Divorce is one of the ugly realities of life. The pain and anguish are intense even for the one initiating it, more so if the split is contentious and involves property and child issues or infidelity. It is also a complicated litigation process. Emotions are high and the battle for child support and custody, and division of assets is mentally draining. Then there is the anxiety of facing life alone again and wondering if you can adapt to the changes in financial and social circumstances.
To prepare yourself for the next chapter in your life, you must have the determination and shrewdness to deal with the emotional and legal aspects of divorce. It’s not as easy as it sounds. The grief is real and profound and there is no set time limit for going through this complex set of emotions. How long it takes to get over it and move forward is affected by many factors, such as, was it expected or were you taken by surprise, was it your choice or your spouse’s, are you financially self-supporting, are kids involved, etc.
Grieving is a normal and unavoidable reaction. But when it goes on indefinitely, it becomes unhealthy. Fortunately, there are ways of coping that will help you recover and rebuild your life and have another chance at happiness. Here are 5 methods to help you.
1. Focus on the unavoidable tasks and do them.
Life goes on and bills must be paid. You must look for another place to live and stay within the budget. The transition from married to single status includes changes in legal documents that are necessary, so they won’t come back to haunt you. Creating a checklist according to their urgency and importance will lessen the confusion and put order into your feeling of chaos. Checking them off as done reduces the stress and makes you feel in control again.
2. Establish a new system.
Store or give away things that remind you of your former spouse. Change the photographs on your desk and bedside table. Start doing things that your spouse used to take care of, like checking the car’s fluids, or learning how to operate the kitchen appliances. Learn to live alone and depend on yourself.
3. Seek support.
Talking about your pain, fear and anger is a release that lessens your misery. You can also get good advice from well-meaning friends and trust them to be there if you have a meltdown. But vet the people you share your problems with, and don’t overdo it. Even the most sympathetic friend can have compassion fatigue, especially when they see that you are not making progress in your healing.
Join support groups in your community or church. Here, you can share experiences and learn from the coping methods of other divorcees. Online support groups are also available 24/7. Online groups are open to anyone, so beware of trolls. If they affect you too much, sign out.
If your new budget can afford to pay for professional help, and you believe your mental state needs one, a therapist or psychologist is your best option. They are trained in divorce counselling and can give you expert advice, in addition to being empathic listeners.
4. Take care of yourself.
For the physical aspect: Pay attention to good grooming. Wear your best clothes. Eat healthy and regularly. Get enough sleep. Exercise.
For holistic healing, engage in these activities:
Keep a journal.
Have a notebook and pen with you always, or a tablet or phone. Describe your thoughts and feelings during a difficult situation, or when you find yourself wallowing in misery. Writing is a cathartic exercise, serving as an outlet for strong and unpleasant emotions. Reading them later will help you gauge your progress across time.
Join a mindfulness meditation group.
Although you can do mindfulness meditation by yourself, it is more helpful to join a group first, as a way of support and encouragement. The practice will help you to focus on the present and become more aware of other people and surroundings. It teaches you to be nonjudgmental and as you go along, you’ll feel an inner peace and be less reactive to negative incidents.
Related: Mindfulness as a Tool for Forgiveness
Get involved in a new hobby or purpose.
Take up that hobby you’ve always wanted but had to set aside, such as a sport or the arts. Volunteer in community or religious groups. They will distract you from brooding over your divorce and occupy your mind with things that interest you, and make you feel good about helping others. A side benefit is, you meet new people and gain new friends.
5. Protect your rights and your assets.
Callous as it may seem, the first thing you should do when you are served divorce papers is to make sure you are protected and won’t get fleeced by an angry soon-to-be-ex or exploited by a manipulative partner. Know the divorce laws in your state but avoid getting a divorce without legal assistance or you might find yourself on the losing end.
A divorce lawyer in your state is your best bet to protect you and your rights, and make sure you get everything that you are entitled to. A lawyer can thresh out the details of child support, child custody, and division of properties to get the most beneficial deals for you.