How do you see straight? If you are looking for a particular kind of divorce help — finding clarity in the midst of your chaos — you would think it’s a normal question to be asking, a worthy goal, an actual state you could attain if you just put the time in or found the right guru. How do you see straight?
And yet, confusion, self-doubt, and overwhelm remain. There are so many thoughts and feelings running through you as you stand on the divorce cliff ( — or after having actually jumped) that it probably seems like your head and your heart are mortal enemies who absolutely refuse to get along. Seeing straight about your divorce is not something they can agree on.
Why? well, there’s a lot scrambling through your head. At any given moment you might be wondering: How will you survive? Of all the moves in front of you, which one is the smartest? Will your spouse be angry and vindictive? How do you help your kids escape unscathed? Where will you find the time to do everything you think you must do or (don’t yet know) to do? And, of course, what about the money?
Parallel to your brain’s endless swirl of questions — on another plane entirely — is your heart, pounding and fluctuating… What if he’s* your best friend? How do you live with the guilt? If your marriage isn’t abusive (he just sits there), do you still deserve to get divorced? And what if you feel completely broken? How do you get over the betrayal if he’s the one wanting out? Or, what if you are afraid that the narcissist will never let the divorce end?
This internal tension between your head and your heart can make it hard for you to find clarity, or to feel anything but overwhelmed. You might be feeling a sense of being trapped, or a desperate need to give up.
You could also feel inadequate; like you alone are particularly challenged by this situation. You alone are particularly weak or unprepared. You alone are unable to determine, as you look out at an endless field of fires, which fire to put out first, where to start, and what to do next.
But take it from us, this seismic, ebbing and flowing conflict inside you? It’s par for the divorce course. As crazy as you may feel, you are completely normal. So, please, stop gaslighting yourself. It is possible to find the help you need to get through the divorce, both within yourself and from others.
Today, instead of just reviewing and rehashing what you know and don’t know, let’s try something else. You are going to slow things down and begin to manage this crisis (and let’s not pussyfoot around this, it is a crisis).
But first understand, that if you are in an abusive marriage, your situation is in a separate category. We urge you to stop reading this article and consult this piece instead, Steps to Take if You Are in an Abusive Marriage. The actions to protect yourself in an abusive situation are very different from the ones we will discuss below.
Finding Clarity in Your Divorce Chaos
Let’s begin. Find a piece of paper, or go to an open document on your computer, and continue reading below.
Part I. Letting Your Brain Unload
Step 1: Imagine building a wall between everything that’s happening in your head, and everything that’s happening in your heart.
And then, put your hand on your head, and connect with your brain. What are some of the pressing questions your mind wants you to ask? What does your brain want to desperately know?
Close your eyes and listen. Your brain is interested in facts, certainties, black and whites. Your brain is not interested in your feelings and their nebulous activity. That’s your heart, and we’ll get to your feelings soon enough 😉. Give your brain permission to only focus on the practical steps of getting a divorce.
Perhaps your brain is wondering:
How will you get divorced?
How will you respond to your husband’s request for a divorce?
Do you use a lawyer? A mediator? Can you do this divorce DIY?
How do you get full custody of the kids? Or, can you?
How do you know what your financial choces, or questions re, if you’ve never managed the finances in your house?
Give yourself 5 minutes to brainstorm the questions weighing on your brain. Write those questions down, as related or unrelated as they may seem to one another.
Step 2: Now look at the questions, and organize them by putting the most important ones first.
How do you know which ones are the most important? Ask your brain, which ones seem the loudest today.
Step 3: As you look at these reorganized questions, ask yourself who can help you get the answers to your divorce questions.
Write the person’s name, or the type of professional you need, next to each question.
Note: this step is not asking you “What are the answers to these questions?” but rather, “Who can help you discover the answers to these questions?”
SAS Tip: A lot of divorce problem-solving is not solving the problem per se, but rather, solving the mystery of whom you should turn to for the smartest answer to the question. Who’s that person for you?
It would be normal if you thought your divorce and your circumstances were utterly unique. Everybody does. But underneath your situation, we guarantee you, there are general truths and laws that apply. Your questions concern issues or dilemmas that other women have asked too. So, instead of recreating the wheel, trying to extract your answers by spending hours on Google (which by the way, will never work), or listening to what your Soon-to-Be-Ex says, find the professional or person who has helped others move beyond their issues!
To gain perspective and truth, you need to seek help from divorce professionals and people who have recovered (and healed) from divorce.
Professionals who can help you with your brain’s questions include a divorce attorney, a certified divorce financial analyst (CDFA), or a good financial advisor, and perhaps now, but certainly long term, an accountant. The most comprehensive resource no matter where you are in the journey is a divorce coach. A good divorce coach can help you organize, prioritize, connect to vetted referrals, and help you sequence your steps, and importantly, formulate your questions and strategies.
People who are healed are those who have moved on from their divorces and are now living better and happier lives. A good indicator of being healed is that they are not telling the same old story about the downfall of their marriage. They understand and are willing to discuss their part in its demise. This is a special, hard-earned clarity they’ve attained, having surviving and finding help in the midst of the divorce chaos.
Step 4: Act.
Move! Get out of your own head. Connect, and consult with the right people to advance your knowledge, and understand what is possible. Let your brain feel relief that you are actually doing something, instead of just ruminating about these issues.
Read this SAS piece if you wonder how to find a good divorce attorney to start your legal education. It’s critical you learn your rights, and what you are entitled to BEFORE you start carving things up.
If you are contemplating it, or would need help in finding clarity dealing with the chaos of divorce, you are invited to schedule a free, 15-minute consultation with us. We will help you cut to the essence of your challenges, which will save you precious time. We’ve successfully and lovingly supported women through divorce coaching for more than a decade. Learn why. Visit here to meet with us.
Part II. Giving Space to Your Feelings
Step 1: Now, leave this brain side of the wall and take a couple of big, cleansing breaths. We’re now focusing on your heart. Put your hand to your heart, close your eyes, and take three big breaths, breathing into your heart space.
Ask your heart, what are its loudest feelings TODAY?
Write those feelings down. And don’t settle for one or two feelings, instead allow your heart to really open up and name the many, many emotions you are carrying inside of you. Give yourself five minutes to really dredge your heart.
(It’s important to name the feeling, not the story behind the feeling. So “Overwhelmed,” “Unsure,” or “Confused,” and not, “I don’t know what to do because Fred is saying one thing, and my mother is saying another.”)
Step 2: Observe the diversity of your feelings – they can be all over the place and seemingly, oppositional.
Your emotions are not rational or linear; they are in “motion”. This is why they are called emotions. For example, you might be feeling “fear” and “anxiety,” coupled with “hope” or “excitement.”
Step 3: Pick the loudest emotion.
Observe which one seems to be the very loudest today.
Step 4: Slow down even more, and connect with that feeling. Ask yourself, where does that feeling live in your body?
Locate where it resides in your body, and if you can, put your hand on that part of your body (is it your chest, your throat, or your legs?) Physically connect with that part of the body, and close your eyes. Ask the feeling, what does it want you to know today?
afraid you will never survive?
forecasting that you will always be alone – that you are not loveable?
it telling you that your divorce means you are a failure, and that everybody in this world will now know the truth? You are a loser.
Spend 3 minutes writing down what it wants you to know. If your brain interjects and starts problem-solving for the emotion, ask your brain to soften and bring your attention back to your heart, and this feeling. Stay connected as you channel, and write down your feelings’ messages.
Step 5: Now read over what this feeling has told you, and decide what you want to do with the message.
Notice that this feeling carries with it memories of you and your past. Is it focused on an unpleasant outcome from a past experience? Ask yourself, what’s different about that past experience, as compared to where you are today?
Notice as well that this is just one feeling of a multitude of feelings you hold today. The questions for you now are:
What can you do to show this feeling that you’ve heard it?
How will you honor this specific feeling with an action?
What will you do to support, or lighten it?
For example, if this feeling is projecting that you will be alone, you’ve always been alone, and you will die alone, then you might commit to calling an old friend or beloved family member regularly, to cultivate your connection to others. Or you might join a divorce support group, so you are in a community to learn and be with others who can help you understand what you are going through.
If you are feeling anxious, you might show your anxiety that you will go outside daily and walk around in nature and sunlight. This will help you metabolize anxiety’s sense of nervousness and dread. Studies have shown that connecting with nature can greatly boost our capacity to withstand stress.
For many women, finding support for understanding their feelings, and what to do with them amidst a chaotic divorce experience, means working with a good therapist or coach trained in supporting people dealing with divorce.
Your feelings, just like the messages from your brain, need attention to feel that they are being listened to and not ignored. Connecting with them regularly allows you to plan out how to manage your own health and wellbeing before, during, and after separation and divorce.
When facing a major life change like divorce, it’s hard to tease out what to consider or do first, or even, how to begin. Yet, when we slow things down and really look at the individual pieces, one by one, we can evaluate them, their specific needs, and take mindful actions in response.
Devising a system to examine ourselves can help us begin the process of slowing things down. One way of doing that is looking at what’s happening in our brain, and what’s happening in our heart. Then we can begin by taking action on behalf of each of them – not together, not at once – but separately and thoughtfully.
Action is the common denominator, and in many instances, the action involves stepping outside and connecting with something other than ourselves (or Google). These critical and lifesaving touchstones may be divorce professionals, divorced friends serving as mentors, or an entire community of like-minded individuals. Stepping outside of ourselves may also quite literally mean heading outdoors, to allow the healing effects of nature to shift our systems and expand our sense of space, hope, and light.
Stay committed to you.
Read 36 Things to Do If You Are Thinking About Divorce to support yourself and to continue taking healthy steps.
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. SAS offers women six FREE months of email coaching, action plans, checklists and support strategies for you, and your future. Join our tribe and stay connected.
*We support same-sex marriages. For the sake of simplicity in this article, however, we refer to your spouse as your “husband” or a “he.”