People often think that as soon as a judge signs a divorce decree, they’ll feel an instant sense of relief and be able to move on with their lives immediately. This can be true for some people; for others, the official end of a marriage can spark complex emotions, feelings of uncertainty, or even disorientation. What you’ve been through leading up to your divorce will have a great impact on how quickly you can move forward and get on with your life. Whatever your circumstances, these are the five steps that we recommend all new divorcees take to set themselves up for success in moving forward with their lives.
1. Put yourself first
You have just spent the last several months, if not years, working through the details of your divorce. It has likely taken the majority of your focus, mental, and emotional energy just to get to this point. But following a divorce, it is common to feel lost or unsure of what to do next with your life. This can be disconcerting, especially if you were the one to initiate the divorce.
Now that you have the time, start putting the focus back on yourself. What things in life bring you joy? What activities, hobbies, or friendships did you have to put on hold while you went through the divorce process? Take time to reflect on where you are now and who you want to be now that you are on your own. This can be especially important if the divorce was necessary in order to remove yourself from an abusive situation. Make time for yourself to dream big about what you want for your life from then on. Focusing on your needs and desires can give you forward momentum that will help you move on from the end of your relationship with your ex.
2. Understand the stages of grief
The five stages of grief are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. You may not go through them in that order. You may not even experience all five. You may also feel caught in an endless cycle between those emotions. But knowing that these are normal feelings and that they are part of the grieving process, can help ease some of your stress. This knowledge can help you process the emotional uncertainty and mood swings that may still come after your divorce is final.
Denial is a self-protective coping mechanism where you feel that the loss or change in your life isn’t really happening. It may make you feel numb to the reality or intensity of your situation, but it also allows you more time to process what has happened. Anger has a masking effect because it allows you to hide some of your more complex feelings behind a wall of rage. You may find yourself lashing out at loved ones, strangers, or even inanimate objects. Anger can also present as bitterness, resentment, or other intense emotions that get in the way of rational thinking. Bargaining may look like repetitive thought patterns around “what if” or “if only” statements. You may find yourself mentally rehashing scenarios and imagining new outcomes, or struggling with thoughts like “Maybe they’ll change their mind about the divorce” or “This wouldn’t have happened if I had done XYZ.” Depression is often an automatic or unconscious coping mechanism that shuts down your other emotions in order to protect yourself. You might feel overwhelmed and confused and you may start to isolate yourself, because any emotions that come up may feel too big or too heavy to process. You may feel uninterested in work or day-to-day activities, or find yourself feeling disconnected from things that once brought you joy. Acceptance is the stage of grief where you have moved past the things you have lost through your divorce and accept where you are at now. You may not necessarily have happy or uplifting feelings, but you have moved into the realm of healing and embracing your new life.
Understand that all of these feelings are normal parts of the grieving process and that allowing yourself to feel them will set you on a better path to moving forward with your life. It is also important to understand that your ex and your children will also go through these processes. Being able to recognize these emotions in yourself will help you to recognize them in others. This can be vital when supporting your children as they manage big emotions when moving forward from divorce, or avoiding emotional manipulation from a resentful ex.
3. Seek counseling
If you are struggling in any of the above stages of grief, or finding yourself feeling stuck when you feel like you should be moving on, seeking help from a licensed counselor or therapist can be of great help. Counseling offers a safe space to express all your feelings without being judged. Knowing that you have a non-judgemental party to confide in outside of your social circle can be very healing. They can provide additional education on what to expect and what is normal within each stage of grief. They will also be skilled in offering strategies and techniques to help you move forward.
If you have children involved, having them see a children’s counselor or getting involved in play therapy can be very beneficial. It gives them a neutral party with whom they can safely express their emotions and will also help them learn age-appropriate coping strategies for moving forward. It can also provide you with healthier parenting techniques and ways to improve your bond with your children.
4. Cultivate a (new) support network
We’ve recommended building a support network to help you get through your divorce, but what about afterwards? Your needs will change after your divorce is finalized, so consider how your support network may also need to change.
You may find that certain friends that once gave you a listening ear are now stepping back or indicating that they need some distance. They may have an expectation that you “snap back” to normal once your divorce is completed. Or you may simply find yourself feeling out of touch with friendships and relationships that were cultivated with or through your ex. It’s okay to take a step back and assess whether your current relationships are serving you now.
Cultivate friendships with people who have also experienced divorce and come out the other side healthy and confident. Pursuing friendships with other singles can help get you up to speed on how the dating world has changed, if it has been a while and you are feeling ready to pursue romantic relationships again.
5. Build Financial Stability
One of the best things you can do for yourself after divorce is meet with a financial planner. They can help you get your finances in order, set a reasonable budget, and talk to you about your financial goals. They can give you strategies for rebuilding your savings, paying down debt, buying a new home, and padding your retirement accounts.
Another way to address financial stability is to meet with a career coach who can help you decide if pursuing a new job or industry is right for you. They can help you strategize and build confidence around interviewing, negotiating raises, or seeking upward mobility within your organization. They can also help you identify courses and certifications that can open up better opportunities for you at work.
At Torrone Law, we are here for your family. We partner with you to bring your family to wholeness.