How To Survive Divorce: 15 Tips To Getting Through It

how to survive divorce

By Jackie Pilossoph, Creator and Editor-in-chief, Divorced Girl Smiling site, podcast and app, Love Essentially columnist and author

From a recently separated reader:  I’m going through a divorce after 21 years of marriage and want to know how to survive divorce. Will I survive? I felt strong until we sold our house and I actually moved out. I’m sick, sad, and very depressed. I don’t know who I am without him and I don’t know how to be single and independent. How will I survive? 


Messages I receive like this one from people going through a divorce and wanting to know how to survive divorce are perhaps the most heartbreaking for me. I can only imagine this woman sitting at her computer feeling hopeless, tears in her eyes, typing this message and feeling lost.


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My answer to the question, “Will I survive?” is HELL YES. Not surviving isn’t an option. Your loved ones (and children if you have them) need you to pull it together and not only survive, but do more than survive. But even more so, you owe it to yourself to do more than survive. You deserve a happy life. You will have one if you make good choices from this point moving forward. (More on that in a minute.)


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Before I answer the question, “How will I survive?” I want to address two issues:


1. Selling your house and moving out was probably one of the hardest parts of the divorce for two reasons:

One, it made going through a divorce real and your brain now had to process that this was actually happening. Two, you most likely had some beautiful, wonderful, joyful memories in the house and didn’t want to move out. It’s devastating. But here is some advice. Make sure that wherever you are moving, that it is a place where you feel warm and safe and comfortable, and with a mortgage that feels reasonable to pay every month.

The house can be the size of a shoebox if money is an issue, but it has to be a place you like and want to come home to. Do not settle or move in somewhere because you are feel desperate and are under the gun to find a place. And, make that place a home, whether it’s for you only or you and the kids. It might only be temporary, or you might be there for a long time. Regardless, make it a safe, warm and comfy home.


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2. 21 years is a REALLY LONG time to be with someone, and I can understand your saying “I don’t know who I am without him.”

It can feel lonely, empty, isolating, and scary to be without him, when really, being a couple and being with him is all you really know. So, take some deep breaths (the kind you take in yoga), and connect with your strong, inner self, and your faith. You won’t always feel this way. I know it’s hard to imagine, but someday you will know who you are without him and life will be very very different. I promise that will happen. You have been forced out of your comfort zone, which in my opinion is something most people absolutely hate. But down the road, almost all grow to feel empowered and strong and wonderful about how they learned to handle things, how they never knew what they were capable of, and how things turned out.


In answer to, “How will I survive?”  Here are 15 tips on how to survive divorce:


1. Allow yourself to grieve.

Cry, be angry, be sentimental, miss him, etc. Let yourself have fits and punch your pillow and scream and yell to your friends and family at times. Get it all out because going through a divorce is awful and tragic and unfair!!! BUT, PLEASE don’t let your children see any of this.


2. Acknowledge that you are scared shitless.

Scared to be alone, scared of finances, scared of running your own household, scared of change. It’s OK to be scared. Everyone is.


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3. Do things for yourself.

In other words, don’t stop living because you are going through a divorce. When I was first separated, my girlfriends from high school had planned a weekend trip to Las Vegas and I was going to cancel because my ex had just moved out two weeks earlier. I ended up going and it was wonderful. It was a temporary escape from the chaos and devastation of my new separation. I’m not telling you to hop on a plane, but treat yourself well. Go get a pedicure, go to a museum, cook something you love, go shopping, go see a concert. In other words, don’t feel guilty for doing for yourself. In fact, do one little thing for yourself every single day, no matter how small.


4. Talk to God.

He is listening. Talk to Him every day, even if only for 30 seconds. And always thank Him for the things you have.


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5. Work out.

Even if it’s for 15 minutes, it is scientifically proven that physically activity will help you mentally. If you are having a bad day and you force yourself to hit the gym, your day will change. Almost guaranteed!


6. Connect with other divorced women.

When I was first going through a divorce, I didn’t know any other divorced women. I met a woman in a kickboxing class I was doing one day and she and I decided to meet for dinner. It was kind of awkward at first, but when we started talking, we never stopped. We found we had so much in common and could help and support each other. We ended up becoming great friends!


7. Remember that it’s not YOU, it’s THEM.

I’m just going to be blunt here. Some women who you think are your friends will dump you. They don’t want to be friends with a divorced woman, either because they are scared it will happen to them, or they are afraid you will hit on their husband. It is beyond hurtful and mean, but realize that it’s not you, accept their decision and move on. The friends who stick by you will be your friends forever.


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8. Enjoy your children.

Don’t let the divorce take away the joy you get out of your kids. When you are with them, try not to think about court dates and your ex’s new girlfriend, but rather these beautiful miracles that you have been blessed with. And, when they go to Dad’s house, don’t feel guilty if you enjoy the time alone. And, don’t fall apart because you now find yourself with all this time on your hands and you now feel lonely. Use the time to do things for yourself, to be productive, and to foster peace in your life.



9. Stop looking back.

Try not to think, ‘If only I would have done this…’ or ‘I wish I would have been a better wife’ or ‘I wish I wouldn’t have nagged him so much’ or ‘If only he never met her…’ It’s done. You cannot change what happened. But, you have a hell of a lot of control over what happens next.


10. Rediscover your passions/interests.

What did you do before you were married? What were you good at? What made you happy? This could lead to volunteer work, hobbies or a job. This is the time to figure out and shape what your life is going to be like moving forward. It takes time, and you might want to talk to a career counselor or divorce coach or job coach to help you figure things out.


11. Listen to others rather than talking all the time.

Divorced people like to vent. And vent and vent and vent. I was one of them. That’s OK. But listen to what others have to say, both about themselves and their own lives (everyone has problems.) But also, the ones who truly care about you and know you might have really good ideas for you. So, just listen sometimes.


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12. Minimize contact with your ex.

Try not to bicker and argue and fight. Time away right now is good. You already did all that fighting before you decided to get divorced. Space with him is good right now unless it involves the kids or the divorce process.


13. Eat well.

The food you put in your body affects your mood. Some foods in a good way, some bad. Eat the good ones.


14. Laugh! 

Life is still good! Look around and appreciate things. I saw a license plate the other day that read “I love Dan” and I thought that was really cute. I also saw a man having lunch with his toddler son and he was enjoying the kid so much he was beaming. It was adorable. Little things like this make people smile and laugh. There are countless beautiful things going on every second. They are there for your enjoyment. Take advantage!


15. There are certain things you can control and certain things you can’t.

Know the difference and be wise enough to focus on what you CAN control. I recently read this quote in a prayer book at my synagogue and it really made me think about a lot of things in my life. “Pray as if everything depended on God. Act as if everything depended on you.”


In closing, if you took a photo of yourself today, and then again in 3 months, 6 months, one year and 5 years, all of the photos would look very very different, and I bet that in each one, there will be more strength, happiness and peace. That’s what I wish for every divorced person.

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Jackie Pilossoph

Editor-in-chief: Jackie Pilossoph

Divorced Girl Smiling is here to empower, connect and inspire you. Jackie Pilossoph is the creator and Editor-In-Chief of Divorced Girl Smiling, the site, the podcast and the app. A former television journalist and newspaper features reporter, Pilossoph is also the author of four novels and the writer of her weekly relationship column, Love Essentially. Pilossoph holds a Masters degree in journalism and lives in Chicago with her two teenagers. The author of the novels, Divorced Girl Smiling and Free Gift With Purchase, Pilossoph also writes the weekly dating and relationships advice column, “Love Essentially”, published in the Chicago Tribune Pioneer Press and the Chicago Tribune online. Additionally, she is a Huffington Post contributor. Pilossoph holds a Masters degree in journalism from Boston University.

20 Responses to “How To Survive Divorce: 15 Tips To Getting Through It”

  1. Heather

    I am so glad I found your site. I have been with my husband for 30 years. We had separated but were trying to work things out. He told me everything was fine and we would always be together but when he said he was going fishing, I found out he was with a 23 year old girl in the Dominican. I have never felt so much pain in my life and really cannot see how I will learn to live happily without him.

    • Jackie Pilossoph

      Oh I am so so sorry this happened to you. You must feel angry and hurt and shocked. The cheating isn’t your problem, it is HIS problem. You do what you need to do to protect yourself and live the best life moving forward you possibly can. When things like this happen, it’s easy to be really angry about it, but over time, you will see that it was all for the best. I know that’s hard to imagine right now, but it’s true. xoxox

  2. Michele Luther

    I am going through a divorce after 26 years. Some days are easier, some are not. It is especially difficult for me getting through the holidays. I feel so lonely and miss him a lot. I am angry that he gave up on our life together. Thanks for this blog, it helps me knowingI am not the only one feeling this pain.

    • Jackie Pilossoph

      read the blog I am about to publish. You are going to have a wonderful 2019!!! I know it. xoxo

  3. Michele Englebert

    I have been officially divorced for 11 days now. I was married for 25 years, but felt alone most of that time. I look forward to reading your blog. I know it will help me adjust to this new chapter in my life.

    • Jackie Pilossoph

      I wish you all the best in your new life. Be patient. It takes time, but just enjoy the peace of being out of a bad situation. And remember that you don’t need a spouse to not feel alone. To not feel alone, you need to feel secure within yourself, have self-love, and surround yourself with people who love and care for you. Plus, you are never alone because God is with you. xo

    • Sally

      I completely understand. I felt so alone in my marriage. Sometimes I think I wasn’t really married at all even though we were married for 17 years. This is because we fought so much and were so unhappy.

  4. Veronica Harrison

    First time reading or seeing this site. I’ve been married for 31 I’m going through a separation after being locked out of my home by my spouse. It is not easy but by the grace of God I’m going to make it, I’m not really scared but it is painful after so many years of faithful devotion and dedication. Enjoyed and inspired by the sharing of your blog..

    • Jackie Pilossoph

      So sorry you are going through this. Yes, God is with you and you are stronger than you think. xoxo

  5. Deeann

    Was married for 17 years. He now resides with side chick. My divorce is almost over. Each day, as it gets closer, I am excited to close the old door to the past and fling open the next one. I have learned a great deal from this divorce process. The faster I have gotten to the word “acceptance” the more peace I have found. God has been faithful. I have learned to be more trusting in a direction that’s beneficial. I have learned to turn quickly away from any old opinions my ex shares with me. The more space I make for learning and becoming peaceful, the less room and space I have for nonsense and opinions that I don’t respect or require any longer. I respect everybody trudging through this process. May God be with us all and may we seek peace for ourselves with a vengeance.

  6. Jim

    I am getting a divorce after 30 years. Wife decides she doesn’t want to be married any more and doesn’t want to try. It is painful and I have okay days and not okay days. I feel betrayed but we are good friends. Right now it’s hard to see life afterwards but I’m staying positive and focusing on self love for myself. She wants to remain friends but not sure if this is wise.

  7. Greta James

    I really loved what you said about not thinking about the past because you cannot change it, what happened happened, so what’s next. Last week my cousin was telling me that she and her husband have been fighting a lot and she is thinking it might be time to consider divorce. I know she really wants things to go smoothly for her kids so I wonder if professionals would know how to help things go well.

  8. Eileen Benson

    It was interesting when you talked about how working out is a good idea because it’s been proven to improve our mental state. My husband and I have decided to get divorced because we’ve been married for five years and have grown apart over time. Thanks for sharing these tips I can use to help me stay positive as we start the divorce mediation process.

  9. Aarti

    You’ve shared so many positive pieces of advice. It will help many women going through rough times because of divorce. Appreciate the time and effort you took to put all this in words. Thanks a ton!

  10. Marie Olive Blais

    My advice after separation – for those who need a step-by-step plan (as I did)
    1- Hug yourself in those really tough moments
    2- Learn to draw – every second spent trying to draw a box in 3-D is a second your brain is free from thinking about your ex – so many free on-line videos. Also you can draw stuff like … a cage with a black bird standing between you and the open air 🙂
    3- Use on-line free translator (such as Reverso) to write down your deepest feelings – it takes a lot away from the pain when you have to look up words like “shame”, “anger” and “humiliation” in Italian
    4 – Celebrate and be grateful for every embarassing moment you go through from this day forward – how can you think about your ex when you have to hide a stain on your dress? Or if you raised your voice at the waitress and feel really bad about it. All about giving your brain a new type of food, even if it’s junk food for now
    5- Remember: it does take two years – so use 1 to 4 until you get there – In my case, drawing became making watercolor greeting cards (never would have known I could draw, much less paing)
    P.S. Left September 2017 (31 year marriage) and still dream that I’m telling my husband off – So still a work in progress but I can honestly say that I have moved on and flirting with older gentlemen and even had a fling at 61!! So keep the faith, IT DOES GET BETTER.

  11. Rebecca Gardner

    I like your suggestion to use our alone time for productive activities that bring us peace. My husband and I want to start looking for a divorce mediation service to work with because we’ve realized that would be the best way to protect the happiness of our family. Thanks for sharing these tips I can use if I start to feel down or overwhelmed throughout the process!

  12. Divorced

    I am having a divorce right now and your story is incredibly useful! Thank you for marvelous tips!

  13. Ginger

    I’m having a divorce now and this gives me a hard time. I started to look for people who can help me with this. And I landed to a family lawyer from Times Lawyer ( here in Sunnybank Hills who guide me what to do. You guys need someone to help you with this, either a therapist or a lawyer. Good luck to us! Keep fighting!


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