Archive | November, 2013

How To Get Through The First Year of Your Divorce

22 Nov

Ema at Meiji Shrine

WHEW!!! I made it! I made it past the first year. How awesome do I feel? Pretty dang awesome. When the separation first happened, I googled extensively for how to get through it. I found a ton of great ideas, and now I’m adding my own.

  1. Don’t date. Seriously. I am not kidding about this. You might be on an airplane on New Years Day when a stunningly handsome guy sits next to you and you have a great conversation and exchange numbers with him. Don’t date him. Especially if he tells you that you’re important within 4 days of meeting him and he won’t leave you alone about wanting to come with you when you tell him you’re going apartment hunting and you’ve very sweetly said no. This guy is bad news. Not only that, but your first priority is to heal. Worrying about another romantic relationship will not help you heal. Don’t post your profile on dating sites. Just don’t do it.
    Maybe you’re stronger than I am and can handle dating someone, but I think it’s best to put dating on the way back, back, backburner until you are ready to not freak out or cry when someone doesn’t call you back. Or if you aren’t strong enough to listen to your instincts because you’d rather have any warm body around than be alone and wait for a healthy person to come into your life.
  2. Find a support system. Your family and friends are most likely going to be there for you 100% of the time. Spread the calls and texts throughout your support system so you don’t exhaust just one person. I had different people I contacted depending on whether I needed to laugh or if I needed to feel warmth and sympathy. Talk to them! The people who love you want to help you and help you move forward. If your family makes you feel shitty, find someone else to talk to.
  3. Get professional help. There is no shame in seeing a therapist. Find one you’re comfortable with. If you’re afraid you can’t afford one, research. Most cities have a 211 number you can call for resources. In addition, lots of therapists do sliding scale services, and some nonprofits have therapists who are available for much lower rates than you think. Don’t let finances keep you from getting the help you need. And certainly don’t let preconceived notions about mental health keep you from visiting with someone. Seeing a therapist does not mean you are crazy.
    Seek out medication if you need it. Again, no shame in using science to help. Your medical doctor will be able to prescribe something if necessary.  There’s no magic bullet, unfortunately, but there are lots of things available to help take the edge off the unbearable pain.
  4. Read. I read tons of blogs and some books to learn how people survived a divorce. Here are some of my favorites:
    How to Survive the Loss of a Love – There are a bunch of god-awful poems in this book, so I would recommend ignoring those and reading only the meat of the book. It’s good. I re-read part of it over the last week and it made me realize how far I really have come.
    http://www.marcandangel.com/2011/12/11/30-things-to-stop-doing-to-yourself/
    http://www.alexandrafranzen.com/2011/03/19/how-to-survive-when-everything-sucks/ (this list is kind of simplistic, but sometimes simplicity is what you need)
    http://www.awesomeyourlife.com/2012/12/what-to-do-when-life-sucks/
    http://www.baggagereclaim.co.uk/moving-on-from-disappointment-are-you-focused-on-the-person-or-on-the-bigger-picture-of-your-life/
  5. Pray, meditate, do yoga, or do whatever it is that you do to feel connected to something bigger than yourself. I haven’t been very good at this, but lately I’ve tried harder to look past myself. It’s been helpful.
  6. Keep a healthy perspective. This is really hard. This doesn’t mean you can’t be sad about your issues. But remember to breathe once in awhile and look past what’s happening in your own bubble and see how others are overcoming their demons and challenges.
  7. Take it slowly. I was so fortunate at my job to be able to share that I was getting divorced with my manager. He was so very patient with me. I’m used to being involved in lots of different things at work, but I took a step back and concentrated only on my primary functions. I have to admit that I was not on my A game, but I really needed to heal. I feel like I am just now getting the use of more than 90% of my brain. It’s nice to be back.
    I read this article awhile a few months ago about survival: http://dish.andrewsullivan.com/2013/09/08/fighting-back-against-the-memory-disease-the-believer-sept-2013/
    “Every night, I just wrote a list of things that are good to do, and the next day I read the list and did them—did them until I didn’t have to read the list anymore. Brush my teeth. Eat a banana. Work on my dissertation for three hours. Take a walk. Go to an NA meeting. Repeat.”
    If that’s what it takes, do it. If daily success is measured by you brushing your teeth twice a day, then use that as a measure. This is not a time to be angry with yourself for not being a superstar.
  8. Be sad. If you are sad, cry. Let yourself feel. One of the books I read told me to lean into my sadness, that it wouldn’t kill me. As much as it felt like I was close to death, I made it. I was a mess, y’all. I couldn’t sleep. I lost 15 pounds in 2 weeks. I could barely breathe. And I am alive now. And I feel happy.
  9. Put in work. There’s that saying, time heals all wounds or something. Well, it does, but you can’t just sit there and expect time to do everything. I think a better phrase is this: “Healing requires taking action – it is not a passive event.” Identify what you did to contribute to the demise of your marriage. Decide if you want to live with those parts of yourself or if you want to improve. This is not about berating yourself about every single thing you did wrong. But don’t stay there. Send your apology into the universe and then move into action. If you don’t like something about yourself, baby step your way out of it. Remember that no one can fix you or help you more than yourself. You have to want to move on.
  10. Take a When Your Relationship Ends class. This is the 10-week seminar that I joined and got so much out of. Not only did I get valuable tools for coping with my divorce and learn that I’m not crazy, I also found some amazing friends.
  11. Do new things. I think I have tried more things that are outside of my comfort zone this past year than I did while I was married. And you know what? It feels good.
  12. Be grateful. When it feels like everything is absolute shit, take time to reflect on at least one good thing in your life. Maybe it’s your shoes. Maybe it’s your short commute time. Realize how blessed you are.

Getting divorced isn’t fun and it isn’t easy. But you can get through it. You really can. Trust me on that.