Divorce Saloon’s editors have created the Divorce Success Stories Profiles Series. Our objective and aim is to showcase individuals in the international divorce community who have turned their lemons into lemonade or made an impact on the lives of others who have experienced the pain of divorce….or, as in the case of our first guest, have turned their experience into “wine.”
Introducing Cheryl Nielsen author of:
Meritage Divorce: A Blend of Financial, Physical, Emotional and Spiritual Guidance…Through WINE Colored Glass
“When my marriage “corked,” I felt that life was too short to drink bad wine so I made the choice to spit it out and dump the bottle.”
By Cheryl Nielsen (adapted by J Goldstein for Divorce Saloon International)
GRIEF IS THE EMOTIONAL CONTRACT OF DIVORCE AND YOU’VE GOT SOMETHING TO WINE ABOUT!
I always thought of myself as a woman with a strong backbone like my favorite wine—Cabernet Sauvignon. This backbone could support me through anything that poured my way and smooth out the tannins in life. So when I realized intellectually that divorce was the answer for my corked marriage, I thought I could escape the emotional pain in the form of grief—as though my intellect and Cabernet characteristics could override and control my emotions and I could spare myself the pain.
I tried to find a way out of the pain through distraction, like drinking more wine, but the grief contract of divorce was binding. It came with the territory. I had to realize it was a door I had to go through to complete the healing process. So, I let myself feel. I needed to accept the divorce and mourn the loss on all levels marriage blended me in—legally, financially, emotionally, spiritually, and physically.
I later came to understand that what I was feeling through the grieving stages of divorce were just that—stages. They did pass. Everyone experiences grief differently and for different reasons—your timing to move from one stage to the next will be uniquely yours. Some of the stages most people feel in divorce are:
That point in time when you realize you are getting a divorce. You may feel a paralyzing numbness as though you are a deer caught in headlights—like the time I was at Costco and found a 2001 Beringer Cabernet Sauvignon. I stood frozen—with my eyes wide open. I wasn’t sure if I should grab what I could with both hands or take the chance to go get one of those rolling carts, so I could buy all of it before anyone else noticed. The amazing price for it was even more shocking. You may find yourself waking up and having an oh-crap-not-this-life-still morning. That state doesn’t rest. It’s there to remind you every day. Trust me; this too shall pass.
You’ve gone through shock, now what? Shock turns to disbelief. I found myself vacillating between reality and denial. Some days, I woke up to believe that it wasn’t really happening. I wasn’t getting divorced. We would change our minds soon, I thought, or wake up from this bad dream. Imagine if I had given you a bottle of that 2001 Beringer Cabernet Sauvignon and you waited for just the right occasion to open the bottle—perhaps now might be a good time. You cut the seal; you pierce the cork, turn, and pull it from the bottle. You’re happy for this moment. Your glass is ready. You pour the first taste. The color is magnificent. You swirl the glass, and in great anticipation, you put your lips to the glass and it’s…it’s…it’s corked! No, can’t be, it must be the coffee you just drank, you think to yourself. It’s not really corked—denial. You take another sip and another—but still you deny that it’s gone bad. You recognize this. This tastes familiar. And that’s what happens in divorce too. Divorce is nothing but discovering that your nice bottle of wine has corked. It’s time to move on. You’ll eventually land the right bottle. Costco might be a good place to start.
Anger can manifest itself in many forms. It could be the anger you have toward your sound to be ex. It could be something he or she did. Or, it could be anger you have with yourself for the same reasons. You might feel anger toward other people and factors beyond your control. There are days when I would look for confrontation. All you need is a reason to take your anger out on someone else during this stage. Be careful what you decant. Open your mouth if you must, but be mindful of the delivery. Think of the bouquet you are and the fragrance you want to be remembered for.
At this stage, you might make one last attempt to salvage your marriage by presenting an argument as to why you should stay blended, or put further effort into fixing it. Bargaining won’t work. If you drink a bottle of corked wine, you can try to pretend it isn’t bad. You might even find a way to tolerate the taste. But you must understand you can’t reverse what made it bad in the first place. You might be able to make sangria out of it and disguise it under some sweet fruit. Maybe you could introduce another round of malolactic fermentation as a kind of secondary fermentation process and change the bad acid into good acid. This might reduce the acidity and at least give it some additional complexity. Chances are it’ll make you sick in the end. When you’re corked, you’re corked!
In hindsight, you might get caught up in the “should’ve, would’ve, could’ve.” You might feel guilt for doing or not doing something. Remember, the choices we made then, if we gave it our all, were what we had to work with. The lessons learned, through your wine colored glasses, will provide you with depth of character and clarity.
If you feel fatigued, have an inability to sleep, and feel hopeless and full of despair, you are suffering from depression—the darkest stage of grief. You don’t want to be here long. Going through a divorce is a tumultuous journey, and you can’t always predict the tannins in the process. But one thing is for sure, you can anticipate there will be less-than-smooth times and try to remember there will be good wine in the future—everything will work out in the end. I know it’s difficult to believe right now. At this stage, it is good to limit alcohol consumption. You might want to cut down on your wining. There is a time and place for everything.
When you finally get to a point where you accept what is and are willing to work toward the future, you are coming to a stage of acceptance. That’s not to say it is a permanent stage. In the grieving process, it is one step forward, two steps back, and so on. As time moves on, you will settle into a more permanent stage of acceptance. Once you get to this stage for any amount of time, you may start to feel as I did: that it’s time to work through the divorce process and get on with a new life, and ultimately, with a new wine. I started to believe there was a life to be had after divorce. I accepted where I was and became excited for the future.
I didn’t find a loophole to get out of the emotional contract of divorce. Grief, in hindsight, was just what I needed to heal. It forced me to slow down, deal with my feelings, and adapt to dramatic life changes. Divorce is one time in your life when you get to return to your authentic form—stripped of the labels that produced you, but able to retain the wisdom of the experience. I came to realize I was re-producing myself. My soul was going through subtle changes like wine does in a barrel, and I was preparing for my release on the other side.
Excerpt from the book: Meritage Divorce – A Blend of Financial, Physical, Emotional and Spiritual Guidance…Through WINE colored glasses.
Hi, my name is Cheryl Nielsen. I’m an Author, CDC Certified Divorce Coach® & Speaker. I write and coach in a wine theme for entertainment value for the wine lover.
When my marriage “corked,” I felt that life was too short to drink bad wine so I made the choice to spit it out and dump the bottle.
In the early stages of divorce, I recall feeling naked and exposed, as though the label that clothed me was torn from my bottle and I became a “shiner,” basically an unlabeled wine. I was no longer the complex proud wine that was defined by the labels I wore each day as a wife, gracious hostess, and business partner to name a few.
These labels had an ego value attached to them that defined my worth to not only me, but to the outside world. When I lost the labels and identity they carried, I had no choice other than to find a way to value myself without the labels that once did.
I embarked on self discovery and found that divorce offered me the opportunity to go back into the barrel and become the wine I wanted to be – a kind of “barrel refinement process.” I became the winemaker. So I hopped in. It turned out to be a good place to hide out, safe and warm. The wood protected my fragile being and held me together. I spent time in the barrel drinking my own wine – spitting out what I didn’t like along the way, and deciding what I was going to swallow. It was dark in the barrel, but the experience increased my faith and spiritual awareness and re-produced me into the wine I am today.
I found that as I grieved, my soul went through subtle changes like wine does in a barrel. Tears of sorrow enhanced my flavor. My personal growth, reflection, and self-discovery delivered character. The tannins of my backbone became smooth with perspective, compassion, and humility. My character changed. Even my body.
It was a dark journey, but it was worth it. The time I spent in the barrel refinement process delivered a new me on the other side of the journey wearing a pair of wine colored glasses. The ones I now see out of with great clarity. If it wasn’t for the divorce, I might never have taken this journey that changed my perspective and reconnected me with my authentic self. I am no longer defined by labels. I am defined by how drinkable I am and the experience I deliver.
I believe divorce does not define you. It refines you and realigns you. So if you are getting divorced – go ahead and WINE about it you might feel better! If you embrace the journey, it will birth the fruit of your soul.
After my divorce journey, I became passionate about helping others use the experience of divorce to embark on self-discovery and get back in touch with their authentic selves to provide an opportunity to heal, grow, and live a more fulfilling life.
This passion led to writing a divorce memoir/self-help book and becoming a CDC Certified Divorce Coach® & Speaker. I now offer Meritage Divorce Journey Workshops and Divorce Wine Retreats. I also work with couples in transition with housing planning.
One of my favorite quotes:
“There are two things you should never do alone – One is drink, the other is get divorced.” – Cheryl Nielsen
In my post divorce life, I embrace my authentic self and set proper boundaries between work and personal time. I am continually striving to refine who I am and the experience I deliver through personal growth, trying new things, traveling, meeting new people, and expanding my wine palate. I align my underlying passion for wine, entertaining, and travel with my work. This way I am providing an authentic expression of myself and experiencing more joy in my life. I am also passionate about delivering a unique and memorable experience for others. I love traveling with my 17 year old dog Stubbs and staying at dog friendly inns.
Meritage Divorce: A Blend of Financial, Physical, Emotional and Spiritual Guidance…Through WINE Colored Glasses