Everything’s falling apart during divorce, but we have to somehow hold it together from 9-5!
During my divorce, I was a hot mess! Somehow I held it together in front of my kids because I didn’t want them to be more anxious about the upcoming changes than necessary. I usually fell apart during my commute to and from work when I knew I wouldn’t have an audience to my blubbering and I had plenty of time to think through whatever mess my life found itself in for that particular day.
More often than I care to admit, I was reduced to tears while at my desk. I tried to be inconspicuous about my wreck at home and fragile emotional state; but, my three office mates often detected my sniffles from behind my computer monitor or caught the tail end of a heated conversation between me and my ex. I ended up telling my office mates about my upcoming divorce before many other people simply because I could no longer hide the fact that my marriage was in trouble!
One thing about a job, especially when going through a divorce, is that it’s not something we can afford to let slide, even though we can barely focus, everything is a mess, and the last thing we need to worry about is completing monthly reports or giving great customer service! For most of us, that job will be our lifeline and means of support after the divorce. We need the income, and the work serves to provide structure and focus when everything else is spiraling out of control!
In short, we can’t let our divorce interfere with our career, even if holding it together from 9 to 5 is the hardest thing we’ll ever have to do!
So, how do we stay employed and survive a divorce at the same time?
Do be honest with your employer and colleagues about what’s going on. There’s no need to share in-depth details about your divorce plans and your life in shambles; but, it doesn’t hurt for those who share your life at work to understand that you’ve got some things going on in your personal life.
When there was no longer any way to keep my situation under wraps, I sent an e-mail to the people in my department and briefly explained that I was getting a divorce, so I apologized in advance if I behaved strangely in any way. My department head actually applauded me for my bravery and transparency; otherwise, I was treated very respectfully and given full privacy to handle my affairs.
Don’t forget why you show up for work each day! Most people, even a boss, will understand that you’re human and having a difficult time; but, at the end of the day, you’re still expected to do a job. You will probably be extended forgiveness for some of the differences in your personality or even occasional schedule changes to accommodate court hearings and so on; but, if you completely lose focus, slip in productivity, and become a liability, you’re asking to be let go.
A former co-worker of mine really struggled through her divorce. The rest of us sympathized and even picked up some of her slack. Her behavior became problematic when all she wanted to talk about at work was her divorce, and she openly spent her days on the clock researching lawyers and other divorce-related topics. She not only drove everyone nuts but jeopardized her job!
Do use work as an outlet. A very helpful strategy to survive divorce is to find an outlet to pour thoughts and energy into. So long as you’re thinking hard about projects to complete and channeling your energy into assigned tasks, you won’t be pre-occupied with worries about the divorce. Busy hands and maintaining a familiar schedule can help provide comfort and direction when you most need it. Think about your job as an investment in your future because it will continue to be in your life and a need even when your divorce is finalized!
Don’t fall apart all the time! Most co-workers and supervisors will understand if you have your emotional moments so long as you’re pulled together and functional the majority of the time. Sobbing in your cubicle, screaming at your ex over the phone, or generally being a walking disaster is hard to excuse on an ongoing basis. If you’re having a tough time, try to excuse yourself to the restroom, your car, or someplace private while you pull yourself together.
Do accept help that’s offered! I found many of my strongest divorce warriors around the water cooler. While work is what’s expected to be accomplished in the office, many of us form close bonds with our office “family.” Many co-workers offered me kind words of support and helped me move and gather some of the things I needed for my new place. Many employers also offer an employee assistance program to help employees with counseling or other needs during a personal crisis. If your employer offers any such perks, take advantage of any support you can get!
Do surround yourself with positive motivation. Work during divorce may be no picnic, but you can try to find ways to make it more pleasant and keep your focus in the right areas. Your life is getting an overhaul, so why not your cubicle? Ditch the dreary office supplies and adorn your desk with cheery pens and notepads that you’ll look forward to using! Add a splash of color from a pleasing calendar, or maybe even a few pretty flowers. Stock up on favorite tea or coffee put out some cute photos of your kids and the dog, and stash away some chocolate in your bottom drawer! Many of us spend just about as many hours on the job as we do at home, so you might as well be comfortable and surrounded by things you like!
Thankfully, the roughest parts of divorce, when we can barely function, don’t last forever! Work may seem like a double-edged sword during the collapse of a marriage. It’s completely necessary because of the income it brings, but it’s a huge drain of time and energy when everything during that time is focused on surviving the divorce.
Hang in there and throw yourself into your job! Maintain your professional composure as much as you can, and accept the help and support that’s offered to you! It will pay off in the end!