What Will Your NEW New Normal Be When the Dust Settles?

Divorcing is hard but divorcing during COVID-19 is harder: Too many unknowns.

Posted Jun 28, 2020

I was looking back on past articles I've written and I had to chuckle when I saw this one from 2011 entitled, "The New Normal." 

There is always a "new normal" following a personal transition, but what the heck is a new normal going to look like after a planetary transition?

The good news is that we are all in the same boat. None of us knows what life will be like post-COVID-19. But, the bad news is that we are all in the same boat! And for the same reason: We've never been here before and there is no map.

No one on the planet knows what life is going to look like once the pandemic is a thing of the past. Hell, we don't even have a guarantee that this ever will be over.

Divorcing people tell me consistently that one of the hardest aspects of divorce is dealing with all of the unknowns. 

Having no end in sight is actually harder on our psyche than if we were told that all hell will break loose for the next week for two weeks, but after that, life will return to normal. We could deal with that two weeks (albeit, it would no doubt be tough while hell was breaking loose.) When trouble is contained (meaning we know when it will begin and when it will end), we can adjust to it and power through.

When Will COVID-19 Be Behind Us?

We were told at the beginning of this mess that it would be a sprint: We would only have to be in lockdown for two weeks. Then, it became two months. A bit more than a sprint, but not quite a marathon. Now, however, we are being told it's a marathon but we don't know if it will be a 6K, 12K, or even a 26K (month) marathon, therefore, we don't know how to pace our lives.

When people go into divorce, they never know how long it will be. The changing of cadence is something they constantly have to do. Does that make this pandemic easier for them?

On the one hand, the fact that divorcing folks have built up a muscle for tolerating the unknowns may actually make this pandemic easier for them in some odd way. One of my clients who went through a hellacious divorce (she was homeless for a while and had Lyme disease while trying to divorce a narcissist). She said of COVID-19, "Bring it on. I can handle it."

This woman wasn't daunted by it at the beginning of the shelter-in-place, and she's not daunted by it several months later. She's already been to hell and back. She knows she will get through this.

On the other hand, this strange period in our global history may be making the divorce process even more excruciating because, at a time when divorcing people are already feeling marginalized and pushed out of social circles, they are even more isolated and alone (and they can't even pop over to a neighbor's for coffee—unless they share a social bubble).

How to Cope 

My mother used to say, "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger." That saying certainly applies to the coronavirus literally and figuratively. Hard times can make us stronger people. Some are hit harder by this virus than others. The disparities between how much different groups of people are impacted are staggering. The population that doesn't get studied in these CDC stats are the divorcing folks, but they are a population that is hit with a double whammy.

For those of you who are suffering greatly either because you're terrified of getting the virus, or because you are alone feeling isolated, or because you are trapped at home with a bunch of people who are driving you up a wall, here are some tips for getting through this incredibly tough time:

1. Cut your news intake by 90% or just touch in with the news once a week. It's important to stay informed, but too much bad news (which there is an abundance of now) isn't good for you.

2. Balance your bad news intake with some good news intake. There are lots of wonderful outlets for positive happenings. Here are a few: 

3. Reach out for support today. Contact your local mental health agency for ongoing counseling if you're not in crisis and, if you are, call your local crisis centers or go to your local emergency room.  There's also a national suicide hotline: 1-800-273-8255.       

4. Take comfort in knowing that you are not alone in this mess and that this really will be behind us someday.

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