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Divorce expert shares story of survival and paying it forward

For Maggie Horsburgh, who previously curtailed her well-being in exchange for acceptance, removing the stigma that often follows separation and divorce is part of her motivation
Maggie Horsburgh
Maggie Horsburgh

She's a Certified Divorce Real Estate Expert (CDRE), but if you ask Maggie Horsburgh, the best day on the job is when the ‘For Sale’ sign is no longer necessary.

"[When the client] calls me and says, 'We're cancelling the listing, Maggie. We're going to work on our marriage.' That's a good day," she said.

“Extensively trained as a court-appointed Realtor,” she uses her own healing from separation and divorce to create systems that help a person find financial stability along with the emotional support to stay focused on the journey.

Expert advice

Horsburgh refers to herself as a "neutral third-party," trained to mediate while selling the family home. She's a trained Collaborative Professional and is the first realtor in the country to complete the Certified Divorce Real Estate Expert course, covering "complex transactions, domestic violence, high conflict divorce and un-cooperative spouses."

Referring to her first marriage as a "Stepford wife" existence, Horsburgh admits she's been where her clients are. She recalls feeling "lost" when her 17-year marriage ended.

"You feel very isolated and alone," she said. "And your friends can only do so much. You don't want to be a drain on them. I felt unsafe and hurt. There is a lot of emotion. This can be an overwhelming and scary time. I know firsthand what it's like to face the uncertainty that the breakup of marriage brings. I understand what it's like to lose your ‘normal’ and the need to be heard."  Finding herself on her own and no place to go, the single mother turned to a friend for shelter.

Her second marriage was volatile and abusive, stripping her of her self-worth.  This divorce was equally traumatic.

"I judged myself, and I felt judged; I mean, who wants to walk around saying you have been married numerous times? But I just walked my life because there's only one me living it."

Today, she runs a blog that explores many of the topics she struggled with herself, such as dividing up property (while eliminating emotional attachment) and facing friends, family and co-workers once the news that the divorce is public.

"By focusing on your career while maintaining your physical and mental health, you can set yourself up for a better life post-divorce," she states.

Paying it forward

She and her current husband found each other through a common interest in giving back to the community.  She has been delivering Meals on Wheels since 2009, and together they volunteer at their local church, and run The Lily Pads.

The Lily Pads are a series of suites inspired by the desire to "pay forward the generosity shown" to her during her first divorce.

"I had no place to go," she recalled. "A friend had an empty apartment that she had just bought as an investment property and said, 'Maggie, you can stay there as long as you need to.'"

"I had no credit, no cash, no credit cards. So, I cleaned houses [to be able to] pay [rent]. The children and I slept on mattresses on the floor. I couldn't afford cable, so they watched Pirates of the Caribbean every night for 60 days," she recalled.

Horsburgh, who believes that our rock bottom moments are a redirection toward a life we otherwise wouldn't have allowed ourselves, said the Lily Pads are intended to be a "space to reflect and heal - a safe haven."

"Each one has been designed with its own personality, reflecting some important and influential people in the lives of myself and my husband."

Life lessons

"Everybody wants to stop change and yet change is where life happens," she said as she reached for a book, she claims to have read half a dozen times.

She laughs as she admits to "kissing the pages" the first time she read it. Today, she hands out copies "to clients and friends."

"It's called 'Broken Open,' and it saved my life. It's ear-tagged, highlighted, tear-stained - I've taken it on vacation a few times."

And for Horsburgh, who previously curtailed her well-being in exchange for acceptance, removing the stigma that often follows separation and divorce is part of her motivation. If someone like her existed when she needed guidance, mentorship and reassurance, she might have found healing much sooner than she did.

"This is a non-judgment zone; living small doesn't serve anybody."

Reach out to Maggie at maggie@tapestryagent.com.

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