Written Exclusively for It's Over Easy by Suzy Brown
Okay, I’m getting a divorce …. What am I supposed to do now?
As you already know, if divorce is anything, it’s overwhelming, exhausting and chaotic, especially if you’re somewhere in midlife, or in the cases when you've come out of a messy divorce.
You may have tried desperately to save your marriage.
You may have been thinking about divorce for years. Some specific situation or action may have caused you to say, “I’m done! I can’t do this anymore!”
You’ve most likely already spent time in the self help section of Amazon books or Barnes and Noble, and you’ve googled “online divorce” and "uncontested divorce" on your computer. You may still be struggling with the actual process of divorce and have no idea where to even start.
Since you’ve probably agonized for months (or years) over the decision to divorce, and focused your energy on the actual process of divorce, you may not have figured out how to really get to the new life you deserve after divorce. Even though you feel like divorce was best for everyone, adjusting to your new life after divorce does not come quickly or easily.
Be prepared for the pain
Most women are surprised by the depth of the pain they feel after divorce, regardless of how it happens. There is serious grief work to do.
Healing the wounds of divorce takes time, too. Then the feelings of doubt come roaring in, and you wonder if you’ve made the biggest mistake of your life! All of that is part of the process.
There will be adjustments to be made with the kids (and maybe grandkids.) You may have to move and find a job to support yourself.
You have to re-evaluate friendships and family relationships, and you may have to face the loneliness, especially if your kids are older and are already establishing separate lives of their own.
Here are some things I’ve learned in the 20 years since my own divorce and almost 15 years of helping women get to the life they want after divorce.
Be kind to yourself and be patient with the process
My first bit of advice is be kind to yourself and be patient with the process.
My first therapist told me that psychologists's trends at the time recommended allowing one year of recovery for every five to seven years of marriage. I replied a little too loudly, “That’s impossible! I might be dead by then!” (I was 53 and had been married 33 years!)
Someone else recommended one month of recovery for every year of marriage. I didn’t want to feel like I was feeling for three years!
It always takes longer than you think it will and longer than everyone else thinks it should. We created a 12-month-start-to-finish MasterPlan.
Those first weeks and months after divorce are mainly a big ball of confusion and mess! Everything changes! We’re taking on new responsibilities.
The kids are readjusting. Friends and family don’t know what to do with us. And we’re lonely, no matter how many people are around. Just getting up every morning is a challenge.
Find an after-divorce morning action plan
We encourage women to find a simple morning action plan and follow it. We provide “The Survival Six” plan for those early days when the reality of divorce has hit you in the face, and you worry that you will never be happy again!
This simple list has been a lifesaver to countless people. If a person hasn’t been through divorce they don’t understand how difficult it is to simply get your feet on the floor every morning.
I have had people say, The Survival Six saved my life. That sounds overly dramatic, but it’s true.
Find fellow travelers on the divorce recovery road
People who have not experienced divorce (especially after a long marriage) simply DO NOT understand. They say things like, “Just move on!” or “It’s been six months, you should be over this by now.” Or the worst thing to say, “You need to start dating!”
Finding a group of single girlfriends and/or other women who are on the divorce recovery road is one of the best things we can do for ourselves.
Sociologists have taught us for years about the fight or flight response to danger. They have also discovered something else, especially among women. It’s called the Tend and Befriend response.
Having a group of women to listen to us and actually hear us and then support and encourage our progress forward is a Godsend. It takes away the feeling of being this one little boat in the middle of a whole sea of happy couples.
As part of a tribe or community, we also get better by sharing our wisdom and encouragement with others. It’s like Malcolm Gladwell tells us in his book The Tipping Point, a group of strangers facing a common problem come up with better solutions than a group of experts because we bring so many different perspectives to the problem.
There is always this beautiful dance of encouragement when women are all focused on getting better.
Find a roadmap to keep moving forward
Find resources that provide a sturdy foundation of grief work and healing work. We can’t ignore the grief or sweep it under the rug. We have to grieve!
We also need a simple-to-follow agenda to help us deal with kids, extended family and friends, getting stronger, dealing with the chaos, loneliness, finances and simply facing the reality of being single.
The next part of any recovery program is re-discovering our gifts and our talents. That’s when a little spark of excitement shows up as we figure out how we want to shine our light in the most satisfying, purposeful, most joyful way possible.
That and our community keep us growing into our best and most beautiful single life. That’s also when we’re more likely to “bump into” others on the way to their best life, too!
Don’t struggle alone through this rebuilding process after divorce. Get help and then you can start encouraging others, too!
About the Author Suzy Brown
Author Suzy Brown created Midlife Divorce Recovery as a safe refuge for people healing from and surviving the overwhelm of divorce. Since starting her first RADiCAL (Rising Above Divorce In Confidence And Love) support group in 2003, she's been helping women navigate the journey of divorce. In 2007 she published Radical Recovery: Transforming the Despair of Your Divorce Into an Unexpected Good, and continues to provide support and guidance in her online communities and recovery programs.