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Life After Divorce

Monday, June 30, 2014

Life After Divorce

Few personal crises rival the destruction created by a failed marriage. The process of choosing to divorce, legally severing your relationship, and recovering following the divorce is exhausting emotionally, financially and often physically. Once the divorce decree has been signed and the dust has settled on the ruins of what you once hoped would be your happily ever after, how do you pick up the pieces and move forward? Here are some tips:

Few personal crises rival the destruction created by a failed marriage. The process of choosing to divorce, legally severing your relationship, and recovering following the divorce is exhausting emotionally, financially and often physically. Once the divorce decree has been signed and the dust has settled on the ruins of what you once hoped would be your happily ever after, how do you pick up the pieces and move forward? Here are some tips:

Be certain to seek professional counseling (or continue if you were already involved in couples counseling) until you and your counselor feel comfortable that you are able to deal with any lingering issues that emerged as a result of your divorce. Don't hesitate to return to counseling, even months or years after the divorce is finalized, if you find that your earlier issues reemerge in your life. Much of the pain that causes divorce, and remains years after, is deeply seated and has the potential to sabotage not just future romantic relationships, but also your interaction with family and friends. If you have children from your marriage, don't forget to assess their emotional well-being. Your divorce affected their lives as well, and they may need the help of a licensed professional counselor to sort out their feelings. Without that help, many children of divorce grow up and struggle with healthy relationships as a result of their experience of your failed marriage.

If you are a person of faith, divorce can cause you to either question or cling to your faith-- sometimes both. You may be vacillating between a sense of failure as you break your vows and a sense of anger with God for allowing your problems to occur. Whether your divorce was the result of infidelity or abuse, or it was a friendly, no-contest separation between people who feel they have just grown apart, the guilt and pain associated with a divorce is real. For many people, true recovery from a divorce is not possible until they have come to terms with how that fits within the context of their faith. Seek counsel from people you trust within your church or faith community. Seek forgiveness if you need to. Seek to maintain or rejoin the fellowship of your church-- find a new one if you must-- but don't allow your personal difficulty to create a permanent separation between yourself and God.

Maintain key relationships as you seek to rebuild your life. As you probably discovered, a divorce strains and tests all your relationships, not just the one you're ending. You quickly find that your circle of true friends may be significantly smaller than you imagined. Family that you thought would be compassionate, if not supportive, are surprisingly distant. Friends who have supported you (and who you have supported) through other life challenges now take sides with your ex. Colleagues you expected to be judgmental emerge as a lifeline to sanity and acceptance. In order to survive in your newly single life, you'll need to find what's essential and positive and dismiss all else. Surround yourself with the people who love you and who support and accept you. It will be hard enough to recover with their help, there's no reason to do it with critical or judgmental people as your constant companion.

Speaking of relationships … don't rush into your next one until you are ready. Only you can know what this means. For some, the circumstances of their divorce leave them unable to embrace a healthy romantic relationship for years. For others, a matter of months or weeks is all the separation they need. Whatever your timeline, remember that it is just that. Yours. Those who will judge you for beginning a new relationship will do so based on their perception of what is appropriate, regardless of how you are feeling. With the exception of your children and a very select few other people (perhaps your parents or close siblings), other people's opinions should be largely ignored.

Take it easy on yourself whenever possible. Try to find the humor in your daily life, even when it seems nothing is going well. Remember that your life existed before your marriage, and at some point in the future, it will be possible to wake up happy again. As cliche as this may sound, this too shall pass. Quit demanding perfection from yourself and accept that all of us make mistakes; yours is currently very public and painful, but still just a part of the human condition.

Take care of yourself physically. A divorce often creates sleepless nights and days filled with conflict and stress. Though it may feel like your world revolves around mediation and custody hearings or court dates and attorneys fees, you will still have to show up to work each day, make dinner for your kids, buy birthday presents for you sister, etc. You may suddenly be back in the workforce after years of being the stay at home spouse/mother. Trying to do it all while barely holding yourself together emotionally takes a toll. This frequently leads to a general decline in your health and wellness. If you failed to protect your own health during the divorce, resolve to change that now. The endorphins created by exercise are a natural anti-depressant. Take advantage of that to fight through the difficult period of recovery. Make every effort to eat in a healthy fashion. Take your vitamins. Go to bed early. Basically, be good to yourself.

As quickly as possible, handle name changes (if applicable) on legal documents such as wills, driver's licenses, passports, etc. It's an unnecessarily painful reminder of your situation if each time you go to the grocery store, you have to explain why the name on your driver's license doesn't match your checks. And you certainly don't want to make arrangements to reward yourself for surviving the divorce with a girls' (or guys') trip to Mexico only to find at the last minute that you forgot to change your passport. Changing your legal documents soon after the divorce is finalized will allow you to make a cleaner break.

At New Hope, help and a caring staff are only a call away. Call us at 573-860-1601/1602.

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