Left To Die In The Divorce Desert

divorce desertBy Nancy Fagan

Divorce and Relationship Expert

The divorce process has a way of making people feel chewed up and spit out with barely enough energy to get out of bed in the morning. While people may feel like divorce is going to kill them, the truth is, it doesn’t.

This point was reinforced by of all things the Prickly Pear Cactus.

My husband and I are fans of the TV show “The Biggest Loser” so much so that we decided to take a long weekend trip to a fat camp (a.k.a. health spa) in Sedona, Arizona.

As part of our spa itinerary, we took a hike to the majestic red rock formations. Our guide was a plethora of knowledge about the animals and plant life of the region.

As we walked along the trail, my attention piqued when she pointed out the tattered Prickly Pear Cactus and explained that it’s one of the Javelina’s favorite foods.

prickly pear cactusAs she explained how some of the cactus pads appeared to be destroyed by the Javelina’s midnight snacking, the description began to sound a lot like what people experience while going through a divorce.

Pointing to a heart shaped cactus pad (see picture 2), our guide asked, “Do you think this plant is healthy?” Everyone nodded yes.

Next she pointed to a blackened section of the plant that had obviously been bitten into by a Javelina. “Do you think this piece is healthy?” Again, people shook their heads no. We were wrong. The guide informed us that both forms of the cactus were thriving.

I was fascinated to learn that the Javelina can rip their two-inch teeth into the plant without causing damage because the plant quickly protects itself by sealing the mauled areas (see picture 3).

mauled prickly pear“True, the chewed pieces may never grow back into the perfect round shapes they once were but once they heal, they are as strong as they once were,” the guide said. “The chomped on pieces just have more character!”

Our guide gathered us under a shade tree to reveal the most interesting aspect about the cactus. She squatted down to show us a lifeless-looking single pad peaking out from an overgrown bush. “This is what happens to the tattered pieces left behind on the dry canyon floor.”

Everyone leaned in for a closer look. “Surprise, surprise! The Prickly parts that are dragged and dropped are anything but dead–they are thriving!” She pushed back an overgrown bush covering part of the pad. There it was, a brand new, fully formed pad growing out of the top of the “dead” one.

Nancy Fagan Interview:

Get Over The Divorce Fantasy

The lessons our guide shared with us so aptly apply to the divorce parallel I’m drawing, including her most encouraging final point.

“Even the smallest scrap left behind contains everything it needs to sprout into a brand new plant. The succulent plant has enough water to nourish the fibrous skin as it digs into the ground to generate roots. It grows from what’s inside, what nature gave it so it could thrive despite the adversity that comes its way.”

prickly pear cactus bloomingI thought it was curious how Prickly Pear pieces can grow from nothing into something magnificent. Better yet, can even become greater than the original form (see picture 4).

Every month I receive notes from former divorce mediation clients who share their stories of growth and development that wouldn’t have been possible without the adversity that came with divorce. Many feel destroyed by the process but learn to dig deep down to find an inner strength. The extra something they didn’t know they had.

Like the Prickly Pear, you are born with the innate ability to survive divorce. All you need to do is tap into your stored resources. When you do, you’ll see you have the ability to regenerate new life from what was mauled and broken.

Here is some additional reading on finding more control of your emotions during tough times.


divorce expert Nancy FaganDivorce and relationship expert Nancy Fagan provides divorce planning and mediation services for men and women as the owner of The Divorce Help Clinic. She also appeared on the DadsDivorce Live episode “Get Over The Divorce Fantasy.”

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