Four words guaranteed to devastate anyone: I want a divorce.
Divorce is one of the most painful and frightening events a person can experience, and it takes time and energy to get through it and come out whole on the other side.
I’ve been through a divorce, and I’m not going to lie - it was awful. However, there were some things I did in the first weeks after my marriage fell apart that made it bearable and even gave me moments of joy, which although they were fleeting at first, became more frequent and lasted longer as time went on.
It’s been over fifteen years since my divorce, and I am living proof that it is possible to walk through that hell and still create a happy and fulfilling life. Here is a list of ten things I did during the first weeks and months of my divorce that helped me focus more on positivity and less on negativity and rage.
1. Remind yourself of who you were before your marriage, before your ex came along.
So many of us fall in love and make little changes to please the one we love, often without even understanding that we are making substantial revisions to who we are. Now is the time to remind yourself that woman still exists underneath all the emotional turmoil.
Find a photograph of yourself from “before,” from a time when you were happy and felt most like yourself, most like the person you want to be as you move into your future. Put that photo up on your refrigerator, perhaps tape it to the mirror in your bedroom; put it somewhere you will see it each day to remind yourself of who you are, even when you may not feel like that woman.
2. Create a vision board for your future.
Visualize the future you want, once all the craziness of your divorce is over. No matter how far-fetched your dreams may seem right now, find a way to put them in a pictorial format so you can look at them every day to remind yourself that life will be good again.
You can use this board for anything – travel, housing, job, things that make you feel good (like baby animals or ocean sunsets), or even photographs of clothes you love or a haircut you might like to have. It is YOUR vision for YOUR future, so put yourself into it.
A huge part of the devastation that comes with divorce is the loss of specific dreams, and it will help you move forward to see that while perhaps the dreams entwined with your marriage may be gone, there are so many new dreams for you to fulfill.
3. Create new goals for yourself.
It doesn’t have to be a big goal, as long as it is something new and positive. It could be something like getting a new job, making new friends, or it could be getting a new apartment or house. It doesn’t matter how big or small, but make it something to take your focus off your ex, your divorce, and the loss of the dreams associated with your marriage. Anything will work, as long as your energies are on building a bright and new future for yourself.
4. Begin a journaling practice.
Starting a journaling practice will help you examine your choices, your actions, and reactions. Writing it all down in the safe (and private) space of a journal will help you get it all out – whatever “it” may be – so that you never say or write anything to, or about, your ex that someone could use against you.
Journaling will also help you work through the confusion that accompanies divorce, especially when the divorce is not your choice. Aside from a therapist’s office, a journal is the best place to ask “why” without draining the emotional resources of your friends and family, or running up an expensive attorney’s bill.
Journaling gives us open time to decompress and helps remind us that life is not a race. There is no set time frame for you to get through a divorce, but to get beyond it to the life you deserve, you must go through it. Journaling will help.
5. Change your surroundings.
Do something to change your environment. That could mean a complete change – like a new home or apartment, or a new city, or it could be something as small as moving the couch to a different wall in the living room.
Change can be painting a room, getting new sheets (or a new bed), cleaning out that junk closet that has been aggravating you for months or years or getting rid of something that your ex loved and you hated. Remember the ugly 70’s style lamp that your ex's great aunt Sadie gave you when she cleaned out her attic? GONE! Get a new plant. Anything to make your space feel like yours, and less like the space you shared with your ex.
6. Practice self-care.
Now is the time to put yourself first. One of the worst things we do to ourselves when going through stressful times is put our heads down and keep moving, instead of stopping to consider what we need.
Get enough sleep. Drink enough water. Eat foods that make you feel healthy and able. Give yourself some down time to restore and re-energize.
If you know you feel your best when you exercise, take 10 minutes each day to do that. If having your nails and toes buffed and polished makes you feel happy, then do it. Get your hair done. Read. Watch movies. Play the piano for yourself. Buy some fancy coffee or tea and drink it while watching the sunrise or sunset, even just watching the squirrels play.
Do the things that make you feel your best, and the most like yourself.
The all or nothing mindset is harmful, and will stop you dead in your tracks; you will continue to feel lousy and deadlocked. The steps you take don’t need to be perfect, and they don’t need to be enormous, they just need to be forward.
7. Try something new.
Some choices we make in life will preclude making others. You choose to accept a marriage proposal, and the option to date other people becomes unavailable (unless you’ve got a super liberal arrangement with your spouse!). Choosing to have children precludes you from waking up one morning and without making any plans, heading off to travel through Europe on a shoestring budget.
Giving up things for the opportunity to be with the people we love is something we all do every day, and if life goes according to our plans, we don’t think much about it. However, when divorce interferes with our plans, we dwell on all of those things that we gave up, all of those dreams we didn’t pursue.
Don’t do that!
Go skydiving. Travel, even if it’s just taking a hike a trail you’ve never experienced. Play tourist in your city or town. Snap photos and look at where you live as though you’re seeing it for the first time. Try new foods, learn to scuba dive.
The key is to do something that will move you forward, something that will remind you of the amazing woman you are, the woman you may feel as though you left behind when you married.
8. Express appreciation.
Think about the people in your life whom you value and cherish. Do they know how much you appreciate them?
Make the phone call to reconnect with your college roommate and tell her how much her friendship means to you. Invite your sister or brother to have coffee (and if they’re too far away for that, call them). If there is a friendship you’ve meant to pursue, now is the time to do it.
Expressing appreciation accomplishes several things. It helps you build a community of people who make you feel good and who make you feel cared for and supported. It will also help you feel less alone; as you reach out, you’ll remember how many people are in your life.
So, write that note thanking someone for a thoughtful gesture. Make that phone call. Bake that cake or batch of cookies. Go for a walk with a neighbor or the mom at your child’s school. Just tell the people in your life how much you appreciate them.
9. Create an elevator speech.
Create a so-called elevator speech to describe your situation. A traditional elevator speech is a short sales pitch or summary used to quickly and simply define a process, product, service, organization, or event, and its value proposition.
The elevator speech you will create is a summary used to succinctly and directly define your new situation. It should be one or two clear and short sentences.
Once you’ve got it, practice saying it aloud over and over again until you can say it without tearing up, without a catch in your voice. Practice it in the bathroom mirror, in the car, or while you’re folding laundry or cooking or cleaning.
Imagine the following interaction:
Friend: “I’m having a party on Saturday night. Will you and Jack be able to come?”
You: “Thank you for including me, I would love to come! Jack and I are no longer together, however.”
Friend: “Oh, I’m sorry! I didn’t know. What happened?”
You: “Yes, it’s sad, but sometimes things just don’t work out.”
Now imagine this conversation happening without tears and drama. It can happen!
10. Revise your online identity.
When I went through my divorce in the early 2000s, my boss at the time suggested something to me that turned out to be a daily reminder of my strength and resilience; even when I didn't feel it.
It was valuable advice fifteen years ago when the online lifestyle we’ve come to take for granted had only begun to move into the mainstream. Now, however, this is a virtual imperative, given our online existence.
Change your user names. Change your passwords.
From a practical viewpoint, this will secure your accounts to ensure that there are no financial issues with your ex. From an emotional point of view, you can use this as a stepping stone moving forward into the rest of your life as an independent woman.
It doesn’t matter what password you use, as long as you don’t use anything that will remind you of your ex or your life together!
Use words and phrases that will inspire you and help you visualize the future you want, the woman you want to be.
Don’t use anything like ImSoSad2017 or ImissMyEx, DivorceIsHard, or WhyDidHeLeaveMe...
Use something like IamStrong, StrongWomenRule, DreamsAreMyFuture, or MyFutureIsAwesome.
Divorce is hard. It’s excruciating and confusing and terrifying, even for someone who has an independent income source, who doesn’t have children, or who is experiencing an “amicable” divorce.
Don’t get stuck in the muck of divorce and what you believe it says about you or your marriage. The truth is, somewhere between 40-50 percent of first marriage will end in divorce, and all that statistic says about the people in those marriages? It says that they are human and imperfect. Divorce doesn’t need to, nor should you let it, define the rest of your life.
The last and best thing you can do to survive the first months of a divorce is to get help. Find yourself a good support system. That does not mean you should find yourself a bulldog lawyer (although you will want to do that at some point, just don’t utilize your attorney as you would a therapist or coach; it’s too expensive!).
You don’t have to go through divorce alone. I’ve been through it, and I know the most important thing is having a group of people who support you and care about you.
You can get clear on what you want your future to look like, even while you’re slogging through the worst of it – and I can help you push through the thick and muddy parts to find clarity in your situation.
On September 15, I am opening up my 12-week Signature Coaching Program for ten (10) new clients. Click here if you’d like to join a community of like-minded women who will help you turn your divorce inside out, and let me help you move your life beyond deadlocked to divine!
If you’re uncertain whether the Signature Coaching Program is for you, click here to join the free 5-day Journey to Clarity course and schedule a free 30-minute Clarity Session to see if coaching is right for you.