I remember feeling like the pain was going to kill me when my ex-husband moved out. I’d been a stay-at-home Mom for fifteen years, a third of my lifetime and all my hopes, dreams and expectations for my future at that time involved him—playing with our grandchildren together, attending our children’s graduations and weddings, and supporting each other through our parents’ deaths. My family was my world, and my life revolved around them. At first, I focused on keeping my children’s routine stable—I tried to act like he was just away on a business trip. Mealtimes were the same, their after-school activities went on, and we dealt with their tears as they came—usually during dinnertime when he wasn’t there and we couldn’t avoid reality. The first weekend the kids went to stay at his new home, though, I literally could not get up off the couch for an entire day. For the first time in years, I had the house to myself--I didn’t even have my sweet puppy with me that weekend because I’d thought it would help the kids’ transitions if she went to his house with them.
I barely slept that night, and I didn’t eat anything at all—I couldn’t. The pain literally paralyzed me. I wept until I had no more tears to cry. I felt an ache in my heart, and I felt like a ton of bricks was sitting on top of me, trapping me on the couch with no one there to help me. That day, I finally accepted the reality that he had a new home separate from mine, and our kids now had a second home, and it nearly destroyed me.
Now, it sounds like I was blindsided by my ex-husband moving out, and in a way, I was. I’d never, ever dreamt that we would get divorced. I loved him (well, the memory of who he’d been when I married him) with all my heart, and all I’d wanted up to that point was to grow old together and enjoy our family for the rest of our days. The solitude gave me the chance to accept my new reality, to mourn the dreams I’d lost and to grieve over my children’s pain and loss. The next morning--I woke up at the crack of dawn and the grief was just gone--finished, over. I woke up with a sense of clarity, a sense of peace and excitement because in my sleep I’d remembered what I’d wanted out of life before I’d set aside my plans for the plans he and I’d made together.
I sat in my bed, enjoying a cup of coffee with music blasting (because I was all alone and I could) and I made a list.
- The first section was a list of all my dreams when I’d graduated from college--before I’d ever met my ex-husband.
- The second section was a list of the things about my life up to that point that I wanted to be different.
- The third section was a list of things I wanted to do (now that I didn’t have to work around his grumpiness, his lack of interest in things I enjoyed and the constant tension between us that was the third party in our relationship).
Once I’d gotten to a stopping point, I showered and got dressed, and realized I had nothing but exercise clothes in my wardrobe. And church dresses. And Mom shoes. And a minivan. And no one to call and nowhere to go at 7 AM on a Sunday morning.
I didn’t know what I wanted to do, but I knew it wasn’t the same Sunday morning activities I’d done the last fifteen years. I had no idea what people without kids and spouses did on a Sunday morning in their forties. So, I decided to find a show on Netflix to binge watch—and I found “Girlfriends Guide to Divorce.” I’ll just consider that divine intervention, because I settled in, immediately felt like I’d found a new group of friends who understood where I was in life, and I began my education on life after divorce. It was eye-opening, to say the least.
Divorce is terrible, and it’s not something anyone should try to get through alone. Despite their best intentions, friends and family may not be the best place to turn, though. Their advice is often incorrect, misguided, uninformed, and counterproductive to your ability to think clearly. Don’t get me wrong--they’re great for a shoulder to cry on, for keeping you distracted and reminding you that you are loved--all of which you’ll need during this terrible time in your life. But, do your best to get advice from objective professionals. You’ll need clarity and support, not fuel feeding the fire of conflict, guilt and self-doubt.
Here are four resources I think everyone needs during the divorce process and for a little while afterwards:
- Counseling – I worked with three counselors during my divorce—two marriage counselors with my Ex trying to work things out and an individual counselor. I recommend individual counseling so you can focus on figuring out what you want from this new phase in your life and learn to recognize behavior patterns that were harmful to you and to your ex in your relationship. That’s the only way to heal and move on from your divorce, and not repeat the same patterns in a new relationship.
- Non-Profits – Almost every community in the country has a non-profit that offers divorce support resources. In North Carolina, we have DivorceCare, https://www.divorcecare.org. I found this group and their workbook to be very helpful in restoring my faith during my divorce. Check your local community for those in your area.
- CDFA® (Certified Divorce Financial Analyst) – The most common fear in divorce is “Will I be ok financially?” Before you agree to any settlement, you really need a second set of eyes and some financial projections so you know what your new reality will be—it’s hard to make good decisions without good information. It’s also hard to make good decisions when you’re not in the emotional state to advocate for yourself or think long-term.
- The Internet – Meetup.com is a great resource for local divorce support groups. Going to a few groups is a good idea but don’t let yourself take on other people’s grief. Recovery is supposed to be about getting better. Use a support group to move through the process and then – move on. But, whatever you do, do NOT try to do your own divorce using a free template that you find on the internet. Just trust me on this one.
Be gentle with yourself. Tackle one thing at a time--for most people, getting their financial questions answered takes a lot of the stress about divorce away. I can help you with that--Schedule an Initial Consult with me to have a quick conversation about your situation.