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JLo's got some crucial advice for anyone going through a divorce

Heather Sweeney is a freelance writer, an associate editor, a mother of two, an avid runner, and a former military spouse. She has a master’s degree in elementary education and blogs about her life after divorce at Riding the Roller Coas...

Learning the importance of forgiveness may have been the single hardest part of my divorce

“You have to learn to forgive.”

That’s what my therapist told me repeatedly as I sat in her office week after week to work through the emotional roller coaster I was on called divorce.

And week after week, I told her that I just couldn’t do it. Not until I got an apology for all of the things I felt I deserved from my ex-husband. Until the words “I’m sorry” escaped his lips or appeared in a text message or were plastered across a billboard, I was not going to give him the satisfaction of forgiveness.

More: 10 'firsts' after my divorce that really had my head spinning

In her recent interview with W Magazine, Jennifer Lopez says of her divorce from Marc Anthony: "When my marriage ended, it was not easy to find forgiveness. It wasn’t the dream that I had hoped for, and it would have been easier to fan the flames of resentment, disappointment and anger. But Marc is the father of my children, and that’s never going away. So I have to work to make things right. And that is, by far, the hardest work I do.”

During and after my divorce, I was well-acquainted with that resentment, disappointment and anger. And like JLo, I was struggling to find forgiveness.

It wasn’t until a friend framed forgiveness in a different light that I was able to work my way toward it. She explained that forgiveness wasn’t about giving my ex-husband the satisfaction of being forgiven. After all, he didn’t seem to realize he did anything that warranted forgiveness. No, in this case, forgiveness was about satisfying my own peace of mind and doing what’s best for our kids.

Divorce is stressful enough, and I didn’t need the extra baggage of carrying around all that resentment. But my need to forgive went beyond the fact that my inability to do so was causing me stress. It flat out wasn’t getting me anywhere. It wasn’t getting me closer to an apology. It wasn’t getting me closer to moving on. And it certainly wasn’t getting me closer to a co-parenting relationship I knew we needed to have if we expected our children to come out on the other side of this with minimal emotional and psychological scars.

More: I'm thankful for my divorce even though it tore me apart

As JLo said about Marc Anthony, my ex will always be the father of my children. He will always be a part of their lives, which means he’ll always be a part of mine. If my interactions with him are strained and loaded with bitterness, how can we be good co-parents and make sound decisions that are in the best interest of our children?

With that in mind, one day when my therapist once again told me I had to learn to forgive, instead of listing off all of the reasons forgiveness was impossible, I simply said, “OK.”

I’m not saying forgiveness magically appeared like flipping a switch and that my ex and I became the best of friends. Like JLo, I worked at it. And although time has eased most of that pesky trio of resentment, disappointment and anger, I continue to work at it. I know that my children and my peace of mind are worth it.

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