It’s not easy to get divorced. No one ever said it was easy, of course, but I think sometimes, when you’re looking down the road ahead and imagining what each stop along the way is going to feel like, it’s the most intimidating thing imaginable.
Why is it so easy to let your mind wander to the scenarios that scare you the most? Why is it so easy to say such mean things to yourself (you’re ugly, you’re fat, you’re going to be alone forever)—and so easy to believe it? Why isn’t it easier to tell yourself, “this is a blip, it’ll be over before I know it” or “there’s nothing wrong with me, it’s just that this relationship wasn’t the right fit”? As far as I can tell, this isn’t a unique quality. Women have a ridiculous, unreasonable, irrational tendency to be very, very mean to themselves, and make things a whole heck of a lot harder than they actually need to be.
Are you like this? Probably so. Do you lie awake at night, wondering about all sorts of things that you can do nothing about? Do you let that sense of panic steal over you, until you’re so upset and anxious that your stomach clenches up and you can barely breathe? Do you insult yourself, over and over, until you really do believe that there is something really the matter with you? It’s normal, but it’s counterproductive, and, if possible, you should stop.
The reality is that you’re not alone. You were never alone. It may feel that way, but, every single day, hundreds of thousands of women are going through the same things you are. It may not make you feel better to know that all this angst is out in the world, but it should make you feel better to know that you aren’t the only one feeling the way you’re feeling. You probably even know another woman going through the divorce process. Objectively, you probably know that this woman (or these women, if you know more than one—which is also fairly likely) are not fat, ugly, old losers with nothing else to hope for in life and a strong likelihood of dying alone. Of course not! That’s just ridiculous! They are capable, professional, caring, attractive, attentive, women who are good friends, great mothers, and have the capacity to love again. If you can see the good in them, even when they’re going through the same thing as you, why is it so tempting to be so negative and hateful towards yourself?
If you’re facing a divorce, it’s important to help yourself by planning ahead, and making sure that you have the infrastructure in place to help make your divorce as productive and efficient as possible. By planning ahead, you can minimize the amount of damage to yourself (and, by extension, the amount of damage done to your family and, particularly, to your children) during the process.
Just like it’s important to wash your hands after you use the restroom to prevent yourself catching the flu (or ebola, if you believe half of the things in the news these days), you have to take care of your mental health, too. During your divorce, it’s probably even more important than the rest of the time. It can be hard, especially when you’re already feeling so crummy, to take the initiative to do extra things for yourself. It’s like lying on the couch—when you’re there, you have very little reason to get up and go for a run. But once you’ve been on a run, you feel a million times better. You have to make the time for yourself, and continue making that time for yourself, to keep yourself as happy and healthy as possible throughout the process. To help with that, here is a list of 4 things you should be doing during your divorce process.
1. Join a support group.
There are lots of groups out there for women going through divorce. Whether you prefer to meet in person, face to face, with other local women or whether you’d prefer your “meetings” to be digital and accessed through your phone, computer, or tablet, you’ve got a number of different options.
Google divorce support groups in your area, and find one that is meeting near you. It can be really helpful to hear how other people’s experiences are similar to yours. If you think that talking to other women who are going through something similar will be helpful to you, you should definitely look into it.
There are a number of things available online, too, so you don’t have to go to a real live group if you don’t want to. Lots of websites post articles about divorce, and with a very quick Google search you should be able to turn up lots of interesting, relevant, comforting material. One site I recently found seems to fit the bill for this sort of thing. It’s a site for women going through divorce, and it has tons of really good information. It’s called “SAS for Women” which stands for support and solutions for women thriving before, during, and after divorce. The woman who created it is based out of New York, so you won’t be able to attend any of the events, but I thought a lot of the articles were interesting and thought provoking, and wanted to make sure I passed it along.
Sometimes, I also check out the Huffington Post’s Divorce section. They have different writers contributing at different times, so there’s no telling what kind of information you may find on there from day to day.
Take some time, do some research, and find something that speaks to you, and where you are in the process. I can tell you more places where I’ve found interesting articles, but you’ll probably do a better job of finding these types of things for yourself.
It doesn’t have to be divorce related, either. If you’d prefer to join a book club, a sewing group, or join a running club, do it. Find a group of people with shared interests, and jump on board. Audition for a role in a community theatre production, enroll in a cake decorating class, or learn to paint. You can take piano lessons, learn to surf, or go back to school to get a degree in a field you’ve always wanted to pursue.
2. Enlist the professional help of a therapist. (And, if you have children, consider therapy to help them cope with the changes that are brewing as well.)
You definitely can’t go wrong if you look for a little bit of professional help. The transition you’re going through is a major one, and it’s not a sign of weakness to get some extra guidance.
A lot of times, professional therapists can help guide you in the right direction and make sure that the decisions you’re making are rational and productive. It’s easy, especially when you’re angry, hurt, or bewildered, to lose perspective. It’s also easy, like I said before, to forget to take care of yourself. In the hustle and bustle of the divorce, you’re probably feeling more concerned with other things—particularly what is going to happen with the kids—than you are about how you plan to take care of yourself. It’s a mistake to forget to pay attention to your own well being.
If it’s a particularly difficult divorce, or if your kids are showing signs of strain, it’s not a bad idea to get them involved in therapy, or at least just let their school guidance counselors know what’s up so that they can keep an eye out. We all benefit from having someone else to talk to, especially when things feel like they are a little bit out of our control.
3. Get legal advice from an attorney before you take any big steps to make sure you’re on the right path. Then, decide whether you want to hire an attorney, look into other forms of dispute resolution (collaborative divorce, mediation, etc), or handle your divorce on your own, without an attorney.
You don’t have to hire an attorney, but it’s a good idea to at least speak to one before you decide how you plan to handle your divorce. You can schedule an initial consultation, or just attend one of our monthly divorce seminars (LINK)—either way, you’ll have a chance to talk with an attorney and ask your questions.
Whether you choose to hire an attorney to negotiate an agreement for you or fight it out in court, prepare for a collaborative divorce, hire a mediator to help you negotiate, or do it yourself, you’re better served if you take some time out at the beginning of the process to figure out where your best interest lies. Imagine yourself at the beginning, middle, and end of the process ahead of time, so that you’re prepared to make the decisions at the beginning of the process that will get you where you want to be. An attorney can give you advice and perspective, so that you’re prepared and can make the best decisions possible. After all, this is the start of your new life. You want to get it right!
4. Go to Girl’s Night Out!
Every six weeks our so, our law firm sponsors Girl’s Night Out events. They’re for any local women (not necessarily just women who are going through or have already gone through a divorce) who want to meet up and hang out. We pick a cool local spot anywhere from the Virginia Beach oceanfront to uptown Newport News.
For information about our next event, or to register to attend, please click here. Girl’s Night Out events are a great opportunity to network and meet new friends. We’d love to have you!
It’s important that you make taking care of you a priority! We’re here to help. If you have any questions or concerns, or need more information about scheduling an appointment, attending a seminar, or registering for our next Girl’s Night Out event, give us a call—we’d love to chat! Our number is (757) 785-9761.