Life After Divorce – Embrace the Change and Build a Fabulous New Life
Whether you wanted a divorce or not… well… here you are! You’ve probably had a taste of your new life, made at least a few changes, and started processing what the new you will be like. So, what’s next; what do you want your life to be like? Have you even had time to think about your future, or have you been operating on autopilot, just getting by?
Many people are stuck for a time after their divorce. If you’re a newly single parent, you are likely navigating your new life; your day may start early, getting kids off to school, rushing back and forth to a job, fielding and making personal calls during your lunch break, making sure you stay on track with finances, getting the kids, driving to an activity or practice, racing home, serving dinner, doing laundry, cleaning up, picking up, getting organized, checking the homework, preparing for bedtime, and doing the hundred other things needed in between and before you can crash into bed, only to start it all over again the next day...It can be exhausting!
If you are an empty-nester, things can be quite different day-to-day than the above routine, but nevertheless, you’re experiencing many big changes. The most common change for empty-nesters is adjusting to making decisions on your own, maybe even selling a home, which is emotional without a divorce. There are also changes in friendships and extended family, and the mourning of a future which no longer exists. Retirement is also a concern, and the splitting of assets could mean that going back to work is now a reality. Adult children are vocal, and, at any age they don’t want to see a divorce, and … oh, do they have opinions!
For someone that does not have children, the divorce can represent an end to a family. If they hoped to become a parent, there could now be some concerns, depending on your age, whether you might ever have the chance to start a family. Suddenly you are faced with questions such as a) who gets the friends, b) what to do about social media, and c) how to handle a possible run-in with each other in your social circle.
Regardless of your situation, divorce is disruptive, even when you are the one seeking to end your marriage. There are many decisions that need to be made, ones which affect you, your future, your family, and even your extended family. Finances are often a gigantic issue, with the division of assets, which often include debt, mounting legal fees, and finding or changing jobs. Digging out of the expense of a divorce is real! By the time the divorce is granted, both spouses tend to be overwhelmed, feel cheated, stressed and ready to move on. But how?
Life after Divorce can be both scary and exciting, and might make you either fearful or hopeful. It’s a new beginning for you, and it’s important that you think through and create some plans, that you have the support that you need, and that you allow yourself time to heal from your marriage. Before you run out and “find your tribe”, look for “the next big thing”, or get involved in a relationship, it can be wise to take the time to experience and explore your singleness.
There is something exciting about doing life on your own, even with kids in-tow, once you get over the fear and embrace your new life; it can lead you down a path you never thought possible. With minor kids in the picture, you may be co-parenting, with the children shuttling between homes; this can be a sad reminder that the marriage has ended, but it doesn’t need to be!
Even before I left my home and filed for divorce, my two boys and I had been living an autonomous life, day-to-day, on our own. It was a situation I became accustomed to – yet trapped in! I was in a marriage where my time was managed and controlled; from finances to the mileage on my car, everything was scrutinized, even though I was working 6 days a week. The divorce provided a relief from the trap, and a new-found freedom for the 3 of us.
So, whether you wanted a divorce or not…here you are! What is next for you? What will you do with the opportunities before you? Even with tight finances, it’s time to put yourself first, start over with a fresh new perspective on life, and decide how you will approach it.
When my divorce was final, I needed (and wanted) to reinvent myself in several ways; on the career front, a friend helped me with my resume and was very creative in describing my experience. After all, I had been working for my ex-husband’s business; obviously, I could not expect to use him as a reference! This meant that I had to delicately explain why I was looking for a new position, without saying what I really wanted to say! Despite this big obstacle, I secured a position, got started on a new career path, and supported my children and provided them with medical benefits, too. This was quite a confidence boost for me and, I imagine, could be encouraging for others who are reentering the workforce, too.
With any significant life change comes opportunities: the opportunity to accept, embrace, engage and grow in this next chapter. To embrace the change you are experiencing, it’s helpful if you have accepted the circumstances that brought you to where you are. It doesn’t mean you must like these circumstances, especially if you feel that your ex-spouse created most of them. It means that, to move on and embrace your new life, you need to accept where you are.
Acceptance can take time; each person comes to acceptance at their own pace. Look at where you are now: do you harbor any bitterness? “Some” is reasonable, but, is it consuming your thoughts and impacting you day-to-day, week-to-week? If it is, then you need some help accepting where you are; a therapist, support group, or a divorce coach will help you to alleviate the bitterness. If you’re co-parenting or have any interaction with your Ex (and yes-- there will be issues), the ability to cope with those issues matters, regardless of how your Ex is acting. You are only accountable for how you respond to a situation.
Part of the acceptance process is forgiveness; forgiveness is the act of letting go of the need for revenge. It’s the decision to release your negative thoughts of bitterness and resentment. If you are unable to forgive, try to work on doing so; again, forgiveness is for your benefit, not for others. Accepting the situation allows you to move ahead and it’s then easier for you to embrace and engage in your new life. But what does that mean, to embrace and engage?
Embracing this next phase in Life After Divorce, is easy, and it really can be fun. Simply, make a conscious effort to create a new life for yourself, meet new people, and begin living your new life. When an entrepreneur plans to open a new business, it’s common knowledge that a Business Plan will give them a better chance at success. So, why not give yourself a better chance at success? Create a Plan for yourself; what is it that you want from your new life, how will you achieve it? Will it be through a new life-style, education, certification, or networking. Use this plan as a jump-start to a fabulous new life. Once you’ve tackled acceptance and started embracing the new you, the next step is to Engage.
I truly believe that it’s helpful to get involved in your local community, whether it’s with a school, church, or an organization where you can volunteer your time and talents. Even if you are still living in the same area and if you have school age children, it makes sense to get involved in your community, their school and extracurricular activities. It’s easy to get involved at churches or other organizations which are always looking for volunteers; find something you are passionate about and engage in that passion. There is a lot you can do, and volunteering is not only an opportunity to give back to your community, it’s also a resume builder, as well as an opportunity to meet new people. Don’t wait for the invitation: make some calls and get involved!
If you feel as though you just can’t take the steps needed, or you get stuck along the way, there is no shame in asking for help. Friends are a great resource for support and encouragement, but a professional may be the best resource to quickly help you refocus and create the plan that will help you to heal and thrive.
The next step is the most important: after accepting, embracing and engaging in your new life, these steps will allow you to Grow into the person who you are meant to be, and to live the life that you were meant to live. With growth will come contentment, healing and happiness, and like many things that grow, you will soon begin to thrive, as you begin to build your fabulous new life!
Kerry Porter, a CDC Certified Divorce Coach, and founder of Divorce Response Team, is committed to bringing stability, control, and clarity to all phases of divorce; whether you are thinking about divorce, in the midst of a separation or divorce, divorced with ongoing issues, or blending a family. Kerry assists clients in being prepared, informed, and confident in utilizing their legal team more efficiently and effectively, negotiating settlements and parenting plans with their former spouses.