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"What happened when my husband left me and made it clear he was never coming back."

This was not my plan…

Nine years ago, every certainty I thought I knew about life collapsed. That sounds so dramatic now, but that was absolutely my truth then. I had to, quite suddenly, create a career that would provide financially for my three little people and myself and work out what my new version of success would be. I had no idea what happiness was going to look like going forward.

My beautiful life, the previous chapter in my story, had abruptly come to a very definite end. The old story of me was a simple one and I had loved it. All I had ever wanted was a great marriage to my best friend, to be a mostly-at-home mum and to coach some clients on the side because I had always loved to work.

Yet here I was, feeling ill-equipped to be a single full-time working mum and I was overwhelmed by how much there was to do and learn. I was that woman! The one who seemed to have it all. My family and friends were just as shocked as I was when my husband at the time left me and made it clear he was never coming back.

In that moment, I had to find a way to be both the mum and the dad. I went from feeling grateful for my life and planning a trip to Africa, to sitting on the shower floor hoping the sound of the water would stop the children from hearing me cry. There are days I don’t remember and moments of grief that are etched on my heart forever.

I was engaged to him at 19 and married at 21. I had no idea who I was without him. ‘Divorced’ and ‘single mum’ were not labels I had ever considered I would have to own. I didn’t know back then that there were new labels coming and an adventure bigger than any dreams I’d ever had.

I chose to trust the future version of me…

We all have a story with lessons to learn and challenges to cope with. Bad things really do happen to good people. But it’s what we do in the middle of a crisis that counts. The easy option would have been to go and get a job. But if I was going to build an amazing life, I needed to make amazing choices. Simmering beneath the surface of uncertainty was a voice that I now know was the inner-entrepreneur and woman who was going to find a way to be successful in life.

my life after divorce Lisa Stephenson
I made it one of my goals to save up and take my kids on a dream holiday. Image: Supplied.

I was quietly determined to draw on everything I had ever learned, read and experienced. I decided I was prepared to do what was required to be the very best version of me. I needed to attach myself to that goal and my children needed me to as well.

I started to think big and do the work on myself. I said yes to opportunities that were scary and decided I would do the work that is required to write a brand new story for myself. I surrounded myself with people who would tell me the truth, challenge my thinking and nurture my ideas.

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The future version of me was calling and she would be a resilient, successful and happy woman with financial independence. Importantly, not only would my children be OK, but they would thrive.

An Italian affair...

I literally made a poster sized collage of what life would look like in five and ten years’ time. Guess what? With hard work, passion and commitment I have achieved nearly all of it. I have a global consulting business that I am proud of and I have written a book. I have a private coaching practice with an incredible client base. I’ve bought a home that is a sanctuary for my children and I, but here’s the coolest bit: I set an ambitious goal to take my children out of school for an entire term so we could live, explore and heal in Italy.

It was so worth it.
Me and my family in Italy. Image: Supplied.

It took years of planning, dreaming and saving. It was so worth it. We ate pizza and gelati every day. We slept in late and didn’t have dinner until 10pm most nights. We missed trains, got lost and felt earthquakes. We sat on top of the leaning tower of Pisa, and on a different day we pretended we could hear the tigers in the Colosseum. We went on the ‘canoes’ (as Mabel called the gondolas) in Venice. We caught the chairlift to the top of Capri and went ice skating outside at 11pm in Lake Como. We avoided riots in Florence and laughed at the waiters serving my 15-year-old wine in Tuscany.

Resilience can create happiness...

By embracing the pain, grief and discomfort I became a woman, mum, friend and leader I am proud of. I discovered my inner entrepreneur and looked at the colours of Cinque Terre, Italy with my children. I don’t wish divorce, emotional bankruptcy, miscarriage or financial loss upon anyone, but I wouldn’t change my story for anything.

Lisa Stephenson is the author of Read Me First (Major Street Publishing), a book filled with thought-provoking coaching questions, strategies for success and life’s must-haves. Lisa draws on decades of experience as a global speaker, leadership consultant and success coach. She is also the founder of the global, Australian-based consulting firm, Who Am I Projects. Over the years she has worked with some of the biggest global names, CEOs, elite athletes and entrepreneurs. In this book, Lisa will challenge and inspire you, while holding you accountable for going after what you need and want. For more information on Lisa go to her website

If you want to follow in Lisa's shoes and embark on a whirlwind holiday, here are some travel trips from savvy travellers... just in case tragedy strikes.

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