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Divorce Recovery: 10 Things to Do if Suddenly in Charge of Your Finances

Are you somewhere in your divorce recovery, facing your fear — the sudden, terrifying reality of managing your money?

Or, are you a brave woman saying, “It’s time to get real and start acting on behalf of myself!”? No matter what brings you to this point, a split, a divorce, or the fact that you are suddenly single, first thing – take a deep breath! There are many who have come before you, many who have taught themselves how to get out of this dark place of disempowerment. They’ve successfully navigated full divorce recovery, they’ve successfully broken from their past and it’s patterns, to become fully empowered women. Embrace this idea — that you are not alone — and accept the learning process. It’s the beginning of your showing yourself just what you can do.

After you’ve considered this learning process, let’s roll up our sleeves so to speak and discuss where to begin:

1. Get organized.

Start your divorce recovery, your new, financial “taking over” by understanding what you have TODAY. Just like setting your GPS before starting a road trip, knowing where you are today is key to planning out where to go next. Start by collecting reports such as bank statements, recent tax returns, insurance policies, retirement accounts and estate and trust documents. You will soon see why you need this step and the importance of maintaining your incoming data. Take this time to create a list of passwords and log on instructions to sites that involve the financial items listed above. Keep this newly minted list in a safe place, but make sure someone you trust knows where it is, too.

“If you don’t know where you are how do you know where you’re going?”

2. Define your goals.

Once you know where you are (YOU ARE HERE on the map), identifying your goals will give you the destinations. Allow yourself to dream big with goals like owning that summer cabin by the lake, or traveling around the world without a budget, to the more realistic goals such as “I want MONEY for a down payment”, or “I want to have a fun life when I retire — how much money will I need?” Knowing your goals will give you parameters and focus on how to move forward. Knowing your goals directs you to where you need to go.

3. Know what you OWN.

Sounds simple, but do you know where every items, asset or thing that you own or has your name on it is kept? How is it titled? What is it’s value, and how do you access it? If your answer is, “Umm, I’m not sure,” you’ve just reinforced your vital need to go through this process. Refer again to Step 1 and list the assets you have. The more precise your statements and documents are, the more accurate this part of the equation (as well as steps 4, 5 and 6) will be.

4. Know what you OWE.

Again, what accounts have your name attached to them, meaning you are obligated to pay back monies that were borrowed to maybe, buy a house? What credit cards are issued to you? Car loans? Student loans that are yours or that you co-signed? Do you know what each debt charges you in interest? Do you know when you have to pay it back? Again, “Umm, I am not sure” is not the answer you want. The good news is, you are going to change this.

5. Know what you are spending money on and how much.

EXPENSES include both the essentials as well as the discretionary which is best looked at as the stuff you spend money on that you can live without or change when push comes to shove. Services such as doing your nails yourself versus having them done, or cutting back on new shoe acquisitions are just two examples. Although I know to some they are mandatory purchases, let’s face it, if you really have to cut back temporarily, these really are discretionary and not mandatory. Learn to hold yourself accountable for separating out the “must-pays” from the “I can cut this expense for now” when calculating your cash flow. There may need to be some short-term compromises as you get your financial house in order. And that’s all right. You can do this.

6. Know what you are earning.

INCOME can come from several sources, not just your job. So don’t forget to list interest income from investments, possible royalties from work sold in the past, residual income, and others.

7. Know how much risk is right for you.

Try to recall how you reacted to market changes in the past. When you heard on the news that the market corrected or crashed by X% did you react by crying out “I can’t lose another dollar or I’ll be living out of a shoebox!” or did you call your broker and say “buy, buy, buy!” Your reaction to these corrections will help you assess how much risk your portfolios can tolerate. Since you may be feeling some anxiety set in right about now, I may suggest that you arrange to meet with a recommended financial advisor who can look at your financial story and help you take your next best steps.

8. Be tax smart.

Create an environment of teamwork between your accountant and your financial advisor so that together your investments and taxes are aligned to pursue more efficient returns. Begin by making sure each one has the other’s name and email address. Encourage them to connect.

9. Avoid common investor pitfalls.

Try not to panic at every news cycle or market change by switching course within your portfolio. In other words, second guessing yourself and your team will invariably mean you’ll buy high and sell low which is exactly the opposite of what you want to do.

10. Get involved with the pros.

Meet at least quarterly with your financial advisor, who should be a fiduciary. This term means he or she is structured in a practice that is meant to have your best interest at the core of her/his advice. In other words, getting commissions paid out is not the priority, aligning your needs is. Working for you and with you should be the goal. You are on the right track with the right advisor if s/he asks you a lot of questions, not just about now, but those long term goals, answers your questions with patience, and is willing to educate you no matter how silly you think your question is.

Finding the best financial advisor for you and your needs — one who understands you as a woman in the crossroads of your life — will give you the sense of security you need as you move forward another step in your divorce recovery and your new, exciting, second chapter.

For a free consultation with Ronit who specializes in helping women financially untangle the chaos of life transitions, call her at 516.596.8581, email her directly at [email protected] or check out her website. 

Rogoszinski may transact securities business with residents of the following states: CA, CT, FL, NJ, NY, to have you engaged, asking questions and learning how to best manage your financial house as a part of your overall life. Securities and Advisory Services offered through LPL Financial, a registered investment advisor. Member FINRA & SIPC. The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. *LPL Financial does not offer legal or tax advice.

rainbow painted escalator steps

46 Steps to Ensure Your Divorce Recovery

Divorce Recovery

Divorce recovery describes the all encompassing process of emotional and practical restructuring and healing throughout the phases of divorce. It is a constant, cyclical process in which you are broken down and built back up numerous times until finally, you are whole again. Divorce recovery is painful, yes, but it is also an opportunity.

Steps you can take

Based on our background in education and our divorce recovery practice, we’ve identified three phases of divorce (contemplating, navigating, and recovering) and suggest the following concrete steps you can take throughout them to best ensure your full divorce recovery. As you complete each step you will be one step closer to your reconnection with self, independence, and true healing.

No matter what phase you are in, if you are mindful of your divorce recovery, our advice to you is…

  1. Accept that it’s okay right now to not have all the answers. Your job is to begin to study and learn what is possible for your life.
  2. Understand that you are grieving (or you will be, at some point) and that this is your own, unique divorce recovery path. Grief is the normal and natural reaction to loss of any kind.  While you may not feel you are grieving the loss of the person you divorced (you may actually be happy about that) you will likely grieve the loss of hopes and dreams that you had for your life. It’s a confusing time, because at the heart of grief is a mixture of emotions. You might feel incredibly free and exhilarated one moment, lonely and terrified the next, and hollow or despairing the next. This is the nature of grief, and it’s necessary to acknowledge ALL of those feelings as normal and acceptable.
  3. Forgive yourself if you are scared. It’s to be expected. You didn’t major in “divorce” in college. How can you possibly know what your life after divorce might mean?
  4. Appreciate that divorce recovery takes time. While nobody knows exactly how long (some researchers say 17 months, others insist it’s three to five years) we know that to advance through the divorce recovery process it requires intention. You must do something. (Check! You are reading this list now!) It’s far less about signing the divorce decree than it is about recovering a sense of homeostasis and positivity.
  5. Help your children along their divorce recovery path by getting educated and taking action for you and them. At times your children might surprise you with their maturity and resilience. Other times they’re so angry or withdrawn it worries you. Understand your children’s recovery path is not the same as yours. They are not going to see or feel the same things as you. Read books (for you, and to them). Look for more resources, like your children’s school or a child therapist, to help you understand how your children are coping and recovering from the divorce. Learn the difference between what is appropriate and what requires your immediate attention.
  6. Be careful in whom you confide – this includes family.  Few people can be objective, and fewer still are marriage or divorce experts. Yet, there are plenty of opinions and judgements. Just because your neighbor got burned by his ex, however, does not mean that’s what’s in store for you.
  7. At the same time, don’t isolate yourself. This is not the time to try and figure it out alone. The decisions to make are too big and too important. This is a good time to invest in your divorce recovery by surrounding yourself with people skilled in helping you.
  8. Connect with your friend(s). You need support, understanding, and accountability.  You need someone who will listen and suspend his/her own judgment. You might need practical things too, like someone to watch the kids when you have appointments or you need space to simply clear your head.
  9. Avoid making any radical decisions for at least a year after your divorce.  The self-discovery curve is too steep during your divorce recovery. Chances are you are going to learn things you don’t know about yourself. So give yourself some time before you move to Tahiti. You may end up wishing you’d just moved down the street.
  10. Make a list of your most critical practical questions. Where and how should you live would certainly be one of them. Is it better to keep the house, or sell it and rent? Who is going to care for the house or the car, or the laundry for that matter when your ex is gone? How can you get a job if you need to be home with the kids?
  11. Make a list of your most critical financial questions. Do you know where you stand today? What are your assets? How much debt do you have? What are your near and far term financial goals? How do you get a job if you are facing your fifties?  (You will see some questions live on multiple lists.)
  12. Make a list of your most critical legal questions. Maybe you are finished with the divorce but you must put a new will in place, or now, you’ve just been named Power of Attorney for your aging mother. What does that mean?
  13. Make a list of your emotional concerns. What are your fears? Is it the prospect of being alone? Is it how your divorce will hurt your kids? Do you worry you might burn out your friends, because you sound like a whiny, broken record? Write these down.
  14. Reach out for professional, compassionate support. There are a lot of resources for divorce these days. The thing you should know first and foremost, you should not try to do this alone. A certified divorce coach can help you before, during, and/or after the divorce (and no, talking to one does not mean you are necessarily getting divorced). This professional can help you with many of the questions keeping you up at night (Can you afford a divorce? How do you break the news to the kids? How will you cope when your ex has the kids?) and he/she can definitely help you identify your choices (Is mediation right for you? What financial preparations should you have in place for living independently?).  A good divorce coach can also help you take your next best steps (How do you learn to co- parent effectively? Go back to work? Change jobs? Will you have the capacity to ever love again?)
  15. Seek to get educated on what’s possible for you. Ask friends or professionals you trust for referrals. Look for experts who can help you answer all your questions. Consider working with those pros (lawyers, real estate brokers, financial, or career advisors) who understand divorce recovery and the rebuilding process, and who seem willing and patient to teach you — and not just talk at you.
  16. Make a list of your other, helping professionals. What other professionals do you need to speak to, if not now, eventually? Who will teach you how to do things your mate used to do? For easy reference, pull together a list of professionals you think you’ll need, like a computer tutor, plumber, locksmith, CPA, electrician, gardener, etc. — for when the time comes.
  17. Come to understand that divorce is a whole life challenge, or as we like to say, “Divorce is a business transaction. How you pick up the pieces and rebuild your life is the mind body challenge.”  Evaluate your financial, legal, practical and emotional questions above and notice how divorce has impacted all aspects of your life.
  18. Try tuning into your body. What is your body telling you about your situation? Are your shoulders locked up near your ears? Do you feel like you are suffocating? Are you experiencing panic attacks or getting sick more than usual? How are you sleeping? Try to find ways to take care of yourself and relieve some of the anxiety before it starts to undermine your health.
  19. Again, forgive yourself if you are panicking or just feeling numb. Your body is trying to communicate with you that “something is not right.” Tell your body you will try to listen more going forward.
  20. Starting now, take notes on when you begin to feel certain pains, aches, and headaches. What are the circumstances leading up to these symptoms?
  21. Go to the doctor and get a full physical if you are overdue.  Review with your doctor your list of issues if you have them, and share insights to your stress. Get your annual mammogram if you are a forty or older woman (and we recommend a 3D mammogram, and if your breasts are dense, a sonogram). If you are a man, when was the last time you went to a doctor? You must take care of yourself because who else is going to?
  22. Be careful how you self-medicate to deal with the stress and aches and trying circumstances you are experiencing.  Numbing yourself could prevent you from being levelheaded as you start to learn what is new and possible for your life.
  23. Watch out for where you vent and be wary of social media. If you say something online, it’s there forever and can be used against you. Same for emails. Before posting or hitting SEND, review what you are saying as if you were a judge. Be very careful.
  24. Find a way to process what you are going through. Are you meeting with a divorce coach or therapist regularly? Are you connecting with your friends? Are you journaling?  Who is keeping you tethered as you go through this roller coaster of pain and upheaval? Often we find solutions or at least new perspectives when we are forced to process out loud or on paper. What works best for you?
  25. To help you feel anchored, get organized. Start evaluating what you do and do not need and begin purging. Organize your important papers and documents, for example, and list all passwords and login instructions to accounts. Keep that newly minted list in a safe place.
  26. Don’t let the negative voices control you. When we are feeling low, it’s easy to let those negative voices grow deafening.“You failed.You are toast. No one will ever love you again.” Listening to those voices only keeps you in a dark place. So, tell them to hush.
  27. Create a budget. It’s important to understand how much you take in and spend each month. In addition to the obvious (rent/mortgage, car payment, utilities) don’t forget to factor in things like dry cleaning, haircuts, coffees, and vacation expenditures, etc.
  28. Face your loneliness. Now that you are no longer under the same roof as your ex, you are likely confronted with empty space. There you are left facing yourself. Take heart, that’s exactly where you are supposed to be. This is often the time you start really processing what role you played in the demise of the relationship, a necessary part to your full divorce recovery. And if you are not feeling grief, be prepared for it to hit you sometime.
  29. When the grief hits you, just be with it. Or make a list of all the things (material and not) you have lost. It surely is a lot. Now that you are looking at the list, give it some attention. Maybe you didn’t love your ex so much in the end. This makes you feel conflicted. So you are not grieving her as much as you are grieving the end of the fantasy, the identity you both built, the loss of what you invested in and co-created. That is a tragic loss. And for some people, we need to really ponder and be with that loss for a while.
  30. Look for Meet Up or support groups for like-minded people. Identify groups that are facilitated by a therapist or coach and be cautious of groups that focus on complaining.
  31. Embrace the discovery process. Now is an opportunity to get comfortable in your new skin — but how can you get comfortable if you don’t even know who you are anymore or what you want?  Get excited, it’s exhilarating to discover what you want and who you are in this next chapter.
  32. Live. Explore. Try things on.  Who do you want to be now that you’ve grown up? If you could do anything, what would that look like? Write down your ideas and see how many you can realize. No more pushing them aside, it’s time to try them out.
  33. Write your divorce story. If you still feel at a loss, you can’t get out of bed, start writing. Begin with your earliest memory of divorce and move into telling the story of your own divorce. What did you already know about divorce when it came up with your spouse? Did you have preconceived notions about what divorce should look like? How has your divorce changed the way you think?
  34. Find a way to exercise everyday so your brain chemistry has a chance to relax and rebuild you. Your primary relationship is with your body, your being. Maybe you cannot get to the gym, but can you make sure you walk every day? The Center for Disease Control recommends 7,000 to 8,000 steps per day to see health benefits. Consider a fitness tracker or app on your phone to help you work up to your goal.
  35. Understand your social landscape is going to change. Sometimes it’s tough when you are recovering from divorce to hang out with the same friends you shared as a couple. Some friends will invite you out and you’ll feel like a third wheel. Other friends don’t know what to do, so they don’t invite you at all. You’ll meet new friends as well. Your social world will experience a bit of a shake up and then it will resettle into place. Be open to the changes.
  36. Open your eyes to new adventures and friends. You may find your interests change or you’ll have a desire to do something you never really thought about before. Perhaps you’ll go to Cuba! Or a new friend will introduce you to rock climbing, or you’ll take your bike out of storage and dust it off.This is a time of exploration.
  37. Reconnect with old friends. As you recover from divorce, you may realize that some of your old friends fell off the radar, perhaps because life got too busy or because your spouse never really got along with them. Don’t you wonder what they are up to these days? Now it’s easier than ever with social media to find those old friends. Surprise yourself and them. Rekindle your connections with those you miss.
  38. Do things alone. Part of your grieving is being alone with yourself and rediscovering you. Welcome chances to dine out alone, travel alone, see movies alone… this is part of understanding the difference between what it is to be lonely vs. alone and being okay with that.
  39. Be sexually educated. A 2010 study of sexual health from Indiana University found the lowest rates of condom use were among people ages 45 and older, because older people may think they cannot get pregnant or are not at risk for STD’s. Yet according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the numbers of older people with HIV has nearly doubled. People aged 55 and older accounted for 26% of all Americans living with diagnosed or undiagnosed HIV infection in 2013. Be safe. Wear a rain jacket.
  40. Recognize the dating world has changed. Don’t let online dating scare you. Connect with someone who can help you with this and who can also laugh with you. Maybe your funny, kind girlfriend can take pictures of you and help you draft your online profile? Go ahead if it feels right. Enjoy it.
  41. Do be careful of your kids in terms of introducing a new person too soon. Remember, your kids are recovering from this divorce, too. They don’t need to be introduced to everyone you have dinner with. Instead, wait until a relationship becomes significant and you think this person might be around awhile. Have an age appropriate conversation with your children: first, to tell them about your new friend, and then to introduce him/her.
  42. Or don’t have a romantic relationship at all. Have you skipped from one relationship to the next your whole entire life? Well, stop. Your job isn’t to scramble to find your next partner if you aren’t ready or don’t want one. Work it and enjoy your independence!
  43. Understand and appreciate you are part of a new world. Divorce is changing. The stigma is losing it’s grip, the landscape is shifting, and it’s for you to determine who you will be. There will be times that you feel a little out of control. With the damp wings of a butterfly drying, you will be a little unstable, but you are coming out of a cocoon.
  44. Stretch yourself. The divorce certainly took you out of your comfort zone in a not so pleasant way, so why not seek ways to stretch yourself that are more fun? Go master the Tango by Air BnB’ing it in Buenos Aires! Go skydiving! Or buy the pickup truck you’ve always wanted and head fly-fishing. Just go.
  45. Allow yourself to trust again. This can be a tough part of your divorce recovery, because surely you’ve been disappointed, hurt, or even crushed along the way. But as you take these steps, you will feel better. You will meet good people and realize that you are able to trust again. You may even open your heart to love again.
  46. Remember opening to love means loving yourself first. It comes full circle. In order to fully recover from your divorce, you must give yourself a chance to grieve, to rebuild, to discover, to heal, and to love.

Whether you are considering divorce or already navigating the experience or its aftermath, one thing we see making a significant difference for women is the conscious choice to not do divorce alone. Smart women around the world have chosen SAS For Women to partner them through the emotional, financial, and oft times complicated experience of Divorce.

 

old fashioned picture of man and woman on a zip line

Dating After Divorce in 10 Steps

Dating after divorce is just one aspect of your plan going forward.

Good, you understand that. You know that as a newly independent woman there are many things you need to address right now, and that maybe, just maybe dating shouldn’t be your first priority … But, another part of you is thinking,“Yeah, uh, huh, BUT! WHAT ABOUT dating? When will I be ready? Why isn’t it happening already?”

Well, for those of you (for us) who cannot wait, here’s a list, Dating After Divorce in 10 Steps, because, we are heavy into the steps metaphor, and we know you are curious. We know a part of you needs to know IF you can do this. Can you trust again? 

What must I do to get out there?

1. Create your mission
What is your intention? What are you looking for? Maybe you are saying, you are looking to …

  • Dip my toe in the fishing pool (why is everyone a tadpole?)
  • Find a companion to do things with
  • Not set the bar too high, really, but just go out to dinner with an adult who can use a fork and knife
  • I’d like to spend the night with someone (let’s not beat around the bush)
  • I just need to fill the empty. I am scared to be alone (that’s ok, just pause and give yourself time to be alone with it)

Note: “I’m Looking for My Soul Mate (Again)” is not an option.

2. Write your mission down.

But wait, what if I don’t know if I am really ready?

No one says you have to. You are free.

Isn’t that one of the most beautiful sentences? Think about it. You are free. You can date if you want. Or not. But, oh, if you want … YOU CAN DO IT!

We are not saying that stepping  into the crazy world of dating is not daunting. It is cra-zee, scary sometimes, confusing, and over-hyped. We know it summons up all kinds of fears. But let’s not stay in that place, reviewing what we know. Let’s live. Let’s move.

3. So, reread what you wrote for Step Number 2.

4. Brainstorm a list.

Write down potential locales, situations, friends, and dating platforms that can help you meet someone. Online dating is the best way to find someone, based on our experiences. But you can also join a softball team, go to the bar, prowl the bookstore, hang out in a museum, or linger at the produce counter, channelling movies scenes.

5. Research online dating.

If you are one who exhausts all resources by researching the very best way to do virtually everything, than have at it …  make a case-study. Evaluate which dating platform you might use. Interview your single friends, and consider these 2 studies comparing different dating platforms. They help you understand a lot in advance of committing (and boy, do we like that idea).

6. Test your hypothesis.

Remember, after all your googling, contrasting and comparing the best ways to date, you still have to try it out– which means conducting field work. You can spend hours inside creating your online profile, or better yet, asking your best divorce friend to author a juicier one, but accept that at some point, you must leave your house for anecdotal material.

Fieldwork

7. Get your blood circulating.

In case you hadn’t noticed, all action starts with effort. So start your action truly by going for a walk, and not to meet him either, but to find sunlight. To get your endorphins going. To connect with nature. Sunlight, exercise, and nature have an incredible impact on our psyche and well-being. They make things begin to look up like sunflowers. You are starting to look up. In fact, you are positively radiating positivity!

8. Prepare your mind.

Read the newspaper headlines, watch the news, read a book, so you have something to talk about other than your job, your kids, or your divorce (the worse!). Seems obvious, but those subjects are tedious to everyone but you.

9. Then do it!

Say yes to someone who asks you out for drinks. Or a cup of coffee, or a brioche, or God knows what. But something short and simple, see? Let it happen in a public place like a restaurant or bar, so you can enjoy it (if necessary, briefly and make a fast getaway) or leave an opening for the possibility of dinner — if fried mozzarella sticks suddenly sound more appealing than Netflix at home. (He’s got to be quite a guy.)

10. Afterwards, be fair to him/her and to yourself.

Did he seem in alignment with your mission? Were you turned on by him? Could he be a friend? Did he make you laugh at least? Thank him, and let him know within 24 hours if you will be seeing him again or not, and then think about all you’ve learned. What is it that you have learned if you had to reduce it to one-phrase headline?

Ok, I’ll tell you. It’s: Yes, you CAN!

Feeling jittery is natural. Why bother to risk it all again? We think the question is more … When will you start living again? If you want bolstering, reach out for your complimentary consultation, what we call your “Map to the Next Step.” Whether you decide to work with us later or not, you will attain objective feedback in our first meeting, a new resource or idea, a black and white, NEXT step. Promise. 

 

woman's hand addressing an envelope with quill pen

Divorce Recovery: An Exercise Before Dating

You were not expecting this so soon, but here you stand, transfixed, in the doorway of a dimly lit cafe, your throat closing up and your chest tightening, watching a man who looks quite similar to his profile pictures. Could he be “The One” you wonder? You’ve had a tantalizing preamble of just the right amount of emails. He’s revealed himself, but not too much. Now, you see him in the booth in front of you. He’s wearing black, dramatic, cat-eyed reading glasses. He’s even better than you could have hoped ….

HONK. Stop Thinking That Way.

It is not your mission, take it from Mama. If you are looking for The One, Your Soul Mate, Your Next Mister Big, read this and consider more: What role did you play in your last long-term relationship? You know, the one you just left, with the ink still drying on the divorce papers?

It’s natural to feel a little insecure right now, to want to replace and fill the void. I did. But what I learned maybe simultaneously, in my Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde personality post-divorce, is that eventually in your divorce recovery, you have to take a hold of yourself. You have to shake off the dust, and look underneath your shirt. You’ve got to examine the wounds, the wounds that are just now seeing the light of day.

We propose the following as a start to getting to know your own story and for dedicating specific time to allow yourself to mourn:

Coaching Exercise: Divorce Recovery Letter

Goal: To examine what you have learned and to fully experience both the dark and light of loss.

Instructions: Choose an issue, an object, a way of living, or a relationship (hint, it’s probably the last one) In other words, someone/something you consider a loss. You will need a blank piece of paper and a pencil.

Create a graph marking the highs and lows of your relationship over time. First draw a horizontal line across a piece of paper.  The space above the line represents the positive experiences. The space beneath the line represents the negative experiences. On the far left of the line, put a dot on the line and write next to it the year the relationship began. Moving right, think about the highs and lows of your relationship as they relate to memories and events.  Put a dot and a notation for each memory, either above or below the line depending on whether or not it was a positive or negative experience. For example, your marriage may represent a very positive experience so it will be very high on the page.  Continue forward through the years with each important year or event plotted similarly. Connect the dots. Your graph should take you up to your current moment in time.

Examine this line. How did this exercise make you feel?  Do you see anything differently from the story you told yourself before?

Now write a letter to the object of the relationship. If it is your spouse, then you are writing to him/her and telling him/her how the graph makes you feel.  What did you learn? What do you see when you look at the narrative line of your relationship? What responsibility did you play in the story line?

Note: If you wrote to a person (your Ex for example) DO NOT attempt to read this letter to him/her.  This is for you and is a tool to help you process your thoughts and feelings. 

Divorce Recovery Homework:

This divorce recovery letter and graph represent how you have internalized and now externalized your life in this relationship. You have now documented how you feel and have felt about it. Where will you keep this graph and letter as you consider moving forward? Will you keep it in a drawer under your rolled argyle socks? Will you burn it, or put it in a box high in the closet?

SAS for Women helps women pick up the pieces after divorce and move forward with their lives. If you are not ready to talk to someone about your story, consider signing up for our weekly coaching letter. Our letter, SAS Day Break, will arrive discretely in your inbox and remind you of YOU and what you need in this moment as you continue to move, grow stronger, and rebuild your life after divorce.

divorce grief

Divorce, Grief and 3 Harmful Myths

“Time heals all wounds.” Umm, that’s nonsense. So is “Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all,”“There are lots of fish in the sea,” and all the other inane things people say to you when you are suffering through a divorce, looking for solace and grieving.

People mean well, I think. They just don’t know what to say so they attempt to say something that in a nutshell means, “Get over it because you are making ME feel awkward. So get happy, ok?”

Well, their best wishes are nice, but it’s not going to happen. You know why? It’s not about them. Going through divorce is one of the most traumatic things you will ever go through (I realize I’m preaching and singing to the choir here) and the pain associated with the end of your relationship cannot be summed up in a catchy phrase or old cliché. It’s not something you “get over” (actually stop using that language, you don’t “get over it” at all.) It’s a healing and growing process, with steps to it, and it takes time.

When your marriage died, whether it was a sudden explosion or it slowly withered on the vine – there went all the hopes and dreams you had for your future, right? You probably got married thinking that you’d retire together and enter your golden years, traveling the world funded by your cushy retirement and spoiling your grandkids. But instead, here you are, empty fisted and wondering what the hell happened. As if that’s not bad enough, the loss of those idyllic dreams isn’t even the most painful part. No, what you miss the most are the little, seemingly ordinary things, the things you took for granted, your daily life, your:

  • Best friend, your soul mate, your companion, your bedmate
  • Your laughs, joy and connection to your in-laws, his family and “his” friends
  • Family rituals, routines, and doing your best to parent together
  • Home, the one you thoughtfully and lovingly decorated for everyone
  • Resolute knowledge that before now, your kid didn’t come from a broken home (that’s such an awful expression, isn’t it?)
  • Couple friends (it’s gotten too awkward hasn’t it?)
  • Financial security of knowing you had a partner, come good times or bad (now what?)
  • Confidence in yourself, that you are lovable ( … spoiler alert, you are)

 


“What we grieve for is not the loss of a grand vision, but rather the loss of common things, events, and gestures. Ordinariness is the most precious thing we struggle for.” – Irena Kelpfisz


 

Okay, there it is. We all know that you are grieving all things lost here, big and small. The question is, what do you do about it? Well, first of all, recognize you ARE going to DO something about it.

Let’s dispel the first divorce grief myth, “Time heals all wounds”

Think of it this way. If you got a flat tire and had to pull over on the interstate, would you simply sit by the side of the road and wait for the air to somehow re-enter the tires, so you can resume your merry way? No, you have to do something, you have to take action. You’ll call a friend, dig that AAA card out of the glove box, you’ll google garages in Flagstaff, Arizona, whatever…the point is, you’ll do something. You do not sit idly by.

Similarly when you are grieving, you must act. You must speak to someone (a grief counselor, a coach, a therapist, a spiritual leader, a support group) who can help you process all of the feelings you are experiencing and make sense of everything. There are things you can do to start moving toward a lighter, happier place, but you can’t do it without a plan and we don’t recommend you do it alone.

Which brings us to the second myth, “Grieve alone”

Picture this, a husband has died and the widow is in the corner of the room, on the couch, crying. You start to go to her but someone passing between the two of you says, “No, give her some space,” so instinctually you turn and walk away. You know what? Wrong. Grievers do not need nor want to isolate. Grieving is not something to be done alone. We need to talk, to process, to have a shoulder to cry on and to be with others. Western culture has mistakenly adopted the idea that grief is a private affair. This is a dangerous (and tragic) idea … in our grief, we need to be with others.

Figure out with whom you can share your grief, your thoughts, your anguish. Seek out someone who will be a good listener. Speaking of finding someone, we don’t mean a new boyfriend ….

This brings us to our third myth, “Replace the loss”

Most of us have lost a pet at one point or another. It was likely a heartbreaking moment… a puppy, a goldfish, a hamster, a loved critter, suddenly gone. Perhaps your parents said, “Don’t worry, we’ll get you another one.” They think it’s the right thing to do, to help you get over the loss of one by replacing it with another. But it doesn’t help! Even as a kid, you knew it didn’t feel right. Getting another puppy would NOT be the same as having “Bailey,” the one you loved.

When we are grieving a marriage, sometimes it seems like the thing to do is to look for the next (presumably better) one. What you couldn’t cultivate in this marriage, surely you can in the next. This is a bad idea. Do not leave this marriage with the idea that you’ll find a better one.

Instead, walk away and figure out how you can grow from this as a woman, as a human being. Look back at who you were in that marriage, and ask yourself, how do I want to live differently this time around?

Trust us, the grass is not greener. Don’t go there.

A final word of advice: Don’t act like you are ok, if you are not

Unfortunately we are taught from a young age that during times of grief, we need to be stoic and strong for others around us; that it’s not okay to fall apart. Don’t buy into that. Your heart needs to be acknowledged. It’s hurting. Grief is normal, natural, and yes, incredibly painful — but again it is NORMAL and NATURAL — and TO BE EXPECTED. Your heart is broken for real reasons.

When you do not feel ok, find someone safe to say that to … someone who will listen with an open mind and heart and give you a big, long bear hug. Ask for help in moments when you just aren’t ok.

The grief you feel during a divorce is real, deep, complicated (not to mention, genuinely painful) but it’s also normal. Try not to fall into the old traps – isolating yourself, trying to wait it out, ignoring it, or moving on too quickly — but instead, take action to understand it. It’s here for a reason. Reach out to someone trained who can help you understand it, heal, move on, and eventually, learn to thrive again.

Want to talk with someone about your divorce or how long it’s taking to get over it/him? Schedule a free consultation to learn steps to lessen the pain and move forward.

I Thought Getting a Divorce Would Be the End of Me. It Wasn’t!

Did you claw your way though the holidays and then find yourself fantasizing about getting a divorce? You aren’t alone.  January actually has the nickname “Divorce Month,” if you can believe it.

Turns out, January is not the only month with this dubious distinction. If you Google “divorce month,”< spoiler alert> you’ll see other articles dubbing February and March with the same, less than lyrical title. Why is that, do you suppose? It’s because there is no perfect time to get a divorce, though there may be some corollary with the lack of light and our dwindling reserves. January arrives, we kept it together through the holidays, and then more dark winter months descend and we are trapped in the house together, entirely too much. Sunshine, lightness, like our former selves, seem an eternity away. For those unhappily married, that darkness becomes nearly unbearable, and we finally admit to ourselves that we can’t do this anymore. Getting a divorce seems like the way OUT.

I honestly don’t remember what month it was or how low the sun was when I hit that wall. But I do remember screaming at my (then) husband across the airport, “I WANT A DIVORCE!” And oh wow, did that feel good. Then I was terrified. What did I just say? Getting a divorce is a lot of things.

It’s decision-making, it’s paperwork, it’s moving, it’s mourning, and it’s being on your own again. I thought I could handle it, it had to be easier than living in the shadow of that marriage for a single moment more. But I wasn’t prepared for just how lonesome the process was, especially in the beginning. You know, when you are not sure and struggling and are still thinking the problems might just be in your head?

I look back at my journals now and wish I could have talked to this girl I was, to let her know she’s going to be okay. At the time, however, you can see from my journal excerpts that I was in that gloomy, dark place, full of doubt and fear:

“I’m lonely / What’s going to happen to me? / Am I good enough at my job? / What am I forgetting to do? / I’m so lonely / I don’t know if I can take it / What’s he doing, is he ok? / Why do I care? / How will I get everything done? / I don’t want to disappoint anyone / What the hell happened to my husband? / What happened to me? / Wait, who am I now?”

 

“Everything is such an effort. Everything. Should be going to sleep now. Eating, sleeping … either I do too much or not enough. Don’t want to do either alone.”

 

“I cannot describe how awful it feels to go through these feelings alone.”

 

I started crying today in my office because everything E.V.E.R.Y.T.H.I.N.G is such a f*ck*d up mess. I have absolutely zero moments that are stress free or parts of my life that are in order. My personal life — a mess. My emotional health — shot to hell. My finances — drained. My work — behind. My marriage — OVER.”

I share my journal entries because I’ll bet there’s a woman out there reading this now, who feels like I did. And she needs to know it doesn’t have to be so lonely. It will change.

Are you listening?

You won’t feel like this forever, I promise. It will get better. You will smile and laugh again. You will regain control of your feelings and your money and your career and your life will be yours again. It won’t happen overnight, but it will happen.

Are you wondering what makes me say this? Because I did it! I got through my divorce, I moved out on my own, I pieced my career back together, and I chipped away at the debt. Later I met someone whom I love very much and decided I’d give marriage another go, albeit cautiously. We bought a house, and now I have a beautiful baby boy, who is the light of my life and my heart and my soul. I’m not just okay, I’m great!  Who knew?

Getting a divorce can be really lonely. But it doesn’t have to be. My number one piece of advice? Talk to someone you can trust. Find a friend whose been through divorce, a family member, a therapist or divorce coach — someone you know who will give you good, seasoned, non-judgmental feedback, and a lay of the land. You don’t have to do this alone, in fact, you shouldn’t. You need perspective. You need someone to help you think things through, to give you fresh ideas you haven’t thought of, and to help you keep moving forward.

I thought getting a divorce would be the end of me.  Happily, I report I was wrong. Quite the opposite, it made me who I am: a confident, happy woman who works hard to thrive each and every day. Now that I know what’s possible, I spend my days at SAS helping other women find out, and discover themselves, too.

Divorce Support: Your Holiday Survival Guide

As we move toward and into December, we are off and running with the holiday marathon. It’s a chaotic time for many, but the stress and overwhelm are on steroids for those of us divorcing. So, in anticipation of what you are going through, here are a few things to remember to give you the divorce support you need so you can enjoy the spirit without the drama and exhaustion.

The Holidays + Divorce = Feeling Horrible
You’re not alone. This is the start of the year when people begin to feel depressed, and this includes those who aren’t even going through divorce. We put these crazy expectations on ourselves as an attempt to make up for what we perceive to be our failures and shortcomings from the rest of the year. We are going through the motions, trying to decorate the perfect house, hold the perfect party, give the perfect gifts to our children and loved ones, all the while pretending everything is fine. It’s wonderful. It’s the most wonderful time of the year! But the truth is . . . our foundations are crumbling, and we’re desperate to maintain control of the life we thought we knew, the life we’ve invested in. If you bear this and the following things in mind, you will get through this crazy time with grace.

Lose the BS Illusions of What the Holidays are Supposed to Be
Nothing in life is perfect. Yet, for some reason many of us feel we must have flawless decorations and meals and gifts to truly celebrate. The media has perpetuated this false ideal. And so have we. There are infinite Pinterest boards and shows on the Food Network that love to remind us that our own celebrations will never be adequate.
But nobody can live up to those impossible ideals, which during the holidays, serve as a double-whammy for those coping with separation and divorce . The holidays have a way of reminding us, especially when our marriage is on the rocks, that we have failed to live up to the dreams and visions we had for ourselves — it’s like the season is twisting the knife a little more into our already aching hearts.

So, forget those unattainable standards! Although you are going though a rough spot and the timing is horrible because of the holiday season, you have been given a second chance. You now have the opportunity to create your own picture of the holidays — you now have the chance to breathe again and be independent again and find the things that give you comfort. And that doesn’t have to include unattainable ideals.

Boundaries are Beautiful
For many, the chance to spend time with family spanning multiple generations can be magical: Grandma makes her delicious fudge, your crazy uncle tells his college story for the 18th time, and everybody laughs about how the secret ingredient in the mashed potatoes was mayonnaise.

But when you’re splitting up, the questions and prodding from family members, well-meaning or not, can make you feel like a torture victim. If the thought of explaining a separation or divorce has been causing you to lose sleep lately, remember this: You have the right to remain silent. You are not obligated to tell anybody anything if you don’t want to share. Of course, there will be the common refrains from your usual boundary-breakers, like “But I’m your mother,” or “We’re family!” But it’s your life and your choice whether or not to share details about the state of your marriage, whether you’re dating again, how the process is coming along, etc.

Remember — this is your life — and it is your decision from whom you seek support. No one, including your family members, is entitled to know the details unless you want to share.

Own this Time
Nobody says that you have to spend hours and dollars shopping, decorating, and making the perfect crudités. There are no laws requiring you to be stuck in traffic or to be stressed about delayed flights en-route to visit family who only cause you more stress and anxiety. Ask yourself, “What is it that I want to do?” and if you have children, think about what is it that will make them happy.

Focus on Comforting Things — Not Your Self-imposed Obligations
During divorce and the holidays, we tend to forget about taking care of ourselves and doing the things that we actually love. Why don’t you make a simple holiday joy list as a starting point? Some of my favorites include:

  • Walking or driving around to see all the festively decorated store windows and houses in my area
  • Watching my local tree or Hanukah lighting celebrations
  • Caroling with friends or watching holiday movies together
  • Spending time with people I actually want to spend time with, and not those who will judge me

As you write your own list, you will notice that you probably don’t have the following:

  • Being scrutinized by prodding family guests
  • Feeling completely exhausted because I tried to do too much to make everything perfect
  • Spending too much time and money on making things perfect

Worried about Your Children Missing Out? Fear not!
What do you remember from your childhood? I honestly don’t remember the expensive gifts that I thought I couldn’t live without, or the big labor-intensive meals, and chances are, your children won’t either. I do remember, however, the simple sugar cookies my siblings and I loved to decorate with my Mom, and watching “The Sound of Music” on Christmas night. Although it may not seem like it now, it is the love you show to your family (and to yourself) that will leave the lasting impression . What simple ritual or joy do you remember from your own childhood? Can you do it with your kids this year?

This is Finite
Understand that the holidays, as well as the pain and stress you are feeling with your split, will be over soon. It may seem like a never-ending nightmare right now, but the day will come when the drama is over. It may not be by Christmas or New Year this year, but it will come. And it is you who has the power to mindfully navigate through the craziness and rise above it, instead of getting sucked into the void.

The best way to survive this month is to recognize that you are going through a “hot mess” right now and not to punish yourself. With kindness and self-care, you too can receive those tidings of comfort and joy.

Martha Bodyfelt’s website, Surviving Your Split, is dedicated to helping readers through a stress-free and drama-free divorce. For more great strategies, sign up at Surviving Your Split. You can also email Martha at [email protected]

Divorce Advice from a Woman of a Certain Age

After my divorce, I needed advice, strategies, and moral support to get through the relationship mess that I was living in. I needed to move on, but was wanting divorce support for me — “someone not young, but not quite old” from someone like me — a woman of a certain age.

I began the search by looking for a self-help book that would offer me relief. Visiting more than one bookstore, searching on-line, and checking out the ever-present Saturday morning yard sale for discarded but useful books (I don’t know why I like that genre), I was astounded to find nothing that offered help for the middle-aged woman.

Why is it that no books existed for the middle-aged woman experiencing un-engagement, separation, or divorce? Do writers think that women like us will just muddle though it and move on without any support?

True, middle-aged women are strong, resilient, and feisty but, as in many other areas of our personal and professional lives, we are often ignored. I had enough. So I decided to write my own story, full of tips, strategies, success stories, and divorce advice from middle-aged women who have lived through their own relationship trials and who have come through the experience with their sense of joy and self. These women have survived and are now in a better state than they ever imagined they could be.

How did they do it? Here are a few teasers from my book, The Feisty Woman’s Guide to Surviving Mr. Wonderful: Moving on with Humor, Laughter, and Chutzpah!

Find Different Outlets for Support and Relief:

Since you seem to ache and feel awful from head to toe, seek out as much help and as many, varied (no matter how weird that they may sound) types of help that you can stand. You will know when enough is enough.

The Professional

One woman sought out a life coach to guide her through this process. Be sure that your coach suits your personality and style. Check out their training and certification. Her coach actually, first recommended a 60’s “cure” for dealing with the stress of the situation. This unusual strategy involved a field trip to Colorado, but the lady in question declined that one. Instead, she chose something more traditional to get herself focused and to calm her nerves. A therapist. Consider the right professionals who abound these days. Women no longer have to do this reinvention stuff in the dark. You might consider a divorce coach or therapist who specializes in divorce or life changes. Find someone who knows the terrain you are going through. Having their feedback and perspective will advance your recovery time.

Journal

Many women prefer to “write” it out of their systems. Keeping a diary, just like we all kept as teens, really helped another friend. She wrote whenever anger welled up in her. She wrote and wrote to keep herself from doing harm to her ex and the new chick in his life. She filled many books (who wouldn’t?). When it was time to move on, about a year or so later, she contacted a Native American healer friend to assist her in the journal burning. They both knew that if these journals were ever read by anyone else that it would be bad news, so they set up a time and place for the “burning of the journals”. She invited a few friends who invited a few friends and her bonfire, with special added herbs, freed my friend from her Mr. Wonderful and his bad karma. The bonfire has become a yearly ritual with just the bonfire and lots of wine.

The Right Friends

I was talking at 9 months of age, so this strategy would have worked for me. Talk things out as long as your friends can stand it. But make sure they are the right friends. You can trust them. They will keep your confidence. They know that you are hurting and want to help you in whatever way they can. Set up “talk times” so that your words will not interfere with their lives. Do not call after 11 PM or you both will be sleep deprived on top of everything else that you are feeling. You don’t want to lose friends since losing your spouse is about all that you can handle at this point.

You can also talk to yourself but if you start having a “conversation” with yourself, stop immediately. One friend talked to herself at home but made the mistake of starting a conversation with “herself” in the grocery store. Boy, did she ever clear the produce section. She stopped shopping at that store and never ever went back again.

Your immediate neighborhood has some great people who you may have had limited contact with previously. Be careful what you do tell them if you are still navigating your divorce. You don’t want the info coming back to haunt you. On the other hand, after her divorce, one friend found out just how rude her ex was to a neighbor when she started up a conversation one Sunday afternoon. This gal immediately made a new friend and these two women remain close today. Chances are that if he treated you like crap that he treated others the same way. And women never forget an encounter with an obnoxious, pompous male. A new close friend could be but a few doors away. You never know.

The Unexpected Friend

If you are a hater of children, get over it and make friends with the kids in your neighborhood or building. All kids “sense” when someone is hurting and you need all of the support that you can get right now. They may help you with your groceries, mow your lawn (for a price — lower if you are nice to them), or even just wave at you as you enter your driveway, or walk down your apartment hall. One friend met her new beau through a neighborhood child. Even if you are not ready for this new man, stranger introductions and lifetime memories with a great guy could be waiting for you.

Volunteer. Yes, You.

Since you now have some free time on your hands, try volunteering. Someone in need may need your more than your ex ever did. One friend volunteered at the animal shelter. Animals and kids seem to offer the best un-solicited affection of anyone that I know. Dogs are a great judge of character and can make you feel special and loved at the un-special and unloved time of your life. Another friend volunteered at the senior center in her town. She learned new dance steps, new ways to cheat at cards, and has developed a real knack for chess. Still another acquaintance took a jaunt overseas to volunteer in an orphanage. The plight of those children made her look at her divorce in a new light. All of the women mentioned felt that they became better people because of their volunteering experiences and who would not want that in their life?

 

Guest post by Elizabeth Allen, author of The Feisty Woman’s Guide to Surviving Mr. Wonderful: Moving on with Humor, Laughter, and Chutzpah! a collection of break up stories, including her own. Available on Kindle or paperback through Amazon, Allen’s book is a humorous guide to helping you move through the divorce fiasco so you come out a stronger, more vibrant, confident, powerful, and totally evolved woman.

 

The Acceptance of Rejection: How to Rebound After You’ve Been Dumped

Being dumped is one of the top five reasons women go for therapy — at least for those women who have an inkling that there might be some help for their depression, their anxiety, or the acting out that often follows their being left.

For being rejected presses all our buttons with our most primal fear of abandonment sounding the loudest alarm. If you had abandonment problems during your childhood, rejection reinforces the sense that you are not safe, that being alone and miserable is not only your “now” but also your future. It is and will be your perpetual state of being.

There is also the profound, physical, and psychological sense of “missing” the other person, of remembering the warm and loving times, of rehearsing over and over the many times he or she did say, “I love you.”

There are the physical artifacts of the relationship to contend with, too: the books, the gifts, the small tokens of your involvement with him/her, the person you thought you knew so well, the person who would never hurt you. In fact, he/she may have even said those very words again, “I never meant to hurt you” just as the axe fell and your head wobbled across the ground.

In this state of loss and grieving, sometimes you cannot even bear to hear other people laugh or talk about the good times they are having, or the exciting relationship they are in, because, why them? Why not you?

Divorce Advice for Women

So what do you do? Well, there is the stalking . . . the phone calls . . . the letters and the cards. There’s the sending of just one ticket to his favorite show with your note, saying you have the adjoining seat, “and wouldn’t it be fun?” There’s the sudden showing up at his/her place, too. How do I know these tactics? Because I’ve done it all, and I’m here to say there is another way.

Facing reality after being rejected is very difficult. It may help to remember that THE ACCEPTANCE OF REJECTION IS REJECTION!  Please think about that.

Think about a time when you may have rejected someone, not necessarily a boyfriend, but anyone in your life; and then think about the importance of his or her reaction and how it impacted you. Think about it a lot, and eventually, you will come to realize that accepting someone rejection is also a form of rejection that you spin back. From the point of view of your Ex, the fact that you accepted his rejection is also a rejection of him. It’s a game, but a game, as we used to say in Brooklyn, “on the square;” meaning a game that is serious and has consequences.

It’s not a ploy to get him back — he may come back for a night, or a weekend, or even for a few months — but it is a way for you to feel better about yourself. He may have made the first rejecting move but you countered with an even more potent move — you rejected him by accepting his rejection. I guarantee even the most egotistical man will feel a twinge, or more, when he realizes you are not coming after him.

Ok, at last we come to the mundane. Get a manicure, wash your hair, watch funny movies, and most of all, remember . . .

Remember all the crummy times you had with him: the times you wondered what you were doing with this insensitive jerk; the times you faked “good” sex, the times you didn’t say what you were really thinking because you were afraid — yes afraid, that he would become angry.

Remember especially that life with him was not only not perfect, it was scary and miserable from time to time; and perhaps you had to wait quite a while before you finally got the kind of response for which you yearned. Try very hard at this time not to relive the good times that can all too easily overtake you. It is the bad times you must remember for the time being.

Of course you will get through this, why would you be the only person on the planet to never get over being spurned? It might as well be sooner rather than later, and think of all you’ve learned.

You won’t make the same mistake again — a man who gave off signals he was not a commitment guy, at least not for you; and a relationship in which, let’s face it, you pulled your punches because you could not be sure of his reactions.

Divorce is not the passport to happily ever after — it is simply the first step in creating a new, hopefully more productive and pleasurable life for you.

A novelist, therapist, mother to three, and grandmother to five, Sheila Levin is twice divorced. Find her books Simple Truths and Musical Chairs at Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble. 

Although SAS periodically features links to and writing by other professionals on the SAS website, SAS for Women™ is not responsible for the accuracy or content of that information. As for what is best for you and your future, SAS always recommends you speak to a professional to discuss the particulars of your situation.