Divorce is one of the most significant grief events many of us will ever suffer. Is it any wonder then, that during divorce, good people suddenly seem to be mad?
As a divorce lawyer I have seen it all. People who in any other situation are entirely ‘normal’ all of a sudden turn into crazy versions of themselves, acting in ways even they would never expect. Heartbreak does this to us. Love is a roller coaster of exhilarating highs and sometimes the lowest of lows.
Most people experiencing divorce say they ‘just want it to be over.’ What they are really saying is that they want the feelings and emotions to have passed. So if you are thinking of divorce here are 10 things you will need to get you through and out the other side in one piece.
1. A ‘glass half full’ attitude. If ever there was a time to be able to focus on the good things, your divorce is it! Heartbreak is full of challenge. To get through this stage and move out the other side with your dignity intact will take courage. If you can focus on the good, rather than the bad this will really help you through.
2. Something new. Your divorce will probably mean you have time to yourself that you may not have been used to for a while, so be ready to fill it! Do something you have always wanted to do but could never do before. Join a new class, sporting team or social club. Just find something that you enjoy that you can look forward to.
3. A big box of tissues. Remember, it is entirely okay to cry. You will feel a range of strong emotion during your divorce including shock, sadness, anger (and sometimes all of these at once!). Just remember that this is a very normal part of grief, but don’t be afraid to seek professional support if the emotions are too much to bear.
4. A shoulder (or two) to cry on. A great tip a client once gave me was that she had an agreement with one friend who, no matter the hour of the day, she could call just to talk. Armed with that upsized box of tissues, find yourself a trusted support person but don’t overuse that person. Often the mere thought that a friend or family member will be available to listen in your hour of need can be enough to really help.
5. A team of trusted advisors. If you were sick you would see a doctor. So now that you are facing a significant personal event it is worth every cent to seek professional assistance to help you move through the emotional roller coaster as soon as possible so you can get on and enjoy your life. Choose your advisors carefully as they will guide you through so be clear on what type of divorce you are after and find a team that can work with you to achieve your goals (and not the other way around).
6. A plan. Divorce means change. Initially it might seem like your life is in chaos, particularly if the end of your marriage was not your choice. And the best way to manage chaos is to set a plan. You don’t have to plan the rest of your life, start by planning the next week. By focusing on what you want to achieve day by day or week by week, you can celebrate your little wins while taking some of the pressure off. Keep a journal to map your progress; not to record the terrible things you are feeling, but the good things that are happening.
7. A break up song (or 2). Now this might seem ridiculous but finding yourself a song that you can sing (and dance!) your way through will really help you when things are getting tough. Keep in mind there are two types of breakup songs – the first is the slow and emotive ballad that helps us to drown our sorrows- think Bridget Jones’s Diary as she screams out the words to All by Myself while enjoying copious amounts of wine and chocolate. And then there is the second type of song. This one is used when we are past drowning our sorrows and we are getting back on our feet. It needs to be more uplifting, inspiring and is probably a rock or power ballad! My favourite contender for this track is Gloria Gaynor’s I will Survive! Find a few songs, put them on repeat and when the going gets tough sing at the top of your lungs in your living room. You will feel better, I promise!
8. Information. Don’t let a lack of knowledge lead you to feeling fearful. The more information you have about your options, particularly your legal and financial options, the easier it will be for you to start to create a plan and make decisions. Meet with a family lawyer to understand your legal options. Seek assistance from financial planners around things like budgeting. Look to your support network and gather information that will help answer your burning questions. While you may not like the answers, the sooner you start to understand your future, the sooner you will start to find your way there.
9. Some ground rules. Where I see so many clients make mistakes during and after divorce is by not having a set of ‘ground rules’ on how they will (or will not!) engage with their ex-partner. You might be on the receiving end of lots of rude and hurtful communications so try and set clear boundaries. For example, if you only wish to receive communication once a week by email, then say so. But remember to stick to your own rules, too. While you cannot control how your spouse behaves, you can control yourself. So remember, if you are imposing any terms, be willing to abide by those same terms yourself.
10. The capacity to forgive and forget. Forgiveness is a beautiful human trait and one that can be set to challenge us during divorce. There is little point in reliving the past. This often leads to apportioning blame for your failed relationship. Accept your role in things, recognise that you and your spouse may never see eye to eye on many things, and start to plan your life into the future.
A divorce will mean change in many facets of your life and with this change can come a sense a loss, sometimes even the loss of your own identity. While it may be very, very hard to find, there will always be a silver lining if you can just start to see the world in a new light. No doubt it won’t be there every day, but if you take the time to focus on something positive, something that creates optimism, you will move through your divorce with a lot more ease than some. Remember, your life is precious and it’s important to make the most of every single minute.
What can you do to make the divorce process easier?
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