You’ve divided the assets, decided on child support and custody, and signed the final paperwork. You’re officially divorced. Now what? Now, it’s time to move on. Although you may feel relieved, the task of moving forward into the unknown can be daunting. You’ve just gone through a major life event, are likely on your own for the first time in years, and have to navigate a new normal.
“Divorce, disability and unemployment all seem to be life events that pose significant adjustment challenges to people,” writes Robert Hughes, Jr., professor of human development at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, in a HuffPost article. “We can't assume that most people will recover well from these events and we need to think about ways to provide support and assistance to people dealing with these challenges.”
To help you adjust to the lifestyle change, DivorceForce has these several tips on how to move on following your divorce:
Grieve the Divorce
Divorce is an amplified breakup, and still counts as a loss. You’re allowed to grieve the loss of your relationship and your ex for as long as necessary. Although some outlets put a lifespan on the mourning process, founder and psychotherapist at Chicago-based counseling practice Thriving Path Cori Dixon-Fyle, told Oprah Magazine that putting pressure on yourself to feel better by a certain time can cause shame. Instead, she recommends, you should “feel empowered by having no timeline.”
This mourning experience can look and feel any way you need it to. If you need to lie in bed with a carton of ice cream and watch rom-coms all day, you should. If you need to recount what went wrong to your friends and family, do it. If you need shopping therapy, go for it. Do whatever is necessary for you to properly grieve this dissolution, however, don’t go overboard. Don’t stay in bed for months. Don’t overspend on your credit cards. And don’t rehash your divorce for weeks on end to anyone who will listen. If you feel yourself slipping into an unhealthy pattern, it’s time to ask for help.
To let go, you must work through the things keeping you from moving on. Wellness coach Lisa Arends recognizes forgiveness, grasping at pain, triggers and associations, replication of the relationship, and isolation as common themes that hold you back from letting the relationship go when you should be propelling forward.
Divorce coach and mediator Gabrielle Hartley, Esq. suggests five steps to follow when attempting to let go of divorce:
- Make the Decision: Recognize your need for letting go and establish a new life vision.
- Clarify Your Responsibility: Take ownership of your actions and feelings.
- Seek Peace & Patience: Build your inner peace over time.
- Live in the Present: Simplify your life by living in the moment, instead of looking back on your divorce.
- Find Forgiveness: Forgive yourself for anything you blame yourself for.
Ask for Help
No matter how you’re feeling, ask for help. It’s best to surround yourself with a support system, whether that be family and friends, a divorce support group, or a trained professional. If you need to chat at night or someone to lean on, call a family member or your dearest friend. A divorce support group provides an outlet for you to vent about your divorce to people who have been through similar circumstances. You’ll experience a deeper understanding than from family and friends who haven’t been through a separation. A licensed therapist, however, can provide you with professional, medical advice and work through your feelings with you.
Prepare for What’s to Come
It’s a good idea to mentally prepare yourself for what’s to come. If you have children, you’ll be sharing them with your ex, meaning less time, and complex routines. If your kids are old enough to understand what’s going on, explain it to them. Attempt to compromise with your ex to ensure easy transitions for your children. Negotiate schedules and work together to focus on what’s best for them. Don’t drag your children into the drama; keep conversations and interactions with your ex as civil as possible. Avoid bad-mouthing.
You should also be prepared for changes to your friends group. After a divorce, some friends may pick sides. Those married may slowly slip away, as you now lack commonalities. Remember: True friends will stick by you and support you, no matter what. And if you do lose close companions, try to make new ones. Put yourself out there. Join divorce support or singles groups to find new connections.
This is your opportunity to find yourself again. Reflect on the hobbies and activities that may have fallen by the wayside after marriage. Or, explore new interests by sampling several pastimes. When rediscovering yourself, it’s important to think about your career goals, too. Are you on the right path? Do you want to continue in this field? Do you need to set new career goals? What is your dream job and how can you achieve it? Then, develop a plan to work toward these objectives.
Organize Your Financials
You may have begun work on this prior to your divorce, but that doesn’t mean you should stop. Continue organizing your financial documents and meet with a professional to discuss your short- and long-term goals. Set yourself up to be financially independent, so you have the ability to achieve these, support your kids, and have fun in your downtime.
To learn more about how to assess your financials before, during, and after divorce, check out our blog here.
Once you feel you’re ready, consider dating. Before you jump back into a long-term relationship, however, you may want to try transitional dating, which acts as a stepping stone to finding a lasting partner. This type of dating doesn’t come with the expectation that every date will lead toward a permanent relationship. Keep it light and fun. You’ll want to test the waters with a variety of people, many of whom may be out of your comfort zone. You can ask your friends and family to set you up with someone, or use reputable dating websites to connect with others.
If you’re not ready to start dating, that’s fine. You don’t have to rush back into a relationship. Instead, you can focus on building friendship connections and rediscovering yourself and your goals.
If you’ve just gone through a divorce and need help moving forward, check out DivorceForcePRO, our online network of experts in finance, legal, real estate, and mental health industries. Every professional in our database has years of experience helping people before, during and after divorce.
Gregory C. Frank is the CEO and Founder of DivorceForce.