen down, and beaten up, you’ll realize that there’s nothing more to hide behind. At your low point, you’ll hopefully stop giving a hoot about what people think of you.

Embrace the place you’re at no matter how rock bottom it is. There’s nothing wrong with tough times, and no one is going to laugh at you when you’ve fallen. Instead, you’ll find that almost everyone can relate to you because they’ve also found themselves in difficult life situations, or are currently going through similar life trials.

Learn to step forward and embrace who you are. You can stop hiding.

Now is the time to be honest with others, but also with yourself. Come to terms with the emotions and feelings that you’re experiencing. Be aware of your feelings and acknowledge them.

Start on your journey toward self-acceptance and self-love; speak to yourself more gently, treat yourself with more compassion, and learn to accept yourself for who you are.

5. The gift of a renewed purpose.

Sometimes in tragedy we find our life’s purpose. The eye sheds a tear to find its focus.

– Robert Brault

Being on the outs helped me clarify what I should be doing with my life. Since I had nothing to lose, I chose to follow my lifelong dream of writing, coaching, and helping others overcome adversity in their own lives.

When in a rough spell, all the trivial and unimportant things in your life will fall away. You’ll gain insight and clarity, and feel a strong inner calling to do something with your life. What you previously felt was important will no longer matter.

Instead of chasing material things and money, find out what truly makes you happy. What matters to you? What has always inspired you and brought you joy in your life or work? Simply do more of that.

Once you discover your purpose, you can go about trying to make it happen. In the process of discovering and experimenting with things that interest you, you’ll get a clearer picture of why you’re here in this world.

6. The gift of self-understanding.

While I had grown up in a religious household and was drawn to spirituality throughout my life, nothing prepared me for an internal journey to myself like this experience did. All the books, talks, and classes that I had taken while growing up suddenly became very real.

Hard times can inspire you to start looking for deeper and more meaningful answers about life: Why are you here? What are you meant to do? What is your purpose? What brings you joy?

Are you open to exploring the spiritual world? (And no, you don’t have to move to Tibet or join a Gregorian monastery to do so.) Can you be open to the possibility that mindfulness can lead to more self-awareness and, ultimately, more peace?

Dedicate some time to go within. Create a few more silent moments in your life. Spend some time self-reflecting, breathing mindfully, or trying out a yoga class. Find more appreciation in the natural world; walk in the woods, stop and take in the sunset, appreciate the beauty around you. Take an art or photography class. Write.

7. The gift of change.

God grant me the serenity to accept the things that I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

– The Serenity Prayer

While working as a lawyer in my past life, I realized that I could limit much of the risk in the world. However, I also discovered that, in real life, you can’t control the world around you.

You can fight the rough patches in your life either by resisting them or by learning to accept and embrace them. Yes, you can take action and improve a situation, but only if you learn to accept that situation in the first place. Accepting that we can’t control everything and that thunderstorms will roll into our lives helps us become stronger people.

Instead of resisting change, lean into change. What lessons are you learning? How are you growing as a person? How will adapting and managing your current circumstances help you confront other changes in your life?

8. The gift of learning to let go.

After wallowing in the misery of divorce for a couple of years, I decided that I had had enough of replaying the past pain in my life. I came upon the teachings in Eckhart Tolle’s book Power of Now.

Tolle reminded me, “Whatever the present moment contains, accept it as if you had chosen it.” Imagine that you’re exactly where you need to be in life and that life contains no mistakes.

You do not have to toil in your past. Every time your thoughts get caught up in the past, realize that you’re slipping back to a time that no longer exists. Realize that what has passed has passed and commit to preventing past battle wounds from scarring you repeatedly.

Tolle reminds you to observe the emotional pain that resides within you and to become an observer of your thoughts and feelings. Being consciously present allows you to live more in the moment.

Stop sabotaging yourself. Be more aware of what you’re experiencing internally and learn to let go of the past.

Once I realized the many gifts that I’d been given, I came to appreciate how my lowest point had transformed my life. When I was experiencing the heartbreak and pain of divorce, I never realized that the process of divorce would overhaul everything about me.

My low point was my catalyst to breaking through those things that were holding me back.

When you’re facing the rough waves of life, ask yourself: Who is the person you want to become? What changes will you make in life? What will you do with your lifelong dreams and life purpose?

Your rock bottom isn’t the end of the world.

You can buy another glass vase. You can rebuild your home from the ground up. You can turn the car around.

You can appreciate the pain and suffering that you’ve had to face. Learn to see the gifts in your struggles.

Your greatest challenges may just be the path to your greatest self.

33 thoughts on “8 Gifts of Starting Over”

  1. So true
    My divorce led me to find my best self. Changes everything about who you thought you were when nothing in your life becomes real in an instant and you don’t know what was real and what was a lie. It was the worse journey while living it but coming out of it brings so much focus and clarity to who you are now and what path you never knew you were on to get to where you now. Looking back I see how the darkest places I’ve been have formed me to be my best me I can be. For that I’m thankful for my journey, it’s my story and I lived and survived. I’m my best self because of how I traveled my journey no one take that away from me.

    1. Hi Cheryl, Thank you for sharing your story and your experience. I like how you said that your darkest places helped you become your best. It sure does feel like we’re completely lost when we’re in the process of being found! I hope others will also take inspiration from your story – thank you for sharing and living your best life.

  2. What a powerful post! And I’m very glad you titled as you did instead of “8 Gifts of Starting Over After a Divorce” because I might have skipped reading (since my divorce was 20 years ago).

    The New Year is always a time that I “start over.” And this one is no exception. I’m claiming this as “my year” to accomplish several things. Your post will help me to get off to a good REstart.

    I’ll be unwrapping the gifts you mention one by one as I do my daily meditation. Thanks for such good things to think about!

    1. Thank you for your comment and I’m glad the title didn’t say “divorce” either, Brenda, because we can see these gifts in all aspects of our lives – especially the tragedies and difficult things we go through over the course of our life. Wishing you the best year ahead with much growth and gifts of growth.

  3. It was many years ago now, but getting divorced was the best thing I have ever done. I have also coached many people who are going through a divorce – it is a most painful process, whether you want it or not, but there is eventually an aspect of renewal that is revitalizing.

    Our experience of life is never an EITHER/OR. There will always be good & bad, truth & lies, joy & sorrow, positive and negative, hurt and love. Expecting life to be full of only the ‘nice’ things is unrealistic. So bear the pain, work through the hurts, learn and grow and this way you will experienced a full and rewarding life.

    Thanks for a great article.

    Coach 4 Life

    1. Thank you Kirsten for sharing your story and for the work that you’re doing in the world.

      Being able to work through the pain and difficulties are indeed ingredients for a fulfilling life, filled with growth. We come out stronger and wiser because of the difficult circumstances we go through.

  4. David Frederickson

    I read your post that you sent on 8 gifts. I do agree with it but can’t put it in to practice. I have been divorced for 8 years and am still angry and bitter. I just recently past the 8 year mark before Christmas and sent my exwife an email congratulating her on our 8 year anniversary of her leaving me. I can’t forgive it is not in my nature. I know I should and have been told by everyone to let go of the past and move on but I cannot.

    1. Hi David! Forgiveness is more related to wanting instead of feeling it. It’s something that won’t change the past, but it’s going to create a bright future. You don’t need to tell nobody that you’re forgiving him or her. Just said to yourself and you’ll feel that your journey has become lighter, easier and more enjoyable. Try to be happy David. It’s good for your health!

    2. Hi David,

      I heard from a man named Craig Valentine, that nobody dies from a snake bite. No, the actual bite does not kill you. It’ the poison that courses around your body attacking your nerves and organs that finally kills you.

      This is what you are doing to yourself. The divorce itself did not kill you (after all you are still here!). its the rehashing, the remembering, the holding onto that is slowly killing you.

      In some way being this way is serving you. You are getting something out of being angry and bitter.

      You seem to understand that forgiveness is needed for you to move forwards. what you have not done is make the decision to do so. In the same way Vishna decided to let go, you can choose and decide to forgive. Not for her sake, but for yours.

    3. Hi David, a couple thoughts here that touch upon what both Kirsten and Jose have mentioned.

      We can’t move on until we forgive. I would just add that forgiveness is not a place we arrive at. Forgiving is an action we have to take. We take the actions of forgiveness to get the benefits of forgiveness. We can’t wait until we’re ready to forgive because that day could never come. Also, forgiveness is a choice and in your hands. You can forgive when you’re ready to move on – forgiveness is the key. The choice of when to move on is yours.

      Forgiveness is not in your nature but could growth be in your nature? Could you become a person you were previously not? Could forgiving help you become a new person? Will it help you let go of the past? Will it help you move on with your life? Will it help you heal and start anew?

      When you do forgive, you’ll realize that you did it for yourself, not for her.

      And when you move on, you’ll be doing your life and future a favor, not her. Your best revenge is not allowing the past to hurt you repeatedly. You win when you let go of resentments, find happiness and start a new life. I hope this helps.

  5. Hello Vishnu,

    I am so glad that you have spiritually turned lead into gold and that you have shared your alchemy with us.
    Having been through similar hurtful experiences on quite a few occasions, I know you are correct that we earn depths that more shallow life events cannot provide. However, wouldn’t it be nice if, just once in a while, we got the gift of bullion, or even simply a box of chocs?
    Sincere thanks – please accept my kindest regards.

    1. Thank you Zaranya – love your unique name and how you described this process as alchemy:) And yeah, chocolates would be nice haha but I also haven’t minded the growth, letting go of the past, becoming a better person and having more insights about my life.

  6. This post came at a perfect time!!!! I was just releasing tears of a relationship I just let go – knowing that it wasn’t good for me when we started this relationship exactly a year ago – your words gave me encouragement and empowerment! Yes, I can do it! Life is exactly in the moment it’s suppose to be and I am in the NOW! All in it’s perfect timing including this post!

    In gratitude,

    1. Thank you Nancy – so nice to hear from you and glad everything is falling into place.

      I’m reminded of the Marilyn Monroe quote – things fall apart so better things can fall together.

      Wishing you continued growth, peace and happiness in the new year.

    1. I am with you.

      Thank you for the comment!

      Give yourself time, patience, self-reflection and room to grow. The answers will come through and you will receive the gifts of insight and peace.

  7. While I haven’t had the experience of a shattered relationship, your post was still relevant to me. I can identify with your dead end experience. As you say, the road back from the brink is long and difficult. But week after week, month after month we grow, change and claw our way back to happiness and health again. Thank you for your 8 gifts. The most important ones for me are the gifts of becoming a better person and a renewed purpose. Many thanks for sharing your experiences and for inspiring us all to see the gifts in every struggle. (Jenna)

    1. Yes!! Life gives us many experiences (not just heartbreak) to help us become better people and have renewed purpose in our life. Thanks for your comment and appreciation, Jenna!

  8. Amazing this article came in my email just as I was reflecting on the past year. It’s been two years since my separation after a 12 year relationship and two kids. Still everyday is a struggle. Keep on self harming my innerself . Have such low self esteem to the point I slept with my ex partner a day before he was getting engaged even after he told me he had unprotected sex. After it was all over I couldn’t believe I risked my life and that of my kids to please him. I so much want to move beyond this dark place but this is a person I’ve known since I was 6 years old. Any advice please.

    1. Hi Agatha, I have an ebook you can open on my site about self-love and care. Also, a few posts on Tiny Buddha I wrote discuss this topic of how we respect, value and care for ourselves more.

      I don’t know what additional advice I would give other than to keep working on yourself, finding kindness within and care for yourself. It takes time, affirmative steps towards loving ourselves and lessons learned.

      I know what a struggle and how much pain a breakup can bring. Especially such a long-term relationship. I think the gift of change is the gift that can be most helpful during this time. Realizing that you can deal and get through this most difficult time in your life will help you see that you can deal with any change that comes your way. This may be a tough change but it’s likely preparing you for any other changes that come your way in the future. Once we realize that anything that come our way in life, we are prepared to deal with all things that come our way.

      Wishing you strength and perseverance during this time. Thank you for sharing your story and comment, Agatha.

  9. Wow! I’m a twice divorced father. It was truly the lowest point of my life, twice. I’m finally learning my lessons and out of it came my own blog. Thank you for your transparency and truth! When we’re in this place we certainly need people like you.

    Hank G

      1. Vishnu – Twice the gifts, that is correct! I’m certainly more grateful of the lessons I’ve learned. Again I appreciate you taking the time to write such a thoughtful blog on this critical topic.

        Hank G

  10. This is a great post. You covered many bases. I’ve had my guts kicked-out before, so I know the pain. I love this line~ “You can turn the car around.””Birds sing after a storm; why shouldn’t people feel as free to delight in whatever remains to them?” ~Rose F. Kennedy.

    1. Chas – appreciate your comments to this post and to many of the other posts here on the Change Blog. And thanks for adding the quote by Rose Kennedy.

  11. Vishnu thank you so very much for your story. I also have been through a very traumatic experience three years ago and I am only just finding the strength to get well. I had given up on myself and life because I felt so much like a failure. I thought God hated me and everyone else. I just with drew into myself and refuse to socialize or even leave my apartment for three years. I am slowly trying to get out of the darkness and after reading your story I truly believe I too can make it and start again even with all the odds against me.
    Thanks for sharing as you have encourage and inspired me to work harder because I too can be encouraging someone else on lifting themselves up.

    1. Thank you Rose for your comment here and relating your experience. I’m sorry to hear about what you went through but glad that you’re seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. I’ve often thought that we wouldn’t really recognize the light, if we didn’t know the darkness first.

      All the work that you’ve done are your gifts. you would have never needed to have gone through this work if you didn’t experience some storms in your life. Also, your experiences can also be a guide for others. Going through challenging circumstances helps us build up our resilience and strength. Wishing you the best, Rose.

  12. Vishnu thanks for sharing your story with world . Your bouncing back to life shows that courage can defeat hurdles.The tips are practical from every perspective.I am a patient of MS ,this article has provided me a reflection of hope and strengthen my ambitions to live a best life☺

    1. I’m glad you found the post helpful and wishing you the best.

      We all can find the blessings or the gifts in our adversity. We can also find lessons and growth in the darkest of places.

  13. Sorry for coming late. Your post was a revelation, Vishnu. Every word was dipped in the ink of your deep felt grief. But wow, how you have been able to get over it all, step by step, crawling out of the quagmire of pain of separation into the open air,from despair to hope, sucking the warmth of sun rays in a wintry day, giving cheer to a crestfallen heart. Your tips are wise, pragmatic and enlightening. Thanks for this wonderful post.

    1. Thank you for your colorful comment. You write very poetically and your words of encouragement are appreciated. Thanks for reading and glad the post resonated, Mahavir.

  14. Thank you so much for sharing your experience. Only yesterday evening I was crying my eyes out thinking about something six months back. So confused, so many questions and blaming me for the way I handled things. I feel like going back but then one question keeps popping up ( will this improve the situation? Will things be different?) and then I take a step back and a step forward towards the future.

    I completely agree that Good fall apart to make way for Better however you have to go through a thunderstorm, a dangerous one but it’s how you deal with the storm that paints our future. Nothing is impossible, difficult yes but impossible “No”.

    Forgiving is the best solution to every problem. It’s not easy but nothing in life is. It’s painful and very difficult but it’s not Impossible. My experiences in life have thought me that I have to let go, let go of the bitterness, let go of my past only then I will be able to take a step forward. Our problems makes us a stronger people.

    I have to take your advice about realising what’s going with my internal self as I’ve bottled up a lot of things and not addressed it. They are so fresh and I end up crying like a baby. It’s difficult and painful but I’m trying.

    Once again thank you, this post has definitely given me some answers and have helped figure out some things. Thank you Vishnu and all the best in your life

  15. Hi,

    thank you for the article. I am feeling so grateful of finding something like this at a point in my life when i am in d middle of no where. I can relate to your pain and to other people who shared their life stories here as i too am going through a very difficult change right now.

    I am not divorced yet, but going back is not even an option right now. In relationship for 11 years, married for 2 years and separated now since last 2 years. Have seen enough. I do have crossed the anger path, and now i am not angry with him, or his parents….but sometimes angry on myself that i lead myself to this situation. When a relationship breaks its just does not get over there, rather its the beginning of a terrible time a terrible dark time.

    I have tried everything in last few years to get back to my real self, but it was so very difficult to clear the fog, the insecurities. In the beginning the hatred was so much. I am a person who never could show my true feelings i rather gulp all the emotions and let time a take a troll. But this situation was trying to take all the best i ever had. Now i know and can understand nothing can go down this point.

    Now i am not sure whether i am over with that situation or i have just built up some walls. Moreover i am keeping myself busy in work, with friends, with lots of hobbies but after some time it feels its not enough. I still get free time and free emotions which bothers me and i am afraid to see myself reaching the same dark moment.

    But i did learnt one thing that all these years i was never me. I was what others wants me to see me. All these time i have mastered to transform myself to please others. When all of a sudden i came face to face with myself….it scared me, it took the hell out of me. I never knew what i was, what i have to be. It took me a lots of time to figure out what i need to do. I was so scared and clueless about this fact. sometimes i felt as if i must have no reasons left to live that’s why this happened. Once i get up in the morning suddenly i was clueless about how i will spend the day, what i am gonna do. Believe me when i say this, i was so very scared, i had reached the bottom already and i didnt know how to get up. I still sometimes go through the same phase. I just hope nobody ever see that phase. Then i started feeling up all my time with something or other kind of work. Some are useless and some are good. The more i get busy, the more free time i gets. I still donot know how to get rid of these free times. May be i doesnot what i really want in life yet.

    Anyways thats my life and it must have been made this way. And i know i have to simplify it sooner or later. May be its the change that still kept me struggling. But i appreciate your work and it does gives a boost to people like me or who goes through a difficult path and helps us to look at life in a different a way in a hopeful eyes.

    Thank You for sharing.

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