Fairy tale books are filled with happy endings of
couples living happily everafter. But for many Latinas, divorce is
not only shattering girlhood fantasies but breaking cultural
expectations. Still, with determination, perseverance and faith,
Latinas are rising from the shadows of broken hearts and emerging as
conquerors over their trials.
54, shares personal insights from her divorce in seminars based on
her self-published book, “When the Vows Break: Living Through
Separation and Divorce.”
Lessons from her painful season help many women gain support through
dating, parenting and other such topics through her Web site “Ask
the Divorced Woman” on
many issues Costa encounters with divorced women, “Finances are the
most vulnerable spots,” she says. While she acknowledges many
Latinas feel uncomfortable seeking help from a professional
financial advisor, Costa stresses the importance of receiving a
financial check-up. “For Latinas, it’s almost as bad as asking
someone to strip in front of a total stranger,” she says. “It’s
important to survey your financial situation, IRA 401-K and problem
Costa has now
become a financial and estate planner, her mission is to help others
regain financial security after a divorce.
But Costa is
not a stranger to financial crisis. After her divorce, she supported
two small children without her ex-husband’s support. To supplement
her full-time job at the FBI and raise her future earning potential,
she took a part-time job as a waitress and enrolled in college.
received her bachelor and master’s degrees in management. “Education
not only gave me the knowledge but the confidence to succeed,” she
says. Since then, Costa has received several promotions at the IRS
in Washington, D.C. and now boasts a six-digit income.
Part of the
divorce process inevitably affects children. Costa stresses
protecting children from being used as pawns in the divorce process.
“Concentrate on the kids,” she says. “Don’t put them in the middle
and never use the kids to get a message to your ex-husband.”
women, divorce recovery is as basic as learning how to use an alarm
clock to be on time for their first jobs, according to Ann
Cruz-Green, 50, coordinator of the Women’s Service Center at the
Glendale YWCA Domestic Violence Project in California.
Working with domestic violence survivors has helped Cruz-Green deal
with the emotional scars from divorcing an abusive and alcoholic
“My past is
now helping me in my job,” she says. “Because my life has exposed me
to survival skills, I have insights to help these women.”
has been a faithful companion for Cruz-Green and her children as
their dreams of improving the quality of life have met continuous
roadblocks. Even though she earned her bachelors degree in public
administration after her separation, Cruz-Green was forced to seek
government aid during several long unemployment spells. Also
compounding her struggle to stabilize from marital chaos was the
medical diagnosis that her son had high-functioning autism. Still,
“You just don’t give up!” she says. “No matter what happens to you,
there is another day that will happen, another opportunity for you.
A survivor leaves things in the past.”
children have also had to learn to persevere. “The challenges my
children have faced have made my kids infinitely more flexible,” she
says. “They know it’s not the end of the world, they just deal with
Villarreal, 37, was married four years to an abusive and alcoholic
husband who stalked her and threatened her life long after they were
divorced. “I was raised not to be divorced,” she says. Like many
Latinas considering divorce, Villarreal felt pressure from others
telling her, “Aguantate por tus hijos.” But she says it was her
children’s well-being and her personal safety that finally gave her
the courage to get a divorce even though it defied cultural
How did she
cope amidst constant physical threats while pursuing an education
and caring for her 20-month-old and 4-week-old children?
played an important role in my life,” she says. “At the time of my
trials, though,” she confesses. “I didn’t understand why I was going
through this. But, I learned to look at it as if something positive
would come out of it.”
And it did.
Villarreal is now president and CEO of Latino Family Services, a
non-profit organization that provides mental health services to
Latinos in Detroit, Michigan. She has also been the recipient of
numerous awards including being named one of Michigan’s most
influential Hispanics. “I love my work and my life,” she says.
emotional effects from her breakup, Villarreal says, “You can expect
depression after the divorce. It’s a natural part of the grieving
process,” she adds, “The healing process isn’t like a microwave
solution. It’s more like a slow-cooker.”
Despite enduring life-threatening assaults from her ex-husband as
recently as five years ago when she was already in an executive
position, Villarreal believes that forgiving everyone involved in
the breakup, including herself, is an important part of divorce
definitely not easy,” she admits. “I forgave my ex-husband a long
time ago.” She attributes her ability to surrender her anger and
break through the protective wall that kept her from healthy
relationships with her family to prayer. “When you don’t forgive,
you are only imprisoning yourself for the rest of your life.”
decision to divorce is made, as difficult as it is,” Villarreal
suggests focusing on yourself and not your ex-husband. “Figure out
what you want. What do you need for your children and family?”
To heal from
the emotional scars from the end of a relationship, Villarreal
recommends that Latinas discover their interests, learn to be kind
to themselves and speak positive things about themselves. She also
stresses the need to find a support system.
“Celebrate your life. It’s not over,” she says. “In some cases, it’s
to Heal a Broken Heart
Talavera, a former Radio Unica marriage and family
therapist, advises on how to build your strength back after
a stressful relationship.
Visit www.psicologiapopular.com for more information.
Have the courage to:
• Remember that you are not alone because you are your own
• Leave the past behind and live the present positively and
look to the future with optimism.
• Go out, engage in activities and meet people that make you
feel good about yourself.
• Take whatever steps necessary to achieve financial
independence. Adult education is fun.
• Depend on yourself for emotional support, and don’t burden
your children, family or another man.
• Sincerely recognize the cause of the divorce and avoid the
same problem twice.
• Achieve emotional and financial stability before entering
into a serious relationship.
Happiness is a decision. Take the necessary actions to
achieve it. There is a love that heals a broken heart. Love