byDenise French, MAFF, CVA, CDFA, CRPC
January is the historically the biggest month of the year regarding the number of divorces filed. We are now what professionals in the divorce world refer to as “Divorce Season”. Couples have had one last unhappy holiday experience and they are ready to call it quits, or they knew they were divorcing before the holiday season but wanted to wait until after for their children’s sake.
Now, it’s February, you or your spouse has filed for divorce and you are now in the process of getting divorced. That’s a big move and it’s a very unsettling time, to say the least!
I remember when I went through this, I had a wide range of emotions. I could feel any of the following in a single day: frustration, anger, powerless, denial, relief, confusion, frustration, rage, sadness, sorrow, shame, gratitude and fear.
Relationship separation and divorce are among the toughest life experiences people can face. Losing a relationship is a very painful experience, even if the relationship is not a good one. Many find that they may not be sad about losing an unloving, unkind spouse. They are sadder about losing what could have been or what was planned. I felt that way. I lost the huge family attached to my spouse. I lost the dream of being a stay at home mom (I’ve since retracted that dream after a moment with it). I also lost the dream of an intact, loving family unit. I was now going to be “one of those people” who would cry over not having their children at Christmas or Easter. Unfathomable. That was the worst blow of all.
These feelings can lead to practical difficulties such as loss of appetite, trouble sleeping, difficulties at work and social withdrawal. While these are painful and distressing, these feeling are normal and with time, their impact will lessen.
Despite all the tough times, this change can bring about, it’s important to remember that life will get back to normal, although “normal” may look and feel different from what you’re used to or had hoped for. A new ‘normal’ will settle in, where it will be possible to continue living a fulfilling and happy life. It certainly has for me!! My life looks nothing like what I had envisioned when I married my ex-husband, but I think it’s far better than I ever could have with him. I wish him no ill will, quite the contrary I wish him well as he is the father of my child. I have neutrality surrounding emotions toward him – I feel neither love nor anger. It’s a beautiful place to be. However, getting here was no small task. Below are a few things I did to cope with the separation process. I hope they help you as much as they helped me.
1. I had 6 girl friends on speed dial, and I’d call them all repeatedly. I had 6 because at the time that was the number of close friends I had. I didn’t want to wear any one of them down with my crying, sobbing, grief, and anger. I would call one and talk for a while (and cry for a while) and then call another. This was invaluable.
2. Music. One of my 6 made a play list for me. My list was from the album “Stripped” by Christina Aguilera. It helped me. I hear those songs today (12 years later) and I smile thinking of my friend who was so thoughtful, and I am reminded how far I have come.
3. Therapy. I really cannot stress this enough. Many people don’t like the awkwardness of sitting with a stranger who you are paying to talk about your issues, but it’s so helpful!!! My therapist was a life line, a cheer leader, a coach and a confidant. I could not have done this without her.
4. Support Group. This is another item on the list of stuff you won’t want to do but should do. I attended a “Divorce Care” group and it was also a lifeline. I also received the care, support and compassion I needed. My group of DC folks went out to dinner after each meeting. It was so helpful to be a part of others who were “recovering” from this experience – I could not have survived without them either.
5. Prayer & Meditation. You may not believe in God but having some type of “higher power” if you will, is going to save your life. Something bigger than you that can help you get through this. Connecting to my “higher power” was huge during this time. I also found I grew spiritually in a way I cannot describe. There were even a few moments where I had the “peace that passes all understanding”. My daughter would be in anguish over something that was said at her dad’s house and I would feel the peace (not all the time, but I did fee l it) when I should have felt anything but peace.
6. Purposeful Communication with your separated spouse. Of all the tools, this one I didn’t learn until after the divorce. This would have helped so much during the separation. (This also could have saved me several thousand dollars!!) When you are speaking to your separated spouse, have a purpose for the conversation. Keep the conversation on topic or politely (I cannot stress politely enough) recluse yourself. During the separation, it may also be a good idea to have a list of topics you are covering in front of you when you speak to your separated spouse. Have a purpose for each communication. Are you concerned with managing the marital home, co-parenting children or arranging schedules? Those are all good reasons to have to speak to him or her. If it’s just to vent or to tell them how they should do something, don’t talk to them!! Talk to your friends, your family, your support group or your therapist – but not to your spouse! Emotions are high right now and the less negative communication, the better.
7. Self-care. You are walking through one of the worst, most stressful experiences of your life. Give yourself a break!! Also, give yourself some love. I practiced this in many ways: coffee with friends, working out, walking, taking off work early to play with my daughter at the park, yoga, bubble baths, read a book or listen to audio recordings that lift you up. I also embarked on new things – I met new people through my church and through different social groups. I joined new groups. I volunteered and met new people in doing so. I created a new Christmas routine with my daughter the year of our separation. I took care of myself so I could better take care of my daughter and my clients at work.
These are the biggest tools I used to help cope with my separation. The experience was not easy, and I don’t wish to ever do it again. But, looking in the rear-view mirror, I’m glad it happened. Not only is life better today with a new partner, but after my divorce was final, I made a list of “gifts” I received from the divorce process. It was amazing how much had been given to me during such a terrible time. I was grateful. I hope at some point you are too.
If we can help you please call. We at Divorce Strategies Group not only understand the divorce finance, we have been there ourselves and know what you are going through. We are here to help!