If you’re reading this, you’re likely just embarking on the super weird, potentially unexpected, and horrifically awful (you wouldn’t wish this on your worst enemy) path of divorce.
No matter where we’re at in the process—whether the very beginning or the very end—we might feel upset, frustrated, a little angry (perhaps), and we might be having a sort of identity crisis.
I’m recently divorced and have connected with someone else going through the same thing. These are some of the thoughts and feelings I had when I was in the thick of it. I decided to write this down for her and for anyone else looking for resources during a time when it is so hard to pick up the phone and call someone for help. You may relate to one or two. Of course, if you don’t, that’s totally okay, because no two divorces are the same.
1. See a therapist. This was my first phone call when I saw divorce on the horizon. It feels good to talk to an objective third party who can help us sort through all of our emotions.
2. Make a list of all the things you didn’t like about your marriage. This is hugely helpful. Do not share this with anyone. This is just for you. It will help you see things objectively and validate why the relationship didn’t work. You’ll be surprised how quickly you make the list and how easy it is to add to it over time. I kept this in the Notes app of my iPhone for easy access if I was feeling weak or unsure. (Because those feelings will come naturally.)
3. Talk to someone who is going through the same thing. When I was getting divorced, there was a trusted colleague of mine who was going through it at the same time. Although no divorce is the same (they’re all like really sad snowflakes), it’s good to talk to someone who gets it.
4. Prepare for sleepless nights. If you consider yourself a human who has trouble sleeping anyway, prepare yourself. Although I can sleep through a hurricane, the anxiety and depression I felt during my divorce made it impossible for even me to sleep. I stocked up on Melatonin to help me through. I’m grateful I had it when I needed it. I also recommend Valerian Root, which is potent and doesn’t make you quite as groggy in the morning.
5. Feel the feelings. You need to let them wash over you—let them have their moment. Express them however you need: crying, whimpering, or tossing and turning on your sofa.
6. Download Headspace. Headspace is a series of guided meditations in an app for people who don’t normally meditate. Meditating made a huge difference in how I was able to cope with all the feelings and practice mindfulness in real-time. Mindfulness goes from being a concept you’ve only heard about to becoming a totally normal thing you can train your brain to do. Headspace really changed the way I process and behave with regard to my feelings. I’m so grateful I found it.
7. Get back in touch with old hobbies. One day, I went to Barnes & Noble, a place I used to go with my ex, but also somewhere I’d go on a normal Saturday. There I was, wearing sunglasses to hide tears. I circled table after table until I saw the bargain table. My inner shopper cannot resist discount stickers. I found a book called Something Borrowed by Emily Giffin and bought it on a whim…I read it in less than three days and picked up the sequel immediately afterward. This book revived my love of reading. After these two books were four more. I’m reading nonstop! If reading isn’t your thing, I recommend diving into podcasts or TED Talks and just seeing what’s out there.
8. Read The Art of Imperfection by Brene Brown. This book was hugely impactful to developing my relationship with myself. Specifically, I actually had this weird issue where I didn’t feel comfortable posting anything on social media after my divorce. This book helped me find my voice again. I now accept myself, love myself, and see my divorce as a stopping point on my journey, instead of being my whole journey.
9. Talk to your friends. It’s important to say something to everyone you love even if you share friends with your ex. There is no need to slam your ex to anyone—let friends do that messy stuff for you! Even if it seems like they have wonderful lives with perfect babies and McMansions, that they wouldn’t relate to you, or that they don’t care about you—all of that is in your head. The truth is that if you haven’t heard from someone about what you’re going through, they either don’t know yet (because you haven’t told them) or they don’t know what to say. Get ready to talk. You had more in common with your friend than just the fact that you were both are married people.
10. See your friends. Not only do I want you to talk to them, but make one friend date per week. It’ll be enough to keep you from turning into a total hermit. This part takes effort, but will pay for itself.
11. One more thing about your friends: You may think they have perfect lives, but the truth is you are getting out of a relationship that was no longer serving you. You are strong for doing so! You should be proud. Just because you didn’t think you’d be where you are now doesn’t mean you’re not where you are supposed to be. (Hint: you are.) The grass is always greener, so take off your rose-colored glasses.
12. Throw things away. Getting rid of things (or people) that are no longer serving you is one way to do this. Another way is to clear a new space for yourself to sleep. I bought a new mattress when I got a divorce! Even if you just got new sheets, it makes a difference. Donate old clothes that remind you of your ex and make a fresh start for yourself wherever you’ve decided to stay.
13. Decide what you want now that you’re free. If you never want to hear the wedding march again, that’s fine. If you know what you want in your next relationship, that’s good. If all you know is what you don’t want, then that’s great. Be clear in some way and this will help you feel a million times better.
14. Consider hypnosis. During the last leg of the healing process, you will hit a point where you’ve tried everything and you’re waiting for that last big breakthrough to take you the rest of the way. For me, it was seeing a hypnotist who helps with self-confidence. Seeing her was definitely a pinnacle moment in my journey. I can honestly say I feel a lot of inner peace after going.
15. Take everything one day at a time. This is the tough one. You will want all this feeling-nonsense and emotional pain to be over much more quickly than it actually will be. So please take it easy. Take things one day at a time. Be gentle with yourself.
Take it from me: Life is a series of learning experiences. Every horrible thing that flies in your face is an opportunity to grow and become better. I believe we are here to learn to be kinder, gentler, and more empathetic beings. So, keep looking ahead and put one foot in front of the other.
Author: Liz Theresa
Image: Mia Nolting/Flickr
Editor: Catherine Monkman