When you find yourself facing divorce, and wondering how to go about surviving a divorce, several things can be spinning around in your mind. You may be relieved, having wanted to break free from a marriage that has not been serving your best interests. You may be blindsided, shocked and deeply wounded that your spouse is done trying to make things work in your marriage. You may feel numb, not sure how you ended up there and unsure what to do next.
No matter where you are with your feelings in the beginning, my primary message for you is two-fold: First, you are not alone, and second, what no one can effectively convince you of while you’re in the thick of it is that you’re about to have the opportunity to create a life even better than you ever imagined on the other side of this tragic, traumatic, and horrible experience of divorce. In other words, surviving a divorce isn’t only a given, but you will do more than survive.
You will experience a broad range of emotions as you go through your divorce … and soon realize that all of those feelings are perfectly normal. As someone who went through a divorce, and a Certified Divorce Coach, I have some advice on surviving a divorce.
Here are 10 tips for you to make things as easy as possible to get through the early stages of your divorce:
1.Come up with your “elevator pitch.”
Come up with an explanation you feel comfortable sharing with anyone from your coworker to your cousin to your neighbor. You need a quick statement that will communicate what needs to be said without inviting a longer discussion. If you have this, you won’t find yourself caught in conversations that turn awkward and may deplete you when all you really need is support and a smile.
Joe and I have decided to separate. We’re confident that we’ll work out the best possible schedule for the kids. Thank you for your concern.
I’m in the process of a divorce, which has been difficult but I’m doing OK right now. I’ll let you know if I need anything and appreciate your support as always.
When someone doesn’t get the hint and continues to pry, asking questions about where you’ll live, etc, but you don’t want to talk more, it is perfectly acceptable to say something like:
I truly appreciate it, but that’s all I want to share right now.
Thank you again, but I don’t want to talk about it right now.
2.Draw a very close circle of support.
Support means at least two people you need available to you whenever, however, and wherever possible. For me, part of divorce survival meant a few girlfriends who knew every thought, every feeling, and were there for me every moment something happened.
Find these people in your life, identify at least two people, who you can call at 3:47 a.m. crying. People who won’t judge you, who won’t do anything but be with you in the way you need them to be. If you’re thinking you feel bad asking anyone to do this for you, think about the fact that you would do the same. This is quite literally what friends are for.
3.Do your research on the process.
If you haven’t decided on the process, do your research. The typical types of divorce are Negotiation & Divorce Litigation, Collaborative Divorce, Meditation, Arbitration and Pro-Se. Research these online as a starting point.
Once you know more, get recommendations for legal divorce professionals in your area and talk to at least three (3) professionals before making a choice. I work with my clients to put together a list of questions to ask before hiring a legal professional, which helps to ensure the process will go smoothly and in your best interests.
4.Start to think about building your divorce support team.
When I first was going through my divorce, I assumed I needed to hire an attorney, that my husband would do the same, and then we would be done. From a legal standpoint, that was technically true, but I needed so much more professional help as a result of my divorce.
Common components of a divorce support team include a combination of the following: Legal Professional + Divorce Coach + Therapist + Child Therapist + Mediator + Mortgage Broker + Real Estate Agent + Certified Divorce Financial Analyst (CDFA) + Accountant + Support Groups. And, there could be more!
You may need a different support team than a friend needed. Think through the team you need and be sure you feel comfortable with the people you hire during the process. You don’t have to seek these people out all at once, just be open to building your team when you need it. Ask for qualified referrals for people who specialize in working with divorce clients.
5.Change your social media habits immediately.
There may be a time in the future when you and your ex can be friends on social media, but that time is not now. You need a thawing out period and I promise you nothing good is going to come from looking at photos and comments posted by your ex, your ex’s family, your ex’s childhood best friend, or your ex’s boss.
Also avoid “vague-booking” or other such public cries for help unless contained in a legitimate, private group discussion. Vague-booking is a slang term for someone who posts a vague yet highly personal (and usually emotional) statement on Facebook such as:
Can someone please explain why bad things always happen to me and no one else?
I knew it would be bad, I just didn’t know it would this bad. I hate my life.
Start using social media in more productive ways related to your recovery from divorce. Use online platforms to find helpful support groups like the Divorced Girl Smiling Facebook Group page. Follow uplifting accounts who post positive messages. Social media can be helpful, but you have to create really strict boundaries with yourself before it does more harm than good.
6.Try something new, on your own terms.
Life as you knew it has been shaken to the core, and it’s time to shake up your routine to let new things into your life that will help you heal. No matter your situation, you’ve likely found yourself with a schedule change of some kind, and maybe even more free time.
This is your opportunity to spend time doing something you always wanted to do but your ex or your schedule didn’t allow. Now is the time to learn to play the guitar, take up knitting, write your novel, obsess over craft projects, or sign up for a new fitness class. Your life was interrupted by divorce partially on someone else’s terms; surviving a divorce means it’s time to interrupt your life on your own terms doing something that fills you with positive energy.
7.Say no to invitations, unless you feel a “full body yes”.
When I was considering taking a new job years ago, my mentor said to me, “Is it a full body yes?” This stuck with me and I used it while I was going through my divorce. During your divorce, you’ll probably have people reaching out to you to invite you to things (with good intention) and you’ll have obligations you think you just can’t avoid.
If you don’t want to go somewhere, just politely say no. This is great practice for boundaries. You are allowed to be as selfish as needed right now and all you have to say is that you can’t make it this time but you hope to be invited again in the future.
I backed out of a family wedding right after I started my divorce process. I felt badly for missing it but it was a “full body no” for me at that time.
8.Don’t obsess over what your kids are doing with your ex.
This is really challenging for so many of my clients at first. You went from being with your kids almost 100% of the time and now they’re with your ex for part of it. To survive divorce and keep sanity, don’t obsess over what’s going on over there.
You may think they’re spending too much time playing video games, or that your ex doesn’t stock the pantry with the right foods or do laundry often enough. You don’t have any control over what happens over there and it is best to let it go as much as possible. You can do small things, like throw an extra shirt or snack in your kid’s backpack if you think they will need it for the weekend.
9. Avoid comparing yourself to others.
When you start meeting other people who have been through divorce you will hear similar stories and hopefully even bond over shared feelings. Remember that you will process and recover in your own way and at your own pace. There’s no “right way” to get through your divorce. Be kind to yourself as you manage through.
10.Look for happiness on the horizon.
For better or worse, your divorce will be a process and if you’re willing to look inward, it can also be an enlightening journey. There’s nothing you can do to go back and change the past and unfortunately none of us can predict the future.
One of the wonderful aspects of recovering from your divorce is that you have the opportunity to own your happiness today, in the present, and I promise you there is a much better future ahead for you, and that you will survive your divorce. Even in your darkest moments, remember that one day this will all be over and you will be living a life you absolutely love.
Andrea Javor is a Certified Divorce Coach and founder of Happily Better After, which offers one-on-one divorce coaching. Her mission is to bring sanity to the process of divorce, saving clients time, money, and energy, so they have what they need to create a life they love living. Andrea works with people considering divorce, in the middle of the process, and those who are post-divorce. She has a sweet spot in helping families affected by mental illness. Andrea’s coaching business mirrors what she learned after going through two divorces of her own: It’s not what happens to us, it’s how we handle it. To learn more or to work with her, visit www.happilybetterafter.com.
Like this article? Check out, “20 Things I Wish I Could Have Told My Newly Separated Self”