With an estimation of a divorce happening in America every 13 seconds, there are a lot of people who are trying to determine how to find the strength and the skills to cope with their own divorce.
If you are experiencing a divorce, you are soon going to find that it is one of the sentinel events in your life. Your day-to-day is going to change in almost every way you can imagine, and at least a handful of ways that you cannot currently fathom. Don’t worry too much; some of the changes will be welcomed and good. However, many will be difficult and sometimes downright painful. Developing some tactics for dealing with the stress and anxiety that often accompany the process will help you to cope with your divorce overall.
You will begin to think of your life “before divorce” as separate and distinctly different than “after divorce.” You may even start using that life mile marker as a reference for other events. (“I had to downsize my car after the divorce so I must have bought this car in 2017.”)
Of course, there are a few factors that will play into how challenging it is for you to adjust to the changes. One is whether or not you are on-board with and wanting the divorce, for obvious reasons. The second factor will be whether or not you share children, which will require ongoing and frequent interaction with your ex. The third factor will be to what degree your lives are intertwined. If you work together, own a business together, share all the same friends, or in many ways have lives that seem indivisible, then the transition may be more dramatic and difficult to cope with.
Not only do you have to contend with the emotional, legal, and financial aspects of the divorce process itself, but you also have to come to grips with other realities. Along with the end of your marriage, many other aspects of your life, that you may be perfectly happy with, are also changing.
Because of these issues, and others, it is normal to feel out of control while going through a divorce or separation. But there are some things you can do when dealing with divorce that can help you get back in the driver’s seat of your life and help you to cope with those things that are beyond your control.
Ways to Cope With Divorce
1. Self-care is critical; remember to take care of yourself.
Even if you have children and your instinct is to put their needs above your own, it is important to care for yourself first so that you can cope at the level you need to and then still have the strength to care for others and effectively parent.
2. Find someone to talk about your situation with and build your own support group.
This may be a friend, family member, co-worker, a pastor, or mental health professional. It should not be a child. You want someone who will listen, but not stir the pot or say things to make the situation more confrontational. Consider a divorce support group as an outlet. Develop a support network you can rely on to get you through the tough days.
3. Become more knowledgeable about the divorce process to empower yourself.
Dedicate some time to learning about the legal process of divorce. Rely on skilled professionals to guide you on important legal and financial decisions. The more you know the better you will understand the process and the consequences of your decisions. The more knowledge you have the more purposeful and confident you will be in your actions.
4. Give yourself the gift of time.
Take the time to enjoy some uninterrupted time to yourself. Maybe you go for a walk or hike, binge watch your favorite program, or hang out in a gallery or library. But dedicate time that is yours alone and do something that you enjoy, even if that ‘doing’ is doing nothing.
Also, accept that adjusting to change, grieving the loss of a relationship, and healing, is going to take time. Embrace that fact and be reasonable in your expectations of yourself and others.
5. Embrace the new opportunities that come with this change.
No one likes being forced into unwanted change; however, allow yourself to accept the fact that such changes also open doors to new opportunities. Whether it is a new place to live, new to activities to try, or new friends to meet, new freedom to act on your own without compromise, An attempt to try something new is ripe with opportunities. Welcome the changes with optimism and a sense of adventure.
6. Appreciate what you do have, instead of focusing on what you’ve lost.
While the list of losses that accompany a divorce can be very long, there will still remain another list of people, places, memories, pets, your independence, and even ‘things’ that are precious to you. It is important to put more focus on what you do have rather than what’s been lost.
7. Declutter your life.
You have started by eliminating a dysfunctional relationship from your life. Continue the purge by disposing of other toxic relationships, losing some extra weight, if needed, cleaning the closets, and whittling down unnecessary obligations in your life. All of this “housecleaning” will result in you feeling less burden and stress, and better able to cope with your divorce.
8. Journal your thoughts and emotions.
Writing down your thoughts and emotions really can be beneficial. Don’t get hung up on spelling and grammar. Just let your raw feelings flow onto the page in whatever form they take… anger, rage, fear, relief, desperation, elation, hostility, whatever. Keep your journal private so that you are free to express your innermost thoughts.
9. Forgive the past and build your future.
The single most freeing thing that you can do for yourself is to forgive someone else for the harm that they have done to you. While it is sometimes hard to accept that someone is worthy of your forgiveness, give it for yourself, not for them. Doing so will free you of the burden of bitterness, judgment, and anger. Forgiveness will allow you to move forward in your life rather than staying fixated on the past.
Divorce is a unique situation where almost everyone involved loses in one way or another. Getting divorced is not easy for anyone. But, if you give yourself the time, nurture yourself along the way, approach the process with an optimistic attitude, and with good support, the transition into your new life can be much smoother and more transformative than you think.
Finally, no one will know what you need or how to care for yourself any better than you. Become your own best friend, with optimism and anticipation for the future. Be kind to yourself while, at the same time, refusing to become a victim to your circumstances.
Take charge of your life by doing everything you can to heal, get stronger, forgive, and move forward in your life. In doing so, you will suddenly realize that you are, in fact, coping with the divorce process and changes in your life in a productive way, and opening yourself to the opportunities that await you as a result.