The first night alone after separation can be really painful, with feelings that include fear, loneliness, and insecurity. One recently separated woman posted this on the Divorced Girl Smiling Facebook group page:
It’s my first night alone after separation, the first night by myself without the kids since this nightmare began 6 months ago. It’s also the first night they are sleeping at their dad’s girlfriend’s place with her kids as well. Any advice?
My advice for the first night alone after separation
Life after divorce or separation requires us to envision a new reality. And that comes with many adjustments. The biggest one for me was not being able to tuck in my kids at bedtime . . . every night, especially that first night alone after separation.
The thought of my kids not sleeping in their beds, knowing they are safely tucked in at my home was something I developed the courage to cope with the more that time passed by. It is something you get used to over time and it does take mental strength and physical effort.
However, when you add the dynamic of a new partner in their life I know that it takes your emotions to a whole other level. And I know because it was something I had to get used to before our divorce was even finalized. So I relate to your emotions and will share with you what worked for me and what I see working with the clients I work with.
It begins with preparing yourself to process the wide range of emotions that will make an appearance. And when I say prepare, I mean expect you will feel a range of emotions and to do your best staying out of judgment when they arise. You get to lean into whatever comes up and have some tools in your back pocket to get through it all. If you do not allow it to flow through you, it will persist.
When we are thinking about what our kids are doing and/or who they are with, we are choosing to focus outward instead of inward. And what that means is giving away your power to your ex spouse. I practice catching myself when I go into storytelling land around what they are or are not doing and quickly shift into a thought about me or something I get to do. It takes practice and mindfulness or awareness of our thoughts without judgement. And here are some ways I do that.
3 Steps to Take to Shift Your Focus For that First Night Alone After Separation–And all Nights Moving Forward!
1. Alone is a choice
When we sink into what is missing vs focusing on the opportunities that exist, we stay in a dark place of loneliness and sadness. When we focus on what is possible not having our kids around, we empower ourselves to create a new life for ourselves.
I was the mom who had to leave the house to get a moment to myself and when my ex and I separated, suddenly I felt guilty ever having those feelings. Because suddenly I was alone in our house with no one asking me to help them, do something, etc. And while it took me some time and practice to shift, I did so by thinking about all the things I was never able to do.
What I call ME time – with friends, myself, nature, etc. And how about getting lost in a good old fashioned book?! What used to be luxuries were suddenly available to me. Embrace the choice to be with others vs choosing alone.
2. Embrace the Silence
It was rare that I could hear a moment of silence in my home. After all, I have two very active and loud boys. Quiet only happened when they were asleep. And when they were with their Dad, suddenly the silence was deafening. What I came to soon realize was silence is a virtue.
Sitting in silence allows you to just something we all feel uncomfortable doing. We instinctively feel uneasy when we are sitting still or not in action. Or perhaps we feel uneasy when there is silence during a conversation so we fill it with superficial talk. What we quickly forget is the power in silence. Our ability to listen to our inner voice while in silence is a true gift. As is just hearing ourselves think.
As Wayne Dyer says “It’s really the space between the notes that makes the music you enjoy so much.” Embrace the beauty in the silence and the gifts waiting for you.
3. Create a (new) routine
Being single and on your own feels so foreign and strange after having been married or with something for such a long time. It is like going to college on your own all over again. Except this time you have some life experience under your belt. Being on your own means freedom – something that we wished we had more of when we were married. And suddenly here is it and we are resisting it in every way.
The best solution is to embrace a new life; well, two new lives. The one when your kids are home and another when they are with their other parent. This means planning out what gets done when your kids are not home.
The nights my kids are with their dad I work with clients and/or I host workshops and also make plans with friends. On the nights my kids are here I am 100% with them. My routine allows me to give all of me to my kids when they are here so that when they are not, I can tend to everything else. This means organizing when chores get done like grocery shopping, errands, cleaning, paying bills, etc. Having my routine allows me to have less guilt and keeps me focused on me vs who my kids are with.
As I said before, when we focus on what our kids are doing, who they are with and why our ex spouse is no longer with you, you are choosing to give them your power. Why? Because you cannot control what happens in the other home.
I understand how frustrating it is and at the same time, it is lesson for us to learn the art of surrender and trust. As parents, part of our job is to empower our children to use their own voices to express themselves and their feelings. At the end of the day, it is their relationship with their other parent that is important and we get to keep our emotions out of it.
Our emotions stem from past hurts and this is our kids relationship to navigate. What I always encourage my clients to focus on is their own relationship and communication with their kids, which is something you have complete control over. And there is nothing more powerful than hearing your kids stand in their power. And trust they can come to you to express themselves even when it is about the other parent.
So when you find your mind wandering into storytelling land, ask yourself if what you are thinking is true and if it is false, shift your thoughts into YOU. Ask yourself what future you would like for yourself, what you won’t tolerate anymore, what you deserve to create. It’s a powerful shift that will end the cycle you refer to as a nightmare. Focus on your dreams instead.
Wendy Sterling is a divorce expert and a Divorce Recovery Specialist, a certified life coach, writer, author and speaker who founded of The Divorce Rehab™. Wendy helps divorced women remember who they are and what they are capable of by ending their pity party, mourning their marriage and MOVING FORWARD with dignity to see how much better life is afterwards. A graduate of UCLA and The Co-Active Training Institute, Wendy is also a divorced single mom who has transformed her own life from Corporate America employee to entrepreneur. To connect with Wendy you can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit her website at wendysterling.net.
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