Divorce is almost as common as marriage these days. Yep, I’ve been there.
A period of time in which many women;
Have more financial independence
Have more employment opportunities
Experience less societal ‘divorce shame’
Feel safer calling out and standing up to less than desirable partner behaviour
So whether it was you who chose to end the marriage or whether you find yourself knocking on divorce’s door as a result of a decision your partner made, the following tips may help ease some of the pain for you and allow you to carry on without getting lost in the suffocation of divorce.
This is a deeply personal blog…
The following 7 tips are all mine. They aren’t things I read about and implemented. They aren’t tips others gave me. They are all just really important things I did, either consciously or unconsciously, as a way to get up and go another day!
1. Treat it as a job
Yep, where possible, attend to any divorce related tasks during standard business hours, 9-5. Wake in the morning and make a plan for the day. What do you need to do as a matter of urgency? Who must you call? What documents do you need to gather? Schedule regular coffee breaks and a lunch break of at least half an hour if you can. If things get heavy during the day look forward to ‘knock off’. Know that it will indeed end for the day. Be happy with what you managed to achieve in that ‘work’ day. Maintaining this mindset supports positive self care habits which, during any divorce, are critical to mental and physical health. Of a night take time to chill out after any evening routines and chores are finished. Step away from those emails girlfriend!
Give yourself a break, you’ve earned it!
Something I always told myself during the process was “For now, this is my job. When I’ve done the job I get to resign. I will no longer have to do this job again”. It sounds so damn crazy but honestly, it kept me focused, determined and sane throughout what was a very long process. With this ‘job’ mindset it was easy to lay my head down of a night feeling proud of the ‘work’ I had done that day. Holding yourself to your own professional standards allows you to separate ‘the person’ and ‘the problem’. For me it made it easier to focus on the tasks at hand rather than the raging torrent of emotions underpinning them.
2. Be a list lady (this one’s my fave!)
Being organised is KEY. To me it’s a no brainer. Your documents. Your commitments. Your kids. Your pets. Your work. Your daily household tasks. And more. All of it needs to be taken care of. By YOU! That’s right, the work of two suddenly becomes the work of one. But you know what, you CAN do it. You might be swimming in a sea of self doubt but believe me, you won’t drown. If you aren’t an overly organised person - start being one! Get help on board if you need it. From friends and family or even a professional organiser if you have to. There are heaps around these days. Buy diaries, wall planners, use sticky notes, create routines and systems. Whatever it takes! You’re going to need it.
First things first - find yourself a space to work from where you can keep all your documents and files etc. Get things in order from the start and CHUCK anything you don’t need. The earlier you create a system the easier you’ll make your way through the process. If you’re not so crash hot with this stuff or you need help setting up a workspace at home why not call in your best buddy and have a cuppa or something while you get it done? Doing something you love (hanging with your friend!) while doing something you hate (organising!) always makes the task more bearable.
Use lists to create clarity and maintain order. Prioritise tasks if you need to. As you start working through the lists maintain your positivity and ONLY focus on the success you have. But be realistic. Don't set yourself up to fail.
I always had at least two divorce lists on the go on my whiteboard - one called “Get to” and one called “Do today”. The get to list is where I would write down any divorce related task that needed to be done as it popped into my head, that way I wasn’t relying on my already overloaded memory bank! The get to list was just that - it had no timeline rather it was just something I had to get to. The second list, the do today list, well that one’s fairly obvious! Each night I would move a few items from the ‘get to’ list and allocate them to the ‘to do’ list for the next day. I would allocate to do items based on many factors including urgency, time I had spare, other plans I’d already locked in for the day, whether I was kid free or with the kids, whether I was home all day or out some of the day. So yes, I tried to assign jobs I knew I could get done. Unless of course something came up.
With kids there’s a strong likelihood that at least some of your days will be totally re-planned for you - sick kids, school emergencies etc. If this happens - DON’T FRET. Anxiety is the last thing you need right now. Just get past them and back on track as soon as you can. Remember, dwelling on what you physically couldn’t get done in a day will only drag you down and fill your head with negativity. Ain’t got no time for that sister!!!
3. Understand that it WILL come to an end
Like I said earlier, it’s a job and you WILL resign. Yes the process is difficult, time consuming, emotional and often very costly but, dear friend, it DEFINITELY has an end date. I can assure you. This will not last forever, it’s merely a chapter in the story of your life.
No one said you can’t start writing the next AWESOME chapter while this shitty one comes to an end!
A mantra that I tried to adopt along the way was “this too shall pass”. It seemed to have a really grounding effect. It always stopped me dead in my tracks and reminded me that this period of time wasn’t the sum total of my life. That this was merely a storm I had to see out. It’s true you know, it’s always sunny above the clouds! Just keep going while the storm clouds roll on and wait for your sunshine!
4. Find gratitude even on the crazy days
The word ‘gratitude’ is thrown around like confetti these days. It feels like every other person is telling us to practice gratitude, get a gratitude journal, show gratitude... yudda yudda yudda. You know, like it’s the latest ‘it’ word. But honestly, one of the greatest gifts divorce gives us is indeed that of gratitude. If we are willing to see it that is. Right as your world is falling apart it’s as if the universe delivers this amazing gift on a silver platter. When you stand to lose your husband, your car, your house, your money, your job, your kids, your business or whatever it is in your situation, all of a sudden you become intensely grateful for what remains. For me it was hot, running water. It sounds pathetic doesn’t it! But I mean it, in those first 6 months or so when everything was in limbo and I was working my butt off day in and day out, no matter what time of night (or early morning!) it was, I always made sure I had a long, hot shower before bed - guilt free. I remember thinking how lucky I was. Lucky to just turn a tap and have this pure delightful pleasure.
Untimed. Unrestricted. And UNREAL.
It was my one mega act of self care and I wasn’t giving it up for anyone! I would think to myself ‘no one can take THIS away from me!’ I used to light a candle and shower in the dim light filling my head with positive self talk and praise for the difficult job I was doing so well. That’s another thing... praise YOURSELF for the monumental effort you’re making. The achievements. All of it. It’s likely no one else will, for a number of reasons. So yes, do use gratitude to get through. Even in the shitiest of shitty experiences there is at least one thing to be grateful for! Health? Friends? Yummy food? Outings? Music? Your strength? If you look around I’m sure you’ll find lots of things.
5. Maintain your interests and hobbies
Whilst going through a divorce, money might be tight. Logistics might be difficult. Time might be a scarcity. Emotions may be running high. You might be feeling burnt out. All of it. BUT the critical part of surviving is looking after yourself. And a big part of that is being able to enjoy some leisure time. Trust me, you will NEED a distraction. Love reading, read that book you’ve been eyeing off for ages. Music? Go to a concert! Craft - make something gorgeous for yourself. Or travelling? Go and explore some place new.
Don’t have any hobbies? Find some! Now is a great time to step outside your comfort zone and try something new. A new language, sport, art or instrument. A gym class with a friend. A wine appreciation class. Dog walking groups. Writing. Anything! Just have a go and you might be pleasantly surprised! Whatever it is DO IT. Enjoy it. Not only will it be a great distraction from everything else going on it’ll provide a chance for you to ‘come down’, you know, as in operating on a lower frequency. It’ll clear out some of those toxic stress chemicals flowing freely through your body. It’ll clear your mind, it’ll bring you peace. But most of all it’ll allow you to shift your focus to something a whole lot more positive than what it is you’re currently experiencing. It’ll remind you that despite what you’re going through there is more to love than to loathe.
6. Pick your people carefully
This one is super dooper important. If you’re anything like me, you love a good chat. You find comfort in sharing your story and listening to the stories of others. You like problem solving as a team and therefore happily share your current predicament with those you trust in the hope that they may have some great solutions, suggestions or similar life lessons to inspire you with. Before you go chin wagging the questions you should ask yourself are;
Can I REALLY trust this person or do I just WANT to trust this person?
Has this person PROVEN to me they are worthy of my trust or am I just giving it to them BLINDLY?
Don’t be so desperate to download that you forget to think twice. You may think this person in front of you ‘seems’ kind, caring and considerate. Just like you, right? And yes, having faith that other humans are decent is important. But... when the shit is hitting the fan and life is seriously tough you need to be more towards the cynical end of the spectrum. For once in your life be totally selfish and ask yourself how will this potential conversation help ME? If you jump the gun and spill the beans to anyone willing to listen you may face all sorts of problems further down the track. And let’s face it, during divorce there are enough problems to solve without creating new ones! What you want to avoid is giving people something to gossip about. Something to spread like wildfire. Something to use against you. Something to humiliate you with. Something to remind you of constantly. Something to ruin your reputation.
The sad part of the world we live in today is that some people thrive on a good drama!
They love feeling like their life is dandy when listening to the woes of others. They love taking but hate giving. You know, the dirty laundry thing. They’ll listen to you vent and sit tight on all theirs in an effort to soothe and reassure themselves that “Oh thank god my life isn’t as bad as HERS!”. The other thing to be prepared for is the loss of some of the people you considered friends. Yup. No word of a lie. Those people you always felt safe with. Those people who always had your back. Those people who apparently cared. Those people who you may have even considered family. Don’t freak out if it happens to you. THANK THE BLOODY UNIVERSE! It happened to me but I tell you, it was one of the greatest gifts my divorce ever gave me. TRUTH and TRANSPARENCY. I was relieved of leaches who had worn human clothing for all those years. (You know, like the wolf in sheep’s clothing!)
Hear my words ... CHOOSE. YOUR. PEOPLE. WISELY.
Personal and professional!
7. Look forward even while looking back
Going through a divorce is no mean feat. It really is no surprise that ‘they’ say “if you can survive divorce you can survive ANYTHING!”. There is so much truth in that. A divorce is like nothing else you’ll ever experience. During the process you’ll laugh, cry, rage, doubt, scream, regret, wonder, blame and hate. You’ll feel depressed, crushed, teary, annoyed, furious, resentful, unsure and totally foggy.
You’ll feel like your life is over. Like there is nothing that is worth doing anymore.
Even if you instigated the divorce. Because instigating is one thing but being in the divorce washing machine is another. Looking in from the outside you think…. How bad can it be? I can do this! But once you’re inside being thrown around, poked and prodded, boiled and drowned… even the strongest, most resilient person will have their own personal rock bottom. I know! I did. I distinctly remember hugging my Mum saying “He ruined my life”. And I was the instigator due to many factors, including domestic violence. BUT… This is where I just need you to trust me. While you go about the day to day stuff, life just keeps ticking on over. You put one foot in front of the other and before you know it, you’re done. You’ve found the light at the end of the tunnel. And for once, it isn’t a train. The point I want to make, and I really really hope you can trust me on this…
Amidst the fog, NEVER stop dreaming. NEVER stop planning. NEVER stop believing. NEVER stop hoping. And NEVER stop looking forward to the next chapter of your life.
Life DOES go on. Things CAN change for the better. You find new meaning. New purpose. New hope. New positivity. New goals and dreams. It happens at different times for everyone, but it does happen. Look to the future, make plans, set goals, find new passions, try new things and be open to opportunities. Once you process all the negativity and start climbing out of the pit that is divorce you will be feeling more determined, motivated and focused than ever. It’s almost like a rebirth… well it was for me anyway. I felt renewed, healthy and back to my usual optimistic self.
Remember, whatever happens CHOOSE to be better, not bitter. x
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Erica has a passion for Women’s Health. She works with women who want to be heard, supported and empowered! Erica is a survivor of many life experiences. A Mum. A travel lover. A green thumb in training and an eternal optimist!