How to Start over After Divorce
In addition to any heartache and confusion that may surround your divorce proceedings, you may feel disillusioned in the aftermath, too. It’s hard to know exactly what to do after a split—your entire future once intersected with your ex’s. Everyone’s path will be different. However, you can start by coping with the emotional aspects of the divorce. Then, find ways to adjust to being alone and try some new things to see what fits your new identity.
Coping with Your New Reality
Take time to mourn, but don’t suppress your relief either.In order to truly move on and thrive, you need to allow yourself to grieve your marriage’s end. Whether the divorce came as a surprise or was a mutual decision, you still need to acknowledge your feelings and give yourself space to mourn. However, you should also not feel guilty about any feelings of relief that arise, either.
- Give yourself permission to cry, binge-watch romantic comedies, or look through old photo albums. You might journal about your feelings or vent to a dear friend. Get it all out—don’t be ashamed to release any emotions. Everyone deals with grief differently; there is no “normal” reaction.
Consider your children.If you are a parent, you will need to make some decisions about co-parenting moving forward. Depending on how amicably your marriage ended, you and your ex may be able to sort out the logistical aspects of raising your children. Or, you may need legal help.
- Just know that the divorce process is distressing for children, so try your best to stay civil with your ex. Encourage your children to talk to you about their feelings. Offer them support. Doing so will make the transition easier for them and reduce any negative impacts on their well-being.
Seek support from friends and family.Withdrawing from your loved ones will only make this process more painful. Support is necessary during and after your divorce because connecting with others makes you feel less alone. Just be sure to carefully consider who you choose to lean on.
- Spend time with positive influences, not people who merely want to gobble up sensitive info for gossip or to shame your ex. Choose supportive individuals who will listen without judgment or unsolicited advice.
- Keep in mind that you might need to reach out beyond your immediate social circle. Consider joining a single parents' support group at your church or in the larger community.
Prioritize self-care.The process of divorce may lead to you neglecting your most basic needs. You will find better emotional healing if you are gentle and nurturing with yourself. Consume a balanced diet of nutritious foods, stay away from drugs and alcohol, get plenty of rest, and make exercise a priority.
- In addition to attending to your physical health, you should also schedule in “me-time” to do things you enjoy. Try reading a good book, walking in nature, or listening to relaxing music.
See a therapist.If you are having trouble dealing with your new reality, seek help from a professional counselor or therapist. Ending a committed relationship can bring up a lot of issues that threaten your mental health. You may fear loneliness or have difficulty moving on. A therapist offers unbiased support and can help you learn skills to cope with your feelings.
- Ask your primary care physician for a referral to a therapist. You might also get a recommendation from your family lawyer.
Participate in a support group.Another option for support is through groups designed for those going through divorce. You can connect with others who are going through similar situations and hear about how they are coping.
- This may be particularly helpful if your divorce ended in a nasty way, such as after abuse, addiction, or infidelity.
- Search for divorce groups online or in your local area through organizations like Divorce Care.
Readjusting to Being Single
Find a routine that works and stick to it.Starting over after a divorce can be smoother when you stick to a routine. Routine provides needed structure in what can be a very uncertain time of life. Schedule in all your mandatory responsibilities like work and household obligations, but make room for new tasks that allow you to explore a new side of yourself, too.
- Your new routine should include healthy activities that allow you to connect with others and heal. Try starting a new workout regimen, meditating, joining a club or organization, or visiting new areas in your city.
Learn new roles.One of the most noticeable aspects of divorce is the many new hats you may now have to wear. Where you once split your to-do list with a spouse, you now have to handle all your responsibilities. Many of these may be tasks you always counted on your spouse to do like balancing your checkbook, cooking, or housekeeping and yard work.
- Ask relatives, friends, or experts in these areas for advice. If it seems like too much, focus on learning one new task at a time. You may be able to get helpful information by reading blogs, checking out books from your local library, or signing up for classes.
- However, be aware that you may also have to let some things go because you cannot do it all.
Decorate your home according to your style.The aftermath of divorce may leave you house-hunting, or you may simply want to freshen up your current home to reflect your singlehood. Redecorating can bring up many emotions as you go through mementos of your previous life. Don’t try to take on too much at once.
- Go room by room in your new home, really thinking about how you want the space to look and feel.
Rediscover who you are as an individual.Divorce presents an opportunity to go back to the drawing board and really ask yourself who you want to be and what you want out of life. Some people may have trouble being single, but spending time sans relationship is integral to figuring out yourself—and making sure you choose a more fitting partner next time around.
- Use this time to reconnect with your personal values, redefining your beliefs and life purpose. Learn to listen to and trust yourself without needing another person to weigh in on your decisions.
- In addition, it’s a good idea to reflect on your role in the breakdown of your marriage. Think about any unhealthy patterns you developed in the relationship and ways you need to work on yourself.
Pick up a hobby or restore interest in an old one.There’s no better time to revive old passions or explore new ones than after a divorce. You may find your social calendar has more free space, so fill up those empty hours doing activities you enjoy. Pursuing a hobby also helps you connect with potential friends.
- Think about an activity that you have always been interested in, but never tried. Find a class or group in your area and sign up immediately. Don’t second-guess the decision—just go for it.
Travel the world.A great way to reinvent yourself post-divorce is by creating new memories. Identify a place, near or far, that you would like to visit and plan a trip. You can ask close friends or family to join you, or venture out on your own.
Change your look.There’s no better way to send the message that you’re starting over than an actual makeover. Look at yourself in the mirror and decide how you want to present yourself to the world moving forward. A change can be minor like selecting a new signature scent, or major like getting your hair colored or cut.
- You might even choose to sort through your closet, getting rid of clothes that no longer reflect your style. Go shopping for new pieces that flatter your body and compliment your skin tone.
- Many people also like to replace the marital bed, and re-do the bedroom in their own style.
Date only when you’re ready.Dating is a tricky area post-divorce. Some loved ones will hound you with blind date proposals. Others will remind you that you should “take your time.” Ignore others’ advice and tune in to yourself and your own needs. You might be ready to date three months after your divorce, or you may decide to wait a year. It’s completely up to you.
- When you do decide to date, don’t take yourself so seriously. Try not to focus on finding “the one.” Instead, have fun casually meeting new people and going to interesting places.
Video: Helping Divorced Women Start Over: Applying What I Learned | Oraynab Jwayyed | TEDxUCO
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