February 24, 2021

Overcoming the “Divorce is Death” Mindset with Michelle Dempsey

In this month’s episode, we are welcoming Michelle Dempsey to the We Chat Divorce Podcast to talk about Overcoming the “Divorce is Death” Mindset.   

Michelle Dempsey is a Certified Divorce Specialist, writer, mom, coach, and speaker. Michelle fully believes in the empowerment of having someone by your side to help you through the uncomfortable process of divorce. Her work has been featured in publications including Forbes, Scary Mommy, Parents, Daily Business Review, HuffPost, Elite Daily, and more. She is also the host of the Moms Moving On podcast. Michelle works with women at all stages of divorce. 

 

Listen in as Catherine, Karen, and Michelle get together to chat about – 

  • Getting over the divorce stigma – “Did you even try to work it out?”, “I’m so sorry about your divorce!”, “You couldn’t wait until your children were older?” … Sound familiar?
  • Playing victim and the effects of divorce on your children
  • The grieving stages of divorce

 

And a few laughs along the way!

 

Catherine always says “Divorce is only a part of your story. It is not your entire story.” Remember, it's just a chapter, just a little piece of it. 

 

Whether you are just thinking about divorce, taking your first steps in the divorce process, or moving beyond divorce, this episode has something for you!

 

Get in touch with Michelle - info@momsmovingon.com 

Instagram: @themichelledempsey

Become a Member: https://momsmovingon.com/become-a-member/

 

If you have questions for us or a topic you’d like us to cover, contact us at hello@mydivorcesolution.com or visit MyDivorceSolution.com 

The We Chat Divorce podcast (hereinafter referred to as the “WCD”) represents the opinions of Catherine Shanahan, Karen Chellew, and their guests to the show. WCD should not be considered professional or legal advice. The content here is for informational purposes only. Views and opinions expressed on WCD are our own and do not represent that of our places of work.

WCD should not be used in any legal capacity whatsoever.  Listeners should contact their attorney to obtain advice with respect to any particular legal matter. No listener should act or refrain from acting on the basis of information on WCD without first seeking legal advice from counsel in the relevant jurisdiction. No guarantee is given regarding the accuracy of any statements or opinions made on WCD.

Unless specifically stated otherwise, Catherine Shanahan and Karen Chellew do not endorse, approve, recommend, or certify any information, product, process, service, or organization presented or mentioned on WCD, and information from this podcast should not be referenced in any way to imply such approval or endorsement. The third-party materials or content of any third-party site referenced on WCD do not necessarily reflect the opinions, standards or policies of Catherine Shanahan or Karen Chellew.

WCD, CATHERINE SHANAHAN, AND KAREN CHELLEW EXPRESSLY DISCLAIM ANY AND ALL LIABILITY OR RESPONSIBILITY FOR ANY DIRECT, INDIRECT, INCIDENTAL, SPECIAL, CONSEQUENTIAL, OR OTHER DAMAGES ARISING OUT OF ANY INDIVIDUAL'S USE OF, REFERENCE TO, RELIANCE ON, OR INABILITY TO USE, THIS PODCAST OR THE INFORMATION PRESENTED IN THIS PODCAST.----more----

Karen Chellew:

Welcome Michelle. Welcome to We Chat Divorce. We're so happy you're here today to talk with us about overcoming the divorce is death mindset.

Michelle Dempsey:

I love to be here to talk about just that. That's one of my favorite things to talk about.

Catherine Shanahan:

Why is that one of your favorite things to talk about?

Michelle Dempsey:

I think from early on in my split, I think, the way I was approached by people in regards to my divorce was so mournful and like I should have been dressed in black and crying in a corner and it always amazed me how non divorce people would say, "Oh, I'm so sorry for your divorce. So terrible. Oh, you couldn't wait until Bella was older. Oh, you didn't want to work it out." Things like that. And the whole, of course, "Oh God, I'm so sorry, because divorce is such a death." And then all the divorced people I knew were like, "Congratulations." And so I think for people who had never experienced it before, granted, I hadn't personally, but my mom had, and I watched her go through it as a child.

Michelle Dempsey:

I think the notion of divorce to some people is so terrible and so awful. And they compare it to a death because yes, it's essentially the ending of a relationship, but you're still very much alive. And so is your ex and you still have to co-parent with this person. So what death? The relationship is still there. It's just there in a different way. And I feel like putting divorce into that negative box eliminates the opportunity for you to see it as a rebirth or an opportunity to start fresh or write a new chapter or reestablish what your relationship might look like with your ex now, as you move forward as co-parents. So I am not into the whole divorce is death mentality.

Catherine Shanahan:

I totally believe that I feel the same exact way. I know others do not. However I remember people saying to me, "Oh, I'm so sorry.: And I thought, "Really, because if you knew what it was living like, you wouldn't be so sorry."

Michelle Dempsey:

Exactly.

Catherine Shanahan:

And then those same people, some of them today are divorced. So were they sorry that I was going through it and they weren't able to go through it at the time? So it really always made me feel uncomfortable.

Michelle Dempsey:

Right. And here's what I've noticed, Catherine, the people who were most critical, were not trying to be critical, but had the most to say about my divorce had the most questions or, and "You didn't want to work it out?" And "You didn't want to stay longer for the kids?" What I've come to realize is that those were projections from their own emotions. And what came to be their splits like you said. They were questioning me because they wanted to hear from me like, "No, don't get divorced. Yes. I could have stuck it out. Yes, we could've stayed together for the kid," but that wasn't the case. And it's just ironic to see the people who had the most opinions are now ... Or the ones who disappeared. I call them the flockers and the fleers, like you have the flockers and the fleers, and I just wrote about this in my book.

Michelle Dempsey:

You have two sets of people in your divorce, the people who jump on you for all the details and make comments and criticism and want to know everything and the people who flee. And very often, you're going to find both of those, people in both of those categories that ends up in the same situation as you.

Catherine Shanahan:

Oh, I totally agree with that as well. You said something, I have plenty of blockers and fleers. That's great. I love those terms. But the other question was always from my married friends who I thought were friends said, "Aren't you afraid you're go to be alone." You're going to be alone forever."

Michelle Dempsey:

That's projection [crosstalk 00:03:58] because they might. They might not be okay with the concept of being alone, but alone and lonely are two very different things in my opinion and I talk about that all the time. Alone can be a beautiful thing. Alone can be an afternoon to yourself where everybody's leaving you alone and you can just watch your TV, read your book, eat your snacks.

Michelle Dempsey:

Lonely though, is when you don't find the beauty in being alone. And that's fearful for some women because society tells you, you have to have a partner, you have to have a teammate. You have to have somebody to carry you to the finish line. But honestly you really don't. And it was once I dropped that mindset of, "Oh God, I need somebody," that I did find the perfect partner, which was ironic. So getting comfortable with that aloneness is a foreign concept for a lot of people because society will tell you it's bad. But in hindsight it was the best thing for me to be alone.

Karen Chellew:

And some of those fleers, I know from my experience, for some reason, they thought I was, or divorce was contagious.

Michelle Dempsey:

Yeah.

Karen Chellew:

My friends who were married, "Oh, I don't know. He doesn't want you to come over or we have to meet not at my house anymore," because I truly think that their spouse especially, thought it was something contagious. But even more than that, when people have that divorce is death mindset, think of how that transfers to the children. If you have that, or you allow that energy into your home or into your relationships, they're carrying that then that, "Oh, my mom or my dad did a terrible thing or did something that's not good for the family." And then what do they do with that emotion?

Michelle Dempsey:

It creates such inner turmoil for children. And I've seen it with some of my clients and even people I know personally who can't get out of that victim mindset, "Well, Daddy left me and it's so hard." Kids shouldn't be shielded from everything, but to make them all of a sudden, have to feel okay, "Well, I love my Daddy, but I know he hurt my Mommy. So should I love my Daddy? Is he a bad guy? He's half of me. I don't want to be a bad person." Right away that creates an anxiety and a inner battle in a child that they shouldn't have to be fighting. So I'm a big fan of cry if you need to cry, mourn if you need to mourn, whatever you need to do to get the feelings out so that you can move on, do it, but don't make your children a part of that. Children benefit from seeing you alone if alone is where you can be resilient. And I think a lot of people are worried that the lack of a spouse is really going to impact the child so negatively when research shows that all children need to thrive is one stable parent or caregiver.

Karen Chellew:

Absolutely.

Catherine Shanahan:

That's correct. Yeah.

Karen Chellew:

The consistency, and even moving forward through life, we all have to make critical decisions about a whole host of relationships. And so will our children. And when they see examples of us making good decisions for the betterment of the entirety of the family, and it enables them to make good decisions for themselves as well.

Michelle Dempsey:

Right.

Catherine Shanahan:

Yeah. It always baffles me when we have a client come in and say, "Well, my children told me that I shouldn't take this these dollars. I shouldn't ask for this money from their dad." Or their dad tells me that mommy's taking all of my money, that now we're broke. I'm broke. I can't do this. So even involving your children in any kind of financial discussions is inappropriate. I mean, our kids, their burden is not our problems, right? They're not-

Michelle Dempsey:

I remember being a kid and the money, literally, whenever my dad did give it, which was few and far between would go through me. I'd get out of the car, he'd drop me off. He'd hand me a check to give to my mom. And then sometimes I'd come in without the check. And my mom would be like, "Did he give you the check?" And so I always knew that like he owed her money. It was a very awkward position to be in. And of course, I don't think they put me in it to be hurtful, but they just didn't know better. And it just sticks with you.

Catherine Shanahan:

My mom was telling a story just recently, how she had to get on the subway at two or three times a week to go to her dad, to ask for the money for my grandmother. And I'm like, "That is just so awful to do that," but that's what we do. And the lesson of being lonely and alone, it's such a good lesson to teach our children too at such young ages, because I could remember saying, "I am in such a lonely marriage. I'd rather be single and lonely than married and lonely." But then when I became single and I would just sit in, because I did have a lot of friends who stayed with me that would check on me and invite me out with their spouses and so forth, and I said, "I am so good being home. I want to watch a movie all by myself. My son's out, my daughter's at school."

Catherine Shanahan:

I enjoyed that time with being alone. And it didn't mean I was lonely. And I kept saying just because I'm alone, doesn't mean I'm lonely. And it's good for our kids to learn that now, too, just dealing with the pandemic alone. You realize how much alone time we all have. You said it earlier, which I love is just enjoying that, loving that time you have for yourself.

Michelle Dempsey:

Yeah. I read something recently and I've done a lot of work in around trauma and resilience because I did a lot of work to heal from my own traumas. And I have found the most resilient people are the people who have been able to take the lessons from their past and move forward. But something I came across was how keeping yourself busy all the time and the inability to sit alone with yourself is a trauma-based response. And it's really just avoiding what's going on inside of you. You are so uncomfortable with so much, and maybe you're harboring so much in your subconscious that doesn't even come to light every day. That's where alone feels so uncomfortable. And I used to be that person. My mom always would say, "My God, you can't just sit still. You can't just have a night alone." Back before I even married my first husband, I was always on the go, always had a plan. If I didn't have a plan, I had to make one. It was because I was too uncomfortable with all of my undealt with stuff, that I distracted from it by staying busy. And that's not the way to go about things. Sure, once in a while, you want to get out and take your mind off things, of course, but making that a constant instead of making the time for yourself a constant, it's completely unhealthy.

Catherine Shanahan:

So what are three steps somebody could take to shift their mindset from feeling like their divorce is death, to making it more as a new beginning.

Michelle Dempsey:

I think the first step always is to grieve your pain, right? So I'm never going to say, "Oh, your marriage is over. Get over it. Be happy." No. You have to acknowledge that that sucks. Divorce sucks. Nobody wants to go through it. It's hurtful. It's painful. It's the dismantling of a whole life connections, friendships plans. It's a lot to process. So it's hard. And you have to give yourself time to process it because you're not going to be able to see the other side as an opportunity until you can release all the feelings, feel the feels as I like to say. So I truly think that's step one. And I see so many women that I work with because I help them through the transition want to go from zero to 60 like, "okay, it's over, I'm fine. I'm going out with friends. I'm good."

Michelle Dempsey:

And I'm like, "Call me in two weeks when you can't get out of bed in the morning," because the more you try to ignore it and the more you try to be okay, the harder it's going to be and the harder it'll come back to bite you. So grieve. Be alone. Feel shitty. Cry watching ... I used to lay in bed after my split and watch The Affair. That was the show that like I'd binge watched first. And it was just such a poignant time in my life because it was like, I was feeling things through this show. It was so well-written, I loved it, but also tapping into my own unhappiness and just, I don't know, I was icky for a while, but that icky place they say you have to get comfortable being uncomfortable, that's really where I think you need to be in the beginning stage of a marriage, let it happen. Let yourself feel shitty. Don't try to avoid it. And then you move forward.

Michelle Dempsey:

And the second thing I think would be to really harness the idea, get it in your head and repeat it to yourself daily, that now you have a new opportunity, whether you wanted to be in this situation or not see this new stage in your life, new marital status as an opportunity. Marriage is unfortunately for so many women, their whole lives when in reality, it's just a small part of our lives. And if you come out of a marriage after 20 years and you're like, "I don't even know who I am anymore" it's because you've made that marriage your whole life. Now you can make your life your own. And maybe marriage fits into it later on down the road, you find somebody who fits your life. But this is the opportunity that you have to give yourself that not everybody gets. And so I think that's a really special thing.

Catherine Shanahan:

[crosstalk 00:13:40] Every day in Hilton Head and I would ride my bike there every single day, since my daughter went to school, when I was here and I would just look into the ocean. And when I, even now to this day, when I look into the ocean, I think endless possibilities because as I was crying, not knowing what I would do next, I just thought there are so many endless opportunities out there for me and I'm going to seize them. And that's what got me through it. Just knowing that and then hence here, here we have My Divorce Solution, so who knew at 44, I become an entrepreneur. And it's funny now because this was my first Thanksgiving where I ordered a pre-made turkey. I was that mom that cooked all the meals and did all the stuff. This year my daughter was like, "Mom, why would you ever cook a turkey? This was fabulous."

Michelle Dempsey:

That's so funny.

Catherine Shanahan:

[crosstalk 00:14:28] the day and eat in the afternoon.

Michelle Dempsey:

Right. There's certain pressures that we put on ourselves I think in marriage that are now lifted. I remember always wanting to look perfect when my husband got home from work. And even if it got ignored, I just put that kind of pressure on myself or whatever it was. And I really took comfort in just being. Like bra off, hair up, nobody at home to criticize or why are there dishes in the sink, putting on whatever music I wanted to put on. That was really powerful for me. The sense of this is my life now, and I'm going to do it my way.

Michelle Dempsey:

And then the third thing I always say to shift the mindset, you really have to acknowledge the feelings again, but do it through a form of ... For me, it's always been journaling. None of my clients get away without having to journal. Right now, we're doing actually a 30 day journaling challenge because answering certain questions, putting it out on paper really helps you to physically, like it's science, physically take something and release it. When you write something down, it's when you make a to-do list. Now you're not forgetting because you have a to do list. So if you take your journal and you write about the things you hope to bring into your life in the next couple of years, or write about the changes you need to make personally or how you can be healthier, what you can do to feel happier. Putting that out there sort of holds you accountable and helps shift you into a mindset of looking ahead, instead of just like, "Eh, what now?" So [crosstalk 00:16:07] those are my three things.

Catherine Shanahan:

I'm a huge journaler. I do tons of journals and it's something about it happens if you write it down. It's a path to get there.

Michelle Dempsey:

Yes. I'm not a woo woo spiritual person, but I do totally believe the universe helping you manifest what you deserve and if you put it out there ... I always knew it, even in my first marriage as it was imploding, that my perfect man was out there. I didn't care when it was going to happen. I was very happy to be alone after my split, but I kind of always knew I'd be getting married again. And I really, in my head knew what he would look like. I just knew all of these things and it came to fruition because I would write about it.

Catherine Shanahan:

Yeah. Same here.

Michelle Dempsey:

I did something. I did something completely out of character a couple of months before my marriage ended. And I was just writing about it for the book and I was like laughing at myself. So I had a girl that worked for me and she's like, "You need to go see an energy healer." And I was like, "Huh? Come on. I'll go to the spa. I'll get a massage. I'll get a manicure, pedicure. I don't know about an energy healer." And she's like, "I'm telling you, you need to go see this woman." So when you're down and out, you'll do anything to try and feel good. And that's how I felt at the end, towards the end of my marriage. So I remember getting in the car, I drove like an hour and a half to this stranger's house in the middle of, I don't know, it was another county far from Miami.

Michelle Dempsey:

And I knock on her door. And the whole time I'm thinking like, "What the fuck am I doing?" "What am I doing? What am I doing?" And she opens the door and she was everything you'd imagine her to be, she was wearing scarves and a long duster. And she had a thing in her hair, just this character of her personality. She was beautiful and warm. And she smelled like patchouli and so did her house, had like different colors on every wall. And she brought me into her little studio and she laid me down, did all this Reiki and sound healing and all sorts of things. But at the end of it, she said, "I'm going to leave the room. I'm going to give you a piece of paper and a marker. I want you to write a note to yourself for what, where you see yourself five years from now."

Michelle Dempsey:

And so I wrote this note and she said, "I want you to stick it on your bathroom mirror." And I did. And I kept it there until I moved in with my now husband. And it was literally, it was like, "You will be a published author. You will have the man of your dreams. You will have clients who rely on you for their help, for help." And I remember putting it on my bathroom mirror, like, "Oh my God, I hope my friends don't see this." And it was amazing to me how all of those things that I told myself I deserved came to fruition.

Catherine Shanahan:

Yeah. I believe that.

Karen Chellew:

Fabulous story. I love that, Michelle.

Michelle Dempsey:

Thank you.

Karen Chellew:

I've worked with a lot of the clients and their budgeting post divorce and moving on. And I say that budgeting is a form of journaling. It's recording what the it is and-

Michelle Dempsey:

That's a really good point.

Karen Chellew:

... how you're going to be CEO as you're moving ahead and you get to choose how you spend or save or otherwise every single penny. So I've just made that connection in our discussion here. But I truly believe that budgeting is a form of journaling. I think that's [crosstalk 00:19:25]

Michelle Dempsey:

It totally is. It's setting an intention. And then you tend to hold yourself to it. That's why I'm doing this challenge with my Mom's Moving On community members, because when you set the intention to do something and each journal prompt every day is intentional, it totally helps you shift. It helps you think way outside where your brain tends to get stuck. So I love that.

Karen Chellew:

Right. And there's no reason to get stuck.

Catherine Shanahan:

It's like an accountability for yourself.

Michelle Dempsey:

Listen, I really have reached a point in my life where I have no patience for people who don't take accountability for their actions like ex-husbands and say you're wrong when you're wrong. Say you dropped the ball when you drop the ball. Hold yourself accountable. It's so important to be a better person that way. So good for your kids to see that. [crosstalk 00:20:19] Can I tell you another story about the energy healer real quick?

Catherine Shanahan:

Yeah.

Karen Chellew:

Sure.

Michelle Dempsey:

Now that I'm thinking about it. So I saw her, we wrote the bathroom mirror note. I was in shock for days after we met over the fact that I even went and did this, I spent like $300. I didn't know what kind of a waste of money it was. And then fast forward a couple of months, I got separated and I move into this new space with my daughter and I loved it. I loved my apartment. It was a townhouse. We set it up like girl power and it was everything I wanted to buy from Home Goods. I didn't have to answer to everybody. It was a mishmash of stuff. And somebody, my employee was like, "You should call Lillian to come and sage your new space."

Michelle Dempsey:

And I was like, "I could burn a freaking leaf in my kitchen. I don't need Lillian here." And then I was like, "What the hell? I liked her last time." So I call her to come over and she's walking around and she's burning sage. And she gets to my kitchen and she's like, "Oh my God. Oh my God, you have to get rid of that." And I was like, "What?" She was like, "Your knife set. It's in your heart. It's in your heart chakra corner. It's in the corner of your ... This is the relationship corner of your house. There's knives there." And I'm like, "I didn't know. My house didn't come with a map." So she made me move the knives. So she told me where to put them.

Michelle Dempsey:

Then she goes up to my bedroom and I had a painting on my wall that was very like strong womanesque. Okay. It was like a beautiful black woman lounge singer from the '30s or '40s singing into a microphone. It looked like she was screaming and I loved it. It was so strong. She's like, "You got to take it off your wall. Take it off. I'm going to leave the room, take it off the wall and I'll come back in." And I was like, "All right," needless to say, I'm like, "What did I just, what just happened here?" Three days later I met Spencer, my now husband. And I'm like, "I'm going to give that to Lillian. That was all Lillian."

Catherine Shanahan:

Yeah. She took away ... She made you a little bit more vulnerable.

Michelle Dempsey:

It was so funny how she freaked out about the knives. I'll never forget it.

Karen Chellew:

Wow. Yeah. What an impact she had. That was a great investment.

Michelle Dempsey:

I can't find her now. She's not on Facebook anymore because I've wanted to recommend her to people, even though I still think maybe it's, I don't know if it's real, but just the experience was so cool.

Catherine Shanahan:

I always think that there's signs out there and you either choose to take them or we don't. And so whether, you could have said, "Hell, I'm not doing that," or when she left the house, you could have put the picture back up on the wall.

Michelle Dempsey:

I never put it back up. My husband ... I still have it. It's in my garage. For some reason I can't get rid of it. And I'm really good at throwing things away, but it sat in my garage, in my townhouse. I never put it back up. Then it came with us to this house and he's like, "Can we throw it away now or give it away?" And I'm like, "No, I want it there. It's a reminder." So great.

Catherine Shanahan:

That's good. That's a good reminder.

Karen Chellew:

I love that.

Catherine Shanahan:

I also like what you said about, and one of the first things to help people move through that notion of death and divorce. Because again, I am a silver lining type of girl. So I feel passionate about this as well, dismantle. Yes. Your divorce, your life as you knew it, or what you thought you had or wish you hope that you had is now being dismantled. But when you dismantle, remember, it's just a chapter in your story. I always say divorce is a part of my story. It is not my entire story. It's just a little piece of it. So I like that phrasing dismantling.

Michelle Dempsey:

Thank you. I liken it, and I'd probably say this in every podcast, too losing a job. Obviously losing a job is not as emotionally traumatic as a divorce. However, when you lose your job, you don't lose the job and decide, "Oh my God, I've lost a job. I'm never going to work again and my whole life is over. Forget working. It's not for me. I'm just going to shrivel up and die." No, you take the lessons. "Okay. Maybe I wasn't as passionate at this job as I could have been because of X, Y, and Z. Maybe I'm really more designed to do something else." You take the lessons and you move forward and you get out and find another job. With ending a marriage, It's the same thing. That thing in your life didn't work out. That doesn't mean the other things can't work out. And so that's how I relate it.

Karen Chellew:

Yeah. I love that. Well, thank you Michelle, for being with us today and for your wonderful work with Moms Moving On, I know your community really does count on you and we've heard great things about you from our podcasts with you recently. So thanks for being here and we look forward to more conversations.

Catherine Shanahan:

[crosstalk 00:25:15] forward to your book if you want to tell us a little bit about that, you said next week, we might have some good news on that?

Michelle Dempsey:

Yeah. So it will be available for pre-order next week, which will be the week of, the first week of February. If you go to my Instagram @The Michelle Dempsey, you will find a link in my bio to get on the list, to be able to get the information about pre-order and there are other links there. You can listen to my podcast, Moms Moving On, you can join my Mom's Moving On membership community, which is a really quickly growing community of women that have signed up. It's a low monthly fee of $9.99 cents to access all of my favorite divorce experts, resources from them. They get a free monthly workshop with me and another expert and obviously sense of community through our private Facebook page, which is amazing. And yeah, that's what I've got going on.

Karen Chellew:

Awesome. That's fantastic.

Catherine Shanahan:

Thank you so much.

Karen Chellew:

Congratulation.

Michelle Dempsey:

Thanks guys. Talk soon.

Catherine Shanahan:

Okay. Bye.

 

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