[dropcap]T[/dropcap]here is a lot of uncertainty right now due to the coronavirus. Things seem to be changing by the hour. But here are 30+ ways women considering or affected by divorce can use extended time at home to take care of themselves — and their families. When the coronavirus (COVID-19) is at last behind us, and as humanity heals, adapts and grows, we want women everywhere to remain on track and committed to their healthiest selves.
If you’ve been thinking about divorce, dealing with it, or recovering from it, anxiety and fear are nothing new to you. But now with COVID-19, anxiety and fear are a different punch altogether, causing our mechanism for survival to shift gears. For some, the response will trigger a desire to lean away from divorce and all that they’ve been contemplating. Now is no time to do it, some women will tell themselves. The kids are suddenly home and need tending to. Both parents might also be home, in fact, and working overtime to compensate for the drastic disruptions and time out of the workplace. Private time and space are compromised, if they exist at all. We are in survival mode or burying a crisis inside a crisis. For others, this increased time “trapped” inside our homes with a spouse we’re already at odds with may push us to a breaking point, as suggested in China with the recent spike in divorce rates being linked to the coronavirus.
Understand the temperature in your house.
This post is about centering you and to remind you that wherever you are — in your marriage, divorce, or life-after-divorce — your circumstances are real, they are valid, and they will not simply disappear because the coronavirus is here.
In fact, your circumstances may grow more agitated unless you are mindful of taking steps to acknowledge your emotions and your commitment to how you want to be as you go through this health crisis. Below are important must-knows and suggestions for coping depending on where you are in your journey of dealing with the idea, or the fact of divorce and the coronavirus. Included as well are special mentions to mothers.
Must-knows when dealing with divorce and coronavirus
When stress and anxiety are in the air—when our families, health, and jobs are on the line—things will get ramped up.
For women, especially, it’s important to know that during such circumstances, mental health issues surge and domestic violence goes up. Your safety may become a real concern.If you are a survivor of abuse and currently forced to live with your abuser in this extended time at home, read this page now for safety suggestions.
If you experience or are a survivor of abuse or would like to talk to someone to understand what abuse is, we urge you to call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 or TTY 1-800-787-3224.
For all of us, expect things to get stressful. Understand what you are doing and teaching your family about social distancing and what to do if you become sick or are suddenly caring for someone who is sick. To keep yourself together, make plans for how you will handle your stress. We believe the following will help you. Keep reading …
Thinking about divorce
- When you can, make a plan on how you will learn more about your rights and what you are entitled to, and what an independent life might look like—whether you divorce or not. You may not be able to schedule a legal or divorce coach consultation right away, for lack of privacy, but you can research on the internet whom you might speak to once you are free to make calls and hear feedback. If possible as well, you might prepare for these meetings by getting financial documents together or your questions organized.
- Set up a secret email address dedicated to this subject, and keep this subject segregated to that email address only. If you are a woman, join our tribe and receive our free, weekly coaching letter that will keep you, discretely, honoring yourself for the next six months.
- For now, the internet remains intact, and we are grateful for that! But be careful about turning to your computer to answer your life questions. In this new phase of social isolation, it will be easy to fall down the Google Rabbit Hole and overanalyze the news and, in particular, options for your life—legally, financially, and every which way. Turning to Google to research your divorce options risks making you more anxious because you will never obtain the direct answers or exact numbers you so critically need to make informed decisions. You require specific feedback on your direct circumstances and issues.
- Which is why having direct, private consultations are so important to your future. But you may not be able to pull it off just yet. Be kind to yourself—reading this post alone is helping you manage your expectations of what is and is not possible right now. Take baby steps if you can, but be flexible.
- Some women derive great comfort from an ongoing connection with other women during times of stress. Whom are you turning to? In Annie’s Group—for women thinking about divorce, and for women who are beginning the divorce or separation process—the virtual live coaching program is consistently running, providing a safe, structured outlet for participants to get educated on their genuine life choices. Women feel personally supported through the Sister Partnerships and through the private, virtual consultations and coaching they receive. They are also reassured that no one is on camera and if they are unable to attend all classes, that each class is recorded.
For mothers contemplating or dealing with divorce
- Staying committed to you means making sure your children are as stabilized as possible during these uncertain times. This is not taking you off track. It’s reminding you of what’s important—the healthiest environment for everybody.
- When we’re dealing with divorce, there’s a lot of gray area when it comes to decision-making, which is why it’s important to …
Stay focused on your goals. You will rarely go wrong if you think about what you want for your children. Really think about it. Realize as well that your children are dependent on you for securing the healthiest environment possible—in times of stress and uncertainty due to external forces, like coronavirus and schools closing, and the ongoing temperature of what they are experiencing in your house, unique to your marriage and family dynamic.
- The CDC has good information on preparing you, your children and your house. Share this with your spouse or coparent and talk about plans of actions for your shared house or your house and his*.
- Don’t take any unnecessary risks right now. You and your children may not be showing any signs of the virus, but you could still be carriers. Think about your elderly neighbors or your older family members. Stay safe and keep them safe.
Dealing with divorce
- If you are still living under the same roof with your spouse, these “uncertain times” are reinforcing more of what you know, and chances are, the reasons you are getting divorced. So, caution. It was always going to be hard living together during these negotiations, but now with seeing each other all the time (if practicing social distancing and working from home), it could be the recipe for toxic overload.
Consider broaching the subject now with your spouse. You might share that you realize this is hard for both of you, living together and trying to figure out how you are going to part, but that you are committed to trying to stay as healthy as possible.And part of staying as healthy as possible is staying home and out of contact with others and not triggering each other.
- What boundaries can you put in place to honor each other’s needs or requests during these times? Can you put it in writing so it’s more thoughtful and psychologically binding? Perhaps neither one of you can do it for the other, but if you have children, express your commitment to trying to keep the atmosphere as healthy as possible for them.
- And if it’s just you and him, accept that you have no control over his actions but how you act could encourage him. Knowing the risks in advance will help you get centered and anchored for yourself. Find outlets away from him to vent. (See below.)
Legal and financial considerations…
- If you are working with a lawyer or mediator or talking with a financial person, email/call them to learn how your legal process may be affected by what is going on. You might use phone or video conferencing to keep your negotiation process moving.
- If you become sick in advance of your court date, you could contact your lawyer or spouse to ask for a continuance. If he agrees, you can submit a form requesting that the court change the hearing date. If your spouse is not amenable, contact the court’s clerk and share that you are sick. Ask next steps.
- If you or your spouse become ill and you are due to go to court, contact your doctor first and then your lawyer or the court clerk. You should not appear in court if you are sick. Often local courts have their own specific instructions. So, call the court’s family law clerk to learn what you must do. This is to say nothing about the distinct possibility that very soon the courts near you may be closed for a spell anyhow.
Coparenting through coronavirus
Coparenting is often challenging in the best of times, let alone now. But more than ever, communication is key. One of the best ways to deal with the parent of your children is to “stick to the facts” style of communication. Lose the technicolor or salty language and try to present your information in a black and white, neutral way.
- Begin by sharing the CDC website for your state, and print out the latest recommendations to discuss with your coparent.
- Or you could contact your pediatrician and ask for their suggestions right now and share those with your coparent.
- Talk with your coparent, with each of you agreeing to share if someone you know has been exposed to COVID-19 and to keep your child away from that person.
- Teach your child good hygiene and proper hand-washing techniques. Teach them not to touch their face and to practice hand washing wherever they are—at school, at their other parent’s house, at your home.
- Teach them as well about the importance of protecting others. Again, think about how you would feel if an elderly person near you became ill.
- Consult the CDC website for up to date information and with your coparent, try to develop a longer-range family plan that is activated if your community faces a severe outbreak For example, if your child resides between two homes, decide where the child will primarily reside if the health crisis is growing in your community and people must stay indoors.
Rebuilding after divorce
- This can be a particularly tough time for a lot of us as we look around and see that we are now truly alone. As the dust keeps settling, it can be sobering to realize where we are in our life journey, starting again or feeling like it’s all ending. But make no mistake, this leveling is also a beginning—the beginning of building ourselves anew, coronavirus notwithstanding. It is the beginning of aligning ourselves with the people we want in our life and, especially, the people we want to be.
- More than ever, it’s important to find community—this means other like-minded souls who have reinvented or are actively seeking to grow. Take this opportunity to download Zoom for free so you can connect with old friends and family and video chat live. With Zoom, you can see each other! (Even when dealing with divorce and coronavirus.)
- Or download Zoom to join Paloma’s Group, our live, ongoing virtual coaching class for women recreating after divorce. Together, we build a bond of sisterly support and accountability as we take steps to rebuild our most meaningful lives.
- Learning who we want to be in this new phase of our lives and rebuilding after divorce and coronavirus is going to require some internal work. Social isolation could be your invitation to connect with your internal self and work on the real things that are still unresolved—the grief for the losses or the loneliness or the anger or the fears. Consider connecting with a divorce coach or therapist for telephone support and guidance. And if you’ve been working on those emotions, brava! Then you’ve been learning that this work leads to discoveries about yourself. This learning feeds more discovery, and so keep forging …
Even more things you could be doing as you spend time inside
- Educate yourself or reacquaint yourself with reading a good book. We’ve got suggestions for you here.
- If you are looking to go back to work, read this wonderful list of things you could be doing right now from experts who understand how hard it is for women of a certain age to get a job.
- Journal. Write down what you are experiencing right now in this moment in time and how different it is from one year ago? What have you learned?
- Step outside … your needs and story. Be hypervigilant about not spreading germs, but determine the best way for checking-in and supporting your elderly neighbors and aging family members. (If you are alone, you get it, and boy, will this give you perspective and gratitude.)
- Look for specific, regular ways to decompress and recharge so you are of service to yourself and others. Check out these free virtual meditation apps for connecting to positive, inspiring energy.
- If you are up for it, consider creating a dating profile on a few apps, but don’t meet people right now—you have the perfect excuse to take it slow. You must practice social-distancing, but you would love to consider meeting in the future. In the interim, let’s talk!
- Or take coronavirus as a sign from the universe, you are definitely not supposed to be dating right now!
- Be a messenger of hope and light. As you deal with life post divorce and coronavirus, you are a poster child for having already faced tough times and surviving. Remind others who may not be so brave that so far, 80 percent of the coronavirus cases are mild and most infected people are cured. There are 13 times more cured cases than deaths and that proportion is increasing.
- Go outside when and if you can. Sunlight is not only the enemy of germs; it is incredibly healing, builds our immune systems, and helps shift our emotions. Emotions are motion. As such, they ebb and flow. Help your emotions, like fear and anxiety, move, and as they move, check-in with them. What are they trying to tell you? When you listen to them, what other emotions do they make room for?
Above all, stay committed to you
Women are hardwired to be caregivers. In challenging times, we know that women are often the ones who take care of sick loved-ones, keep a family running, figure out child-care issues, and everything in between. It is often women taking the leadership roles in their households and communities to understand what is coming and to prepare for it. We also know it’s times like these when women throw themselves under the bus and forget themselves. We are encouraging you to stay committed to you as you lead others through.
Let’s be kind to others and ourselves. Stay connected to your source of strength and positivity. Stay connected to other powerful women!
And talk to us! In the comments below, tell us what you are doing to practice self-care and cope with divorce and coronavirus during these challenging times. We thank you on behalf of so many. Your ideas inspire and support other women who are finding that now more than ever, their hours are especially tough and isolating. We are all in this together.
Since 2012, SAS for Women is entirely dedicated to the unexpected challenges women face while considering a divorce and navigating the divorce experience and its confusing afterward. We invite you to schedule your free consultation with SAS. You’ll share privately what’s going on and we’ll give you black & white feedback, resources, and next steps for moving forward in the healthiest, smartest way.
*This piece was written for SAS for Women, an all-women website. At SAS we respect same-sex marriages, however, for the sake of simplicity in this article we refer to your spouse as a male.