Survive to Thrive: 5 Steps to Post-Divorce Healing by @CafeGirlsPress

Caroline O’Neil | Featured Contributor

Two seemingly unrelated topics crossed my desk today:  a medical review examining the deep wound healing process as well as
The Hollywood Reporter’s official announcement of Peter Facinelli and Jennie Garth’s divorce.

The Facinelli/Garth split was announced with the requisite celebrity plea that the family’s privacy be respected during this difficult time:

“While we have decided to end our marriage, we both share the same deep love and devotion to our children,” the statement reads. “We remain dedicated to raising our beautiful daughters together. We ask for privacy and respect during this time.”  (

That boilerplate privacy plea always caused me to roll eyes, until my own sudden and unexpected divorce.

Even before becoming a working actor in Los Angeles, I was completely unaware of the very real and agonizing injuries behind every split.  Divorces have become a routine occurrence.  Even as a resident of the Bible Belt, I was only mildly surprised when close friends announced the deaths of marriages.  It all just seemed so casual, and dare I say, glib?

Having recently relocated to the West Coast as the single mom of two teen daughters, let me assure you that there is no such thing as a casual or glib divorce.

I had divorce simmering on the back burner of my mind as I scanned the second item in my inbox:  an online description of the deep wound healing process:

“A deep wound can necessitate a visit to a physician and several months of healing time. During this time, the wound goes through several stages of healing. The most dynamic part of the healing process is called granulation.” (What Is Granulation in a Wound? |

What resonated so powerfully was that the medical description of wound granulation applies equally as well to post-divorce healing.  The deep wound heals from the outside in.  Outward appearances can mislead us into thinking the healing process has progressed more than it has.

Intrigued, I researched more:

This process is not only complex but fragile, and susceptible to interruption or failure leading to the formation of non-healing chronic wounds. (

An unexpected blow to the wound site can break apart instantly the deeper tissue which has taken its slow time to knit back together.

Life is good at delivering unexpected blows to the divorce-wound site:  child custody battles, employment struggles, lost friendships, dating disappointments; even the casual, perhaps unintentional, cruelty of family and friends.

So how do we best care for our wounds, while putting on a brave face for our children and employers?

1.    Cleansing.  The first step in wound care be it physical or emotional, is cleansing.

What worked best for me was finding an environment in which I felt safe enough to cry.  I moved across the country, found a wonderful community built into the side of the Santa Susanna mountains, enrolled my children in excellent schools, and began to build a support network (including a women’s group in which we survivors could express our feelings openly and freely).  With rest and serenity restored to daily life, the pent-up tears came and went, cleansing heart, mind, and soul.

2.    Protecting.  After the cleansing, protect the hurt area. A bandage must be applied.

To maintain the safe zone I have established for myself and the children, practicing yoga, eating a healthful variety of power foods, and exercising regularly are disciplines I carefully nurture until they morph into habits.
I began to expand my professional network to include personal mentors and other media professionals, with whom I could brainstorm, network, and develop camaraderie.

3.    Enduring.  In order for wounds to heal from the outside in, we must be patient with and aware of the time needed for the granulation process.  Deep healing cannot be rushed.

It was and continues to be a struggle to be patient with myself and others, and to let go of paralyzing perfectionism while still maintaining professional excellence.

Practicing daily prayer and meditation help me fully live in each moment, instead of obsessing over mistakes made in the past and fears of the unknown future.
Accepting my personal limitations and not demanding more from my body than it can reasonably accomplish each day creates an attitude of calm endurance, allowing my spirit to heal at its own pace.

4.    Assessing. Assessing the progress of the wound and its healing must be occurring regularly, optimally by a trained wound care specialist.  The treatment of a deep wound is different from that of a shallow or surface wound.

Sometimes the best wound care specialist for a newly-divorced mom is a private therapist, be he or she a psychiatrist, psychologist, or licensed professional counselor.

Family members and friends who have not experienced a traumatic divorce and resulting radical life change may not have the experience, strength, and hope to assist you in your healing journey.  It’s okay to set limits with our loved ones on what topics we discuss.  If my mother’s well-intentioned advice, for example, makes me feel small, I’ve learned kind ways of redirecting the conversation.

My life coach is another woman in the community who volunteers an hour of her time each week to meet with me for encouragement and venting at our local church.  Also invaluable in regaining my emotional equilibrium has been the local Domestic Violence Center, with its informational and support groups, plus one-on-one recovery planning.

5.    Cleansing.  The first and last step in examining and treating deep hurts is cleansing.

Just as we mothers teach our children to soap up hands as well as carefully wash our wounds, we must be vigilant to keep our injuries infection-free.  On a spiritual level, I am learning to keep a clean spirit through the daily practices of forgiveness, gentleness to myself and others, as well as positive self-talk.

The message I hope to share with other women survivors is this:  you are responsible for your own well-being.   Make life choices that will teach your children, “Hey, I’m worth a lot and I’m not going to settle.”

Wishing you peace on your journey,


Photo Credit: Vega ★ via Compfight cc

Government definitions

The US Office on Violence Against Women (OVW) defines domestic violence as a “pattern of abusive behavior in any relationship that is used by one partner to gain or maintain power and control over another intimate partner”. The definition adds that domestic violence “can happen to anyone regardless of race, age, sexual orientation, religion, or gender”, and can take many forms, including physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional, economic, and psychological abuse.[11]

The Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service in the United Kingdom in its “Domestic Violence Policy” uses domestic violence to refer to a range of violent and abusive behaviours, defining it as:

Patterns of behaviour characterised by the misuse of power and control by one person over another who are or have been in an intimate relationship. It can occur in mixed gender relationships and same gender relationships and has profound consequences for the lives of children, individuals, families and communities. It may be physical, sexual, emotional and/or psychological. The latter may include intimidation, harassment, damage to property, threats and financial abuse.[12]


Multimedia Entrepreneur – Caroline O’Neil from CafeGirlsPress, Los Angeles, CA

2Theatrical CarolineCaroline O’Neil, MA, MFA, has adventured through life as an educator, healer, and above all as “a daisy chain of creative ferocity.”

Founder and CEO of CafeGirlsPress,  and long a supporter of the independent film movement, Caroline’s mission is both to create multimedia entertainment content,  and to encourage young professionals to pursue their gifts within the various fields of creative arts and technology.

Combining her drive, ambition, and focus with warmth, humor, and dedication to social justice, she challenges artists to educate through entertainment.

Caroline is inspired by her own two children, often her creative collaborators, as they develop stories by exploring America’s blue highways, the independent film culture, and California’s best Mom and Pop dining.

Caroline holds a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing, and is a member of the Screen Actors’ Guild (SAG-AFTRA).  She lives in California and North Carolina.

Connect with Caroline On:


Twitter: @CafeGirlsPress

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