How Hiking Helped Me Move past the Pain of Divorce

By Brittany Wong

If there’s ever a time you need a little distraction in your life, it’s during the divorce process. That’s why we launched our Divorce Care Package series. With each post, we’ll show you what things — books, movies, recipes — helped others relieve stress in the midst of divorce, in the hopes that a few of their picks will serve you well too. Want to share what got you through your divorce? Email us at or tweet @HuffPost Divorce

When her marriage ended in divorce after 10 years, Carol Schaffer wasn’t eager for a fresh start. Still shaken up by the split, Schaffer said she held tight to the people and pastimes she loved and only introduced new things into her life (hiking, “Seinfeld” binge-fests) if they helped her heal in some way.

“You can’t change everything about your life right away after a separation,” Schaffer, who lives in California, recently told The Huffington Post. “Some people are tempted to make all kinds of changes to themselves and their lives right away, but I took the most comfort in the things that stayed the same like cooking big dinners and having sit-down meals with my kids.”

Below, Schaffer shares five things (some tried-and-true, some new) that made life a little more bearable during her divorce.

The Hobby
“There were two things that I could count on feeling after my divorce: exhausted and weak. One day when the kids were with their dad a friend invited me on a group hike. My first reaction was to laugh like a lunatic at the thought of removing myself from the couch when I didn’t have to. But once I realized that accepting the invite meant I wouldn’t be home alone doing laundry, I dug up my old Doc Martens and it was on. And thus began a year-long relationship with hiking. At first I could barely keep up. Eventually I could go for hours straight, traveling many miles, climbing, walking and navigating up and around big and small rocks. I night-hiked. I angry-hiked. I sad-hiked. Mostly I was just silent and focused on each step ahead. I gained toned legs and great cardio stamina walking those hills. What I left behind was my sense of failure and lack of confidence. I haven’t hiked in a while but I am positive that when I do go back to the trails, it won’t be quite the same as it was for that one year post-divorce.”

The Comfort Food
“I’m the type of person whose appetite matches their degree of happiness. When I am happy I eat… a lot. When I’m upset, I find it hard to keep anything down. It’s like my sense of smell and taste are directly attached to my heart. But there was one food that was I able to get down: French onion soup from Mimi’s Cafe. The rich, dark broth full of thick, sweet onions and topped with perfectly melted, bubbly cheese became my comfort food during an incredibly uncomfortable time in my life. I had my favorite meal at least once a week and each time, I had the distinct sensation of being under a magic spell. I felt nourished and satisfied and couldn’t stop smiling.”
The TV Show

“I loved ‘Seinfeld’ because it spurred on unexpected, minute-long laugh attacks but I also appreciated the fact that not one of the characters was married. I couldn’t bring myself to watch lovey-dovey sitcoms and dramas portraying the all-American family. It wasn’t that I didn’t believe in the concept of marriage and happy endings anymore. It was simply that at that particular moment in my life, I desperately needed to know that I wasn’t the only one in the world who was living a life more cynical and a little less happily ever after. More importantly I needed to see that it was still possible to be happy outside the security of a nuclear family. Jerry, Elaine, George and Kramer reminded me of all the interesting things that life had to offer — damn good soup, friends that hate the same thing as you do — outside of romantic relationships. And laughing through the ‘Seinfeld’ gang’s antics made me a better, happier mom. Years later, my oldest daughter bought me the the complete series on DVD — such a great Christmas gift!”

The Splurge
“I discovered retail therapy during my marriage. Shopping till I dropped never did solve any of my marital problems, but it momentarily shifted the focus away from the dingy and sad to the new and sparkling. When I left my husband my urge to shop lessened but I still bought candles. I was particularly obsessed with peach scented candles from Wicks ‘N’ Sticks. The flickering dancing light from the candles mixed with the delicious scent of peaches was seductively intoxicating. I was allowing myself to take pleasure in things and life again. I had not realized how far I had retreated into my own personal misery until I started literally letting the light back in with candles!”

The Music
“I’ve always loved music but my taste swayed toward the loud, defiant and meaningful during my divorce. I had anger and I had pain, but I definitely did not want to carry it with me all day long. I had to put those emotions on hold if I was going to function around people who weren’t experiencing divorce alongside me. That said, I made sure to give myself the time I needed to experience and just sit with my feelings, usually with the help of music. Many of the bands I found myself drawn to were grunge bands with a lot to say and hot lead singers sporting long, greasy hair (what can I say, I could relate!). In particular, I listened to a lot of Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Soundgarden and Alice in Chains. Alanis Morissette’s ‘You Oughta Know’ was very close to becoming my very own ‘Star Spangled Banner.’ I sang it out loud and proud. I sang it in the car and shouted it in the shower. It soothed and satisfied my soul.”

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