Your divorce is final and you are officially expected to begin a new chapter of your life, physically solo, but laden with an inordinate amount of emotional baggage. How are you going to get through this? Here are 10 ways to recover from your divorce. According to Christine Shay, who just went through her fourth divorce and is proud of how she’s managed them, you can get through your divorce without losing your mind. And maybe even remain friends with your ex.
“There are really two kinds of divorces; the one where you want out more than anything and the kind where the other person wants to leave you, ” says Shay. “Until this divorce, I’d only had the first kind, where there was what appeared to me an insurmountable problem in the marriage, and after couples therapy (and fighting about it) didn’t really help, I decided to leave. My most recent divorce was the second kind; my husband left me to go back to his ex-wife and it was unexpected, sudden and I felt like the rug had been pull out from under me. The former has it’s own challenges: guilt, sadness, but also brings relief. The second one is more like a death — and is more difficult.”
Shay says life is short, and your only choices are to stay mad and let this eat up your life or to move on and to be larger than this event. She offers her top 10 divorce coping skills.
# 1 If your divorce was a surprise, spend the time you need to wrap your head around this.
Repeat to yourself the fact that the other person has decided to leave you and that while you may not understand it, you need to accept it. This takes a while and your earliest days (and nights) will be overwhelmed with this step. You will try to understand, but some things are beyond understanding.
# 2 Tell other people about it.
They will reach out and want to help you. Allow them to do that. Accept that this takes time and that you need to spend more time with other people doing this. Some people feel like telling everyone the meet … strangers on the bus, people in stores. That is okay. You may be someone who needs to talk about it to survive it. People will listen and they will care. Being left is unfair, but it is the human condition — nearly everyone that you tell will reach out and care about you. You will hear stories that will make you feel better about your own situation (like my client whose wife left him right after he broke his back and was going to be in a cast for six months. To survive, he moved in with his parents because he couldn’t do anything for himself. Note: he is able to joke about this now.) See a therapist — this is a wonderful experience where you just get to sit for an hour and tell someone about your pain and they will listen compassionately.
# 3 Cry when you need to.
My 85-year-old mother has a saying, “There is more room on the outside than the inside.” Let it out — you don’t have to be brave. It is understandable to cry. My only caution is to stay away from things that just make you cry a lot more — you may NOT be able to listen to music or watch certain movies for a while. For me, it was difficult to go to church, because it made me cry, since my ex and I always went to church together. I didn’t want to cry publicly through the service. So I’d just go to the social hour afterward. That is okay.
#4 Keep putting one foot in front of the other.
Even if they are baby steps. This will get you through this time. It will be painful. It will be awful. You will not want to get up some mornings. You will — on some level — be in pain most of the time. That is just how this is. However, if you keep putting one foot in front of the other and moving forward, you will get through this, I promise. And in three months, you’ll feel better than you did at three weeks. In six months you will feel better for prolonged periods. And in a year (I’ve read that every cell in your body remakes itself in a year) you will turn a corner and life will suddenly look good again. You can do this.
#5 Make sure you can survive financially.
Nothing makes you feel more desperate than being emotionally AND financially bereft. If you are being left by someone who has been providing for you financially, hire a lawyer to get child support and/or maintenance. Figure out a plan. Take steps to become employed, or if you are already employed, reduce your style of living to match your income. You will actually feel better if you are living within your income. And you can be just as happy in a $200,000 house as you can a $400,000 house. If like me, you are self-employed, make a plan to build up your business. Network more. A second advantage is that this will keep you busy and you need to be busy.
#6 Step back and try to get a global view of what has happened to you.
You may have played a role or you may have NOT be responsible at all. Either way, it will help you if you see this as larger than just about you. If this wasn’t about you and your former spouse, but two people you didn’t know or someone you do know (but who isn’t you) how would it look to you? This is a good time for prayer or for meditation. This is a great time to read books about this kind of crisis. Ten Things to Do When Your Life Falls Apart by Daphne Rose Kingma is a fabulous book. Also, if you are religious, Unexplainable: Pursuing a Life Only God Can Make Possible by Don Cousins is very inspirational. I promise you — you will have epiphanies that inform your understanding of this event and help you move on. The universe has chosen to take you on a very different course than what you were planning on. Now it is up to you to listen and understand what this is going to mean to your future.
#7 Find affirmations that are meaningful to you (and your children if they are on this wild ride with you) and say them frequently.
I tell myself often “You can do this.” when I think about needing to build my business in one of the most economically depressed times of our lifetime. And it is working—I am getting more business. When I knew that we would need to move, I told my kids “I can be just as happy in a $200,000 (or a $100,000 house … or a rental … or a condo) as a I can in this $400,000 house.” That helps all of us prepare for a move with a positive outlook. I reminded myself, “I had a good life before Bill, and I’ll have a good life after Bill.”
#8 Avoid contact with your ex/soon-to-be ex if seeing him/her bothers you. Don’t expect there to be closure.
Don’t expect there to be apologies or contrition. You may still love them — that is normal. In some way, they may still love you. But they have decided that they can’t be with you. Maybe they will change their mind, but statistically that is very rare. So if it is painful to see them or talk to them, try to avoid that. If you have to communicate with them, request that they agree to do that in a way that most reduces your discomfort / pain.
#9 This is an opportunity to make your life what you want it to be.
Do something new. All the things your ex didn’t like — they don’t matter any more. You are starting a life where you get to select the vacation destination, the ice cream flavors, the movies and the TV shows, the music you listen to, what you make for dinner… or don’t make. Recall the things you loved as a child, the class you always wanted to take, the fun things you used to do before you married (but he / she didn’t like them), the things you ALWAYS wanted to do but that didn’t fit well into married life — now you can do them!! Find a way to start integrating some of them into your life. The best thing you will find is that they are ALL YOURS … they don’t even have a tiny, little bit of your ex in them, so you will being expanding your mind in a way that is yours alone.
#10 Eat well, exercise, walk the dog, pet the cat, do things with your children and in general take better care of yourself than you have in the past.
Divorce is one of the most stressful times of your life. The better care you can take of yourself the better you will feel all the way through this. I know … you really just want to get a quart of ice cream, a good movie, get under a quilt and not come out. Okay — maybe a night or two is okay, but you will feel SO MUCH BETTER EMOTIONALLY if you feel better physically.
“Remember the saying, “Living well is the best revenge,” and life is full of good people and good situations and there will be good things in your future, ” says Ms. Shay. “You are just going through a hard time, but some day you will be able to look back at this in the light of the future good things that you will find, and see it as part of the path to those good things.”
Still not convinced? Read these 9 Poignant Divorce Quotes That Will Mend Your Broken Heart