I'm Divorced. Now What?

Three keys to overcoming post-divorce life challenges so you can thrive

Posted Jul 10, 2016

You've lost your spouse. You've lost half of the precious time you have with your kids. You've lost extended family. You've lost money and financial security. You may even have lost your house.

The one thing you thought you wouldn't lose was your friends. But you did—not all of them, perhaps, but many (possibly most) of them.

Divorce is cruel.

It can take from you just about everything you hold valuable. And long after the legal process is over and done, you may still find yourself reeling emotionally and socially.

Having worked with divorcing people for going on two decades now, I can tell you that there is another side of divorce where, if you allow it to happen, a whole new world opens up and where you find yourself. It will be your "new normal." It just may take some time and space to get there. You have to be patient.

I believe that with every gift comes challenges and with every challenge comes gifts.

New (and wonderful) people, places and things will come into your life that wouldn't and couldn't while you were still married. If I hadn't seen this happen time and time again, I might not be able to say this so confidently, but it's true.

The question you may be asking yourself now is, "Do I have to sit around and wait for all this to appear or can I do something to make my new normal show up sooner?"

Well, you can't skip over grief. It takes on a life of its own and the grief process is done when IT is done. That said, there are definitely things you can do to either prolong your grief or move it along a bit quicker.

How to Prolong the Pain

Disclaimer: The following two paragraphs are written tongue in cheek. Please don't take them seriously—unless, of course, you really DO want to drag out your divorce recovery process. 

If you'd like to prolong your grief, the absolute best thing you can do is isolate yourself. Don't seek any support, don't make new friends and always say, "No, I'm fine. I don't need your help," when someone asks if they can cook you dinner, help you clean out the garage, pick up your kids or otherwise lend a hand.

Another great way to make your recovery process harder and take longer is to stay in your emotional safety zone. By this, I mean sticking with your same routine, focusing on all the "what if's" (a bad thought habit most humans have), watching as much TV as you can (this is the perfect activity for isolators because you don't have to talk to a real human being yet you gain a false sense of connection with others). And, by all means, numb yourself so you don't have to feel the pain. Some people drink more alcohol, others gamble or shop or become workaholics. There is no shortage of ways to run from your harsh reality.

How to Have a Better Divorce Recovery

Here are three sure-fire ways that you can get on the other side of your split better (and quite possibly even sooner). All of these ideas are simple but not necessarily easy to implement. If these suggestions feel daunting, you're probably still too emotionally raw. Be gentle with yourself and please get some professional guidance. One to one counseling in the earliest part of the process can give you a good jumpstart to feeling better. Also, keep a copy of this article close by because the day will come when you will be ready to get on with your life and this advice will excite you. Here we go.

1. Make new friends.

In our fast-paced, technologically saturated lives, it's easy to forget how important human interaction can be. While it's true that the internet has disconnected us from each other, it's also true that it's never been easier to meet new people without joining a religious organization or volunteering at your kids' school.  One of my favorite sites to connect with others is called MeetUp.com. This site is set up for people to come together around a topic or passion. Examples include: dachshund lovers, Franco-files, or mothers of autistic toddlers. If a MeetUp doesn't exist, you can actually create your own.

I have a MeetUp group for people who are divorcing in the San Francisco Bay Area. If you'd like to find a divorce support MeetUp in your local area, search the site by plugging in "divorce support" and your town or county. You'll probably be pleasantly surprised.

When I say, "make new friends," I'm primarily suggesting that you seek out people who will be considered friends (without benefits)—people to talk to and perhaps do things with. I realize there's a readiness involved with dating, but I think going on dates can be a good way to grow—even if you're not ready to get into a new relationship. Here's why: You'll learn about yourself in a different way than you would with a new pal.

Most people's adolescent brain takes over when they date (especially if they're interested in the new prospect), and it's good to  practice before you're ready so that when you are ready, you'll already be a pro! You don't have to force this idea on yourself but try to keep an open mind.

2. Explore new things.

Did you forgo that dance class because your spouse didn't want to go? Take it now. Have you always wanted to join a cycling or bowling team? Join now. Is there a destination you've only fantasized about traveling to? Go now.

Not only is this a good way to meet people, but going places you've never been and doing things you've never done is enlivening. This is where sites like MeetUp are great because you don't have to be alone while participating. One way to travel as a single person is to go via group travel packages. I went on one of my favorite trips (to Machu Picchu) that way. 

3. Learn from others who've been through divorce. They will have a great deal of wisdom to share.

Chances are, you know someone who has been through the experience. If you don't, someone you know knows someone. Divorce has become extremely common and there's generally less stigma attached to it these days (I know that's not necessarily true for everyone).

People joke that the phone suddenly weighs 50-pounds because calling others to ask for help is one of the greatest challenges any adult faces. Yet, those on the receiving end of the line are often only too happy to share that happened to them, what resources they used and what they learned.

One of the ways a divorce group can be so helpful is that someone else in the group is likely to have the answer to a question you've had or they know exactly who to refer you to for help. You don't have to go it alone and you surely don't have to reinvent the wheel.

Divorce is hard enough. It's okay to ask for help and crucial to let the help in.

My next article is called, "Why is Getting Emotional Help for Divorce So Hard?" so stay tuned to learn more about what gets in the way of getting better.