October 26, 2016

A 3-step Plan for Getting Back Up when Divorce Knocks us Down.

Brook Cagle/Unsplash

Divorce can knock even the most stable of us off our feet—I can vouch for this.

I remember thinking that I had it all and knew where my life was going, and that my husband and I had a bright future ahead of us, together.

That was, until my marriage failed.

Everything I had known and how I defined myself—things that took years, even decades, to build—got thrown out the window in a matter of months.

It was like stumbling in the dark. I remember feeling completely lost, like I had no idea what my life would become. This feeling went on for ages until I realized something—feeling lost during divorce is merely a matter of perspective. A simple change in how I viewed the world was the kick-start I needed to put the panic behind me, rebuild my confidence, and move on with my life.

The following mindset shift helped me get back on my feet.

We may feel lost because our GPS is no longer working.

So many of us had our entire lives invested in our marriage and our families. It was the lens with which we viewed the world. Our concept of being a spouse and a partner was our GPS. Whatever decisions we made—whether they were career-oriented, financial, even personal—were seen within the “well, is it good for the marriage and is it good for the family?” lens.

But when marriage ends, that GPS and final destination are thrown out the window.

However, that does not mean that we are destined to live the rest of our lives with no direction.

After divorce, we must discover our new final destination.

Those feelings of overwhelm and “what am I supposed to do now?” come from a singular place.

Feeling lost comes from not knowing what our vision is.

Think about it—we knew where we were going before the divorce happened. Maybe our vision was to grow old together and be comfortable and happy.

But now that this vision has changed, it’s time for a new one.

Many of us feel lost because our sense of purpose has changed after divorce. We are so busy dealing with the roller coaster of emotions or trying to figure out the financial and logistical craziness, that we have not done the one thing we must do.

We must step back and say, “What is my vision? Where do I want to be?”

Identifying that vision becomes the new final destination. And until we identify that vision for ourselves and then take the steps to get there, it is impossible to move forward and find our way.

Finding what makes us happy is self-preservation. We can function on auto-pilot and go through daily motions, but it’s almost impossible to move on and reclaim the happiness we deserve unless we figure out that vision. We must do this for ourselves.

So how do we get rid of the roadblocks?

The concept of finding a vision doesn’t have to be complicated or time-consuming. This exercise worked for me:

  1. Ask yourself: What do I want?

If that seems overwhelming to you, just start small.

I want to be happy in my home.

I want to feel confident again.

  1. Then ask yourself: “What is stopping me from getting what I want?”

The things that are stopping us—the obstacles to our vision—are usually the daily bullsh*t we face that frustrates us.

What’s stopping me: I am staying in the home although he has left, but I don’t know how to shake the feeling that he is still “here.” There are still pictures of us together, some of his books are here, and I feel like everything just seems frozen in time.

What’s stopping me: I didn’t feel great when we were having marital troubles, but now that I’m alone, I feel like my self-esteem is completely gone. I feel like I don’t have any purpose and it’s awful. How do I rebuild?

  1. Now, write down what you are going to do to start overcoming those obstacles.

We don’t need a D-Day battle plan. All we need are simple steps we can start taking today. These are the plans I created for myself when I felt stuck after my divorce.

Obstacles-Be-Gone Plan: I will make my home my own by removing everything that reminds me of the two of us together (photos, books, mementos) and putting them in storage. I do not have to decide what to do with them now—I can figure that out later. If I am on a budget but want to make my home my own, I will rearrange the furniture, peruse some home goods stores for low-cost accent pieces, and display art or photos that make me happy and reflect my tastes—things that define me and not my marriage. When I have a little bit more money, I will look at buying new furniture and bedding that I love that reflect me.

Obstacles-Be-Gone Plan: I am not feeling great about myself right now. There are several things I can do to change that. If I am not already seeing a therapist (or one that I really like), I will start searching (and asking for recommendations) to find someone who can work through this process with me. I am also going to do things for myself for a change. I am going to list things that I like to do—hobbies, physical activities—and put them on a calendar so I remain accountable and committed to doing things that I love. It’s time to put myself first.

Taking this step gives us two helpful things. First, we now have something that sticks—something we can use to help boot out those silly roadblocks. And second, the vision of knowing what we want—our final destination. With the steps to get there, nothing can stop us.

As I look back on where I was when I integrated this new mindset, the direction ahead of me looks far better than what I left behind.


Author: Martha Bodyfelt

Image: Brooke Cagle/Unsplash

Editor: Nicole Cameron

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