We accept that people need help at the beginning and at the end of life. Divorce is the end of one life and the beginning of another.
You will need help.
Here’s how to get it –
Friends and Family
These are probably the first people you will turn to. And with good reason. When you’ve lost a love, you want more than anything to be surrounded by people that love you. It can be challenging to share the news of the divorce with your friends and family; they will hurt for you and they may also be grieving the loss of the marriage. You may find it helpful to enlist a disseminator, a point-person who can share the news and salient facts to protect you from the painful repetition of the story at first.
Often, loved ones have a desire to help, but are unsure of what to do. Once you’re able, craft a message to send to your inner circle detailing what you need (food, outings, someone to watch the kids) and what you don’t (questions, platitudes, derogatory statements about your ex).
You may find that some people respond with judgment rather than compassion. You may have to put these relationships on the back burner for a time until you’re ready to handle their comments. This is a time to surround yourself with people firmly on Team You. No apologies needed.
Friends and family are great, yet they have their limitations. They may get you, but they don’t necessarily get what you’re going through. Divorce has a way of making you feel like a pariah in your own life. And that’s why divorce communities, either in-person or virtual (like DivorceForce!) are so important. You learn you’re not alone, you can gain information and understanding from others facing the same and you can find hope from those that a little further along than you. And they’ll also listen to you when you’re friends are telling you to “Just get over it, already!”
Be mindful of the tone and culture of the group you select. It may feel good at first to be part of a congregation that plays “Pin the Tail on the Ex” at every gathering, yet that focus won’t help you much in long run. Instead, look for a community that accepts where you are and has a goal of helping you move on to where you want to be.
Maybe you’ve moved to a new neighborhood and you need help finding a good babysitter. Or perhaps your spouse always took care of the painting and now you need to hire it out. Those little details of daily life can become overwhelming during divorce and, as they’re frequently accompanied with a move, they can become downright impossible to manage. And during divorce, networking and creating local relationships often takes more time and energy than you possess.
Luckily, there’s help. The Nextdoor app puts you in virtual touch with your neighbors. Without actually having to summon the energy to talk to somebody or even to get dressed, you can find out everything from can you let your dog out to learning the best place to sell your wedding ring. It helps to alleviate some of the pressure and anxiety that arises when you’re suddenly left to do it all on your own.
Between the stigma that often still surrounds divorce (some people seem to think it’s as contagious as a cold!), the awkwardness that develops in a friend group when a couple splits and the demands that divorce makes on your time and energy, it can be challenging to maintain your former levels of social contact. But that doesn’t mean it’s not important.
This can be a great time to reconnect with old friends who knew you before your marriage. It can also be a great time to meet some new friends (even if temporary) who will not view you as “the divorcing one.” A group such as MeetUp can provide no-pressure social contact alongside a shared interest. And if all that feels too overwhelming, at the very least spend some time in public at the periphery of a crowd. It serves as a great reminder that you’re not alone.
I don’t think anyone can make it through divorce without at least some professional help. If you’re having trouble sleeping or are experiencing signs of anxiety, depression or PTSD-like symptoms, locate a psychiatrist, as you may benefit from some medication. If you are having trouble processing the divorce and its associated emotions, call a therapist. If your symptoms are presenting physically (which is quite common), you may need a visit to your doctor.
Professional support can also come from a religious leader to help you navigate this change through faith, a divorce or life coach to help you take charge of your future and even a financial advisor to help you plan your budget. Don’t try it alone. Let the professional carry some of your burdens while you rebuild your strength.
The headspace during divorce can get downright ugly. You may have thoughts and fears that don’t feel safe to disclose even to your closest friends or your caring therapist. This is where the journal comes in. It can take any form – written or recorded, paper or digital, neat or messy. Allow it to absorb your tears and your fears. This is your uncensored space. Where you can let it all out without worries of being judged or facing repercussions for your outbursts.
While there are many ways to journal and no rules that must be followed, I have a basic strategy that I often recommend: Each time you write, begin by purging the “yuck.” Let it all out until you’re drained of its energy. Then, explore your current worries. Those “what ifs” and fears that keep you up at night. And begin to explore possible solutions along with tempering those runaway emotions with some rational thoughts. Finally, end each session with hope. With dreams and inspirations for your future. Even if you have no idea how you’re going to get there, the act of writing down your dreams helps you believe they can come true.
It’s so important during divorce to have a safe space that you can retreat to when the world becomes too much. Perhaps it’s your car, with its soundproof doors, endless supply of music and ability to take you away. Or maybe you indulge in luxurious sheets and pillows that make your bed feel as welcoming as a hug from a caring grandmother.
The location and the specifics of the space don’t matter. It simply needs to feel safe and welcoming. A place where you can simply be you and get a little distance from everything else. A word of caution here – sanctuaries are intended to provide respite. If you stay in your safe space for too long, it becomes a prison.
During divorce, allow your support system to be your scaffolding, buttressing you until you can again stand tall on your own.
Lisa Arends is a moved-forward, re-center, re-purpose divorcee working to inspire others to do so as well. She has written the “How-To-Thrive Guide.” You can learn more about “thriving” and get other inspirations at her blog, lessonsfromtheendofamarriage.com.