First let me say, I am sorry you are here. So sorry.
Please know, you will get through the chaos. And, in the midst of the awful, know that you are not alone. You will survive this. And there is a rich life for you at the end of the tunnel.
Divorce is extremely disorienting. You have built your life around your family. The markers of safety and normalcy in your life have likely been associated with being part of your family unit, even if your marriage was not actually a safe place to be. Suddenly, in divorce you are sort of spiraling in space. It is like being on a lake at night, where you knew your way around during the day time and how to get there, and then suddenly it is dark and you have no idea where you are or how to make it back to shore.
All the markers you recognize are indiscernible. You have to discover new ones to be able to find your way. There will be times when you feel extreme anxiety and find yourself in a fetal position alone on your couch. This is a normal and necessary process. Fear, grief, regret, and anxiety are normal human emotions. They are not signs of weakness. They are signs of life.
Try to consciously avoid falling into the traps of escape. Human beings, like most living creatures, fear pain, run from it, try to insulate themselves from it. But the pain of divorce cannot be escaped if you are going to live and rebuild yourself and your life authentically and honestly. You will be tempted to find an escape, because pain is pain. You may reach for another drink, for your credit card, for dating apps, for tons of exercise, whatever your drug of choice may be.
But ultimately you have to sit in your aloneness and really feel it and acknowledge that you are no longer in a partnership, and that is new and frightening. You cannot create real new growth without first cutting through the wreckage.
That said, in this period, it is extremely important to give yourself grace. Regardless of how intentionally you commit to do it all exactly the right way, you will fall flat on your face more than a few times. You will make bad choices. You will embarrass yourself. You will do things you never imagined yourself doing just as many others have done before you. You are in a life crisis. Treat yourself kindly, stop ruminating over your mistakes, and be proud of yourself for the progress you are making. Sleep, get your nails done, go for a walk. You need to love and care for yourself better than you ever have in your life.
Treat the others in your life with grace too. Friends and family may have difficulty accepting your divorce. You have likely accepted it long before it happened. You were on the inside of it. Those on the outside likely did not see. They may be shocked. They may have their own grief. They may have lots of advice you do not want to hear. They may be flat out wrong. But now is not the time in your life to wage war on your support system. No one is going to get it exactly right. They are people too. No one is perfect, including you. You still need them. Try your very best not to alienate yourself from the people who have always loved and cared for you. You need them now more than ever.
Recognize that some relationships will need to end. Some of your friends will feel the need to take a side, and it will not necessarily be yours. Some people in your life might totally oppose what you are doing and be unwilling to support you. Other friendships may just be too painful for you to return to because they are associated fully in your mind with your marriage and being around those people causes you to feel sadness over the loss of your old life with your old friends, and when you are around them it is too much to bear.
A sad reality of divorce is that it not only ends the marriage relationship. It ends other relationships in your life as well, including sometimes in-laws you loved like your own family. You will need time to grieve these losses too.
Now is also a good time in your life to remove all the negative influences that you can. Divorce is emotionally draining. If there are other things or people in your life who are also emotionally draining you, now, in your time of reinvention, is a good time to cut those things or people out of your life.
With the loss of so many relationships, now is also a time to try to cultivate deeper connections with those who remain in your life and to seek out new friends. People need people, especially in a time of crisis. Figure out which friendships you have that have potential to deepen, and pursue them. Figure out if you know any other single moms. You will have a different schedule now than many of your married mom friends. You need single friends now too.
If you are the one who filed for divorce, there is a tendency to feel guilty for feeling sad about getting divorced. There may be a voice in your head that says, “I don’t get to feel sad because I’m the one doing this.” Ignore that voice. You are entitled to grieve. You likely did not choose the circumstances that led you to make the final choice to end the marriage and this is likely not what you dreamed for your life. This is a loss for you, too. It is a loss of a dream of what you wanted out of life. It is a loss of the family unit. It is the loss of the idealized family. You are entitled to feel however you feel.
If your spouse is the one who filed for divorce, there is a tendency to feel inadequate. Try your best to ignore that voice. Believe in your own worth and goodness. Your spouse’s feelings about you do not define you. You are who you are, a worthy human being, with or without them. You are a person, and like all other people, you are not perfect. But you are valuable and worthy and there is good within you. You deserve to be loved. You do not deserve to be hurt or rejected. Do not believe the lies in your head about your worth.
Find new or old things that you love and bring them back into your life. You now get to make a whole new you and a whole new life. Grow flowers. Read books. Get back to knitting. Do something you have always wanted to do and never done. You now have your life back. You get to decide who you want to be and how you want to live. It is like being given a second chance at life. Take it.
Know that all of the immediate chaos and crisis associated with the newness of divorce will end. You will suddenly look up and realize you have made a life for yourself that you love. The chaos and the terrible things that kept you up at night will be over. Life will just be life again. Hold on to this hope in the midst of the awful.
Form a tangible goal in your mind that you will achieve when your life settles down again and hold onto that image. Maybe it is a trip, a new outfit, etc. For me it was something really simple. It was a flamingo light cover that I had picked out and knew I would put in the new kids’ bathroom that I planned on making when everything settled down. In the worst moments, I would think, one day I will have a peaceful home, with a kids’ bathroom that has a flamingo light cover.
I have it now. It brings me joy. You will get your flamingo in time.