Once the divorce paperwork is finalized, it’s time. Time to begin metabolizing all you’ve been through; time for you to breath and shift your head to consider what your life after divorce will truly mean. Where do you begin? You’ve just navigated — nay, survived! one of the toughest experiences someone could ever go through. Do you feel that? Are you still vibrating? Give yourself permission to wind down, to consider the distance you’ve traveled, the hurdles you’ve overcome, the fears you’ve acknowledged and pushed through. Once you evaluate, and yes, celebrate this marker, you can begin to open up to what is possible in front of you. Start with these first steps that will build your momentum in accepting the new you in a holistic and healthy way.
Step 1: Read the decree / A practical step
One of the first steps in your life after divorce is a practical one. It involves paperwork. (Surprise!) You’ll want to read over the divorce decree from the judge. This is a legal document that lays out everything the judge has ordered. Things to look for in this decree include:
- Judge’s orders, such as child support, custody/visitation, bill payments, or the transfer of retirement funds or insurance policies
- Time frames for these orders that you must meet
- Any mistakes made by the judge, which could range from a simple typo to a more serious error, such as the omission of an important order (It happens!)
- Make copies (a few copies) of the document and have them notarized. (This is handy to have for official purposes like changing your name if you choose.)
If you aren’t comfortable reading the degree, contact your lawyer. Ask him/her to review the decree to ensure it is valid and complete. If there are any errors the lawyer will be the most suitable person to handle the situation. Also, if you do have judge’s orders that are included in the decree, mark your calendar with any pending deadlines. This way you won’t have to keep going back to the divorce document for clarity. Similarly, record in your calendar or phone whatever the holiday custody schedule is with your children — so you can refer to it quickly if need be. You’ll not want to be going to your file cabinet every time you want to make a plan that involves the kids.
Step 2: Accept the changing you / An emotional step
Maybe you are still in shock about your separation, or perhaps you are anxious for the entire divorce process to be over. Or maybe you are overwhelmed with the empty space and time there suddenly is. You are no longer contending with the nitty gritty of the negotiation process. You are in a different stage now; one that has you looking at yourself in the mirror, because he is no longer there to blame. This is one of the early challenges of your life after divorce. It is a time to focus on you and accept yourself for who you are and who you are becoming.
Rather than rushing into a new relationship for the sake of not being alone, be okay with this alone time. Yes, it may hurt. But it hurts for a reason. It hurts because it has meaning. It’s for you to figure out what the meaning is.
Step 3: Gain financial freedom / A bolstering step
Whether your ex was in charge of the checkbook or you were the sole provider, now YOU are in total control of your finances. Yes, you may be reliant on your ex for alimony or child support, or vice versa as the one making these payments. However, you are now in control of your spending, savings, retirement, and earnings opportunities. Start anew by taking stock of your financial life.
List your income and expenses, and develop a budget that works for your new life. If the budget doesn’t balance, cut your costs, or find ways to increase your income. By boosting your financial security, you also increase your personal security. This can be a boon for anyone who is struggling to be independent or confident following a divorce. If you don’t feel comfortable crunching the numbers, contact a financial advisor to help you hash out your financial situation. And/or visit this link to begin your financial education in a step by step process.
Step 4: Begin caring for yourself / A self-loving step
Among the very first steps after divorce is the healing of you, inside and out. If you are suffering from depression or grief, know that this is a normal and necessary phase. For it means you are acknowledging the loss, the change of life, the loss of identity, the vacuum of space left open now by your ex. This is not shameful, and it can be a very good thing to contact a professional. We know that exercise helps with stress and depression. So consider a personal trainer, either privately or at a local fitness center. Second, think about how you are eating and whether a nutritional counselor could help you understand what foods are right for you and which ones do not serve you. If you feel very dark, and it does not seem to shift over time, meet with a therapist who can give you a safe space to examine what is going on.
You could be taking control of your life with an eye toward dating. But that’s short sighted. Eating well and exercising will help you attain or improve your health and are scientifically proven to ward off depression.
Step 5: Find your people / A social step
After stepping into your (still forming) life after divorce, you may find that your old friendship group doesn’t cut it anymore. They don’t understand you and you tire of them. That’s ok! In fact, often times after a divorce, friendships are strained due to friends feeling they have to pick sides. Fortunately there are many ways you can find new friends near you. You don’t have to feel alone at this important time. Check out local Meetups, take up a new outdoor activity, join a book club, or start volunteering at a nonprofit or school or veterinary clinic. These activities will help you meet new people, while also learning more about the new you as you take your first steps out as an independent woman.
Final words of wisdom
At the end of every new day spend a few moments thinking about how your life has changed from how it was a year ago. If you journal, this is an excellent way to process your feelings. Simply taking a selfie of you doing something you always wanted, too, like traveling to the ocean, visiting a long forgotten relative, or sitting cozy in bed reading a book is another way to reflect your growing perspective and inner spirit — your commitment to life and living! Before you go to sleep, spend 3 minutes thinking about things you are grateful for. We promise, you will begin waking up no longer defining your life by all that has befallen you, but by what is calling you as you move forward becoming who you must be and will be.
For more steps to take now that the divorce document is signed and you are ready to focus on you, read our 46 steps to your divorce recovery.