I didn’t expect my divorce; I didn’t want it and I wasn’t prepared to deal with it. As a business leader, I knew I needed to keep it together at work during this time, but I truly struggled. In the end, I missed countless days of “real” work and, for a time, wasn’t really “there.”
Divorce is hard, whether you’re expecting it or not. And maintaining a high level of performance through the long, often devastating process is even more difficult.
A complete reset was in order after the disruption, which could have derailed my career. Instead, it became an opportunity to reset my professional life and revitalize my work. Through support from a wonderful therapist and new activities, I built up my work strength and regained focus over a 20-month period. My new routine included the following things.
Strengthening an important new friendship
I was fortunate to connect with another business leader managing similar professional responsibilities who was in the process of finalizing her own divorce. Together, we experienced the grieving process. The mutual support was invaluable. We got one another through those initial few months and came to terms with becoming single parents. We went on long walks, talked by phone daily and shared stories. Importantly, we talked at length about keeping our customers, our teams and our boards stable and content.
Talking to my team
It’s awkward, but being honest with your team is critical. The conversations weren’t drawn out (I stripped them of gory details), and I had them in person. This was my chance to let a close-knit, high-functioning team know that I would need to take some time off, and that their support and continued excellence were invaluable. Remember, these people are counting on you and your leadership, and you are needed.
During challenging and less-focused moments at work, I took walks for a change of scenery or practiced my breathing. I kept meaningful quotes near my desk. Although at times it seemed impossible to look past that very day I was struggling to get through, I knew it was important to think about the long term.
I kept myself busy with physical and relaxation activities scheduled regularly each week. Before work, I exercised. Evenings, I spent time with the kids. And I journaled every day. This structure was essential to my well-being, and all were activities that made me feel good in some way. The new rhythm got me back into the right mindset for work and improved my focus — routine and regular care were invaluable.
In the end, my divorce has ultimately pushed me in a new professional direction and become a life-affirming learning experience. I was blindsided, but the dust has settled; trauma ultimately helped me focus on work, my community and myself in new ways. In sharing, it is my hope that others will find some peace and focus during similar challenges — chaos and disruption can lead to significant life-changing opportunity.
Tommy Bruno is the general manager and executive director of WAPS 91.3FM The Summit where he manages several community-minded, award-winning broadcast services, including The Summit, The 330, KIDJAM! Radio and Rock and Recovery.