Divorce at any time in life is difficult. Splitting up comes with complications and anxieties. Even if you initiated the divorce and feel ending your marriage is “for the best” where everyone is concerned, starting over may be intimidating — or even downright scary. But you can learn a lot from those who have been there, done that, and come out on the other side of divorce.
Here are four strategies from Martha Bodyfelt, divorce coach and author of Surviving Your Split:
- Take One Step At a Time. Divorce brings about a lot of change. The very thought of starting over can be overwhelming, especially if it involves moving to a new home, creating new friendships or even navigating estranged family relationships. Rather than trying to invent your life all at once, try to approach one piece of the puzzle at a time. “Planning where you want to be six months or a year from now and then implementing those steps has bigger dividends than struggling to make it through the day,” says Bodyfelt. Then, make short-term and long-term plans. Set goals. Ask yourself where you want to be in six months or a year. Don’t try to tackle what the rest of your life will look like all at once.
- Address Anger and Grief Appropriately. It’s natural to feel a sense of loss when a marriage ends. Most divorced people go through the stages of grief. When you’re older and divorcing, those feelings — coupled with anger and resentment — may be magnified. “When you strip away the heartache of splitting from your spouse, divorce is actually a business transaction: dividing assets and debts and moving on,” Bodyfelt says. “That’s not to minimize your decades-long marriage, but it’s absolutely critical to keep emotions at bay when dealing with the business side of things.” Working with a skilled divorce attorney and an equally skillful therapist can help you maintain a professional tone with your divorce proceedings while sorting through your emotions.
- Advocate for Yourself. Now is the time to find your voice. If you allowed your spouse to make the financial and other important decisions in the marriage, this is your chance to shine. Become knowledgeable about the divorce process, and find an attorney who understands your needs and complements your personality. But Bodyfelt advises to do your own due diligence, too. “The only way to ease that fear and uncertainty is to educate yourself about the process,” she says. Online resources (like this blog), support groups and community classes can help you gain a better understanding of what to expect from the divorce process.
- Create a Self-Care List. Ultimately, divorce is a process. Even if uncontested and simple, resolving all the emotional, legal and physical implications can’t be accomplished overnight. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed or frustrated by the details, and the time to fend off these feelings is not as you’re spinning out of control. Be proactive and create a list of healthy, wholesome activities that sooth your body, mind and soul. Your list may include simple mood-changing tactics such as: taking a long walk, painting or drawing, soaking in a warm bath, preparing your favorite healthy meal, going to a movie alone (or with a friend), writing a family memoir (leave your ex out of it for now), attending a yoga or meditation class, or cleaning out clutter from your closet or junk drawer. Keep your list in a visible place, like on your fridge, so whenever a wave of “What should I do now?” strikes, you’ll have plenty of options.
Most of all, remember that whatever difficulties you face, they won’t last forever. Handling the stressors that are in your life today by taking care of yourself, maintaining perspective, and seeking skilled legal and emotional support will ease your way through the tough days so you can get onto your new life.