(Photo by Jonathan Canlas)
Getting divorced feels like you had the rug ripped out from under you. Everything you thought your life was, suddenly isn't. It is the strangest feeling. I remember feeling like someone had died. It was the death of a marriage and a life together.
There are so many things you will need to consider if you get divorced such as legal advice + finding a divorce attorney (highly recommended), custody issues, assessing financial status, figuring out how to even file a divorce, changing your locks, dividing belongings, changing accounts, reviewing documents and signing papers, packing for yourself & possibly your spouse, possibly finding a new place to live and moving, figuring out the value of everything you own, dividing assets (or debt), possibly changing your name and all I.D.s, possibly buying or selling a car, refinancing your home, perhaps finding a new job + daycare for your kids, possibly buying a new computer & transferring photos and I-tunes music & all computer files, changing passwords on everything, um - possibly defriending your ex-spouse on fb?, trying to interact graciously with former in-laws and mutual friends, trying to hold it together for your kids (if you have them), figuring out how to behave honorably in the worst moments of your life & above all, figuring out how to forgive, one of the hardest things we ever have to do in life. Phew!
In case you can't tell, getting divorced is like the biggest full time job you could imagine. I had no idea what was involved. I didn't know ANYTHING about divorce prior. And frankly, I don't like it. I wish that no one would ever have to go through it. Sometimes divorce is out of your control, I know. But I can't recommend enough to do your part to hold your marriages sacred.
Today I want to give you a few practical tips that can help you & uplift you if you do find yourself facing a divorce. This will be the first segment, actually, as I have way too many things to share with you. (Note that this list is in no particular order.) I just want to offer anything I can to help you out during this crazy time. These tips come straight from the trenches. And by the way, most of these tips can also apply to ANYONE facing a trial or break-up with a partner....
-CALL IN THE TROOPS. It was strange to find myself underneath my kitchen sink one day with a screwdriver, trying to fix my garbage disposal (which I DID fix, thank you very much.) But on most occasions, I was so lucky to have people helping me as I transitioned back to being a single woman. One time a couple of months after my husband left, some friends were visiting and the whole family offered to take my recycling down to the recycling room as it had been piling up in my recycling closet for weeks. I cringed....cause it really did take a whole family to get it out the door, there was just so much (!) Ugh. But off they went, happily. I really just felt so grateful. PLEASE do not be a martyr. Please accept the help of others whether it comes in the form of advice, elbow grease, childcare, financial planning, meals, a visit or phone call, etc. And if people don't know what to offer, speak up and ask for what you need. We're all in this life together.
-PILE UP CLOTHES ON YOUR EX'S SIDE OF THE BED. haha. Yep. Try it! :) You see, I hated sleeping in a big empty bed when my ex-spouse left. It just felt way too empty. Talk about a major void when you had been used to sleeping by your husband for 7 years. So one day I had some clean laundry piled up on his side of the bed. I didn't really plan on this, but that night, when I crawled into bed, it turns out that the bed just felt less empty. So I kept those clothes hanging out there for a while until I no longer noticed the emptiness.
-PREPARE YOUR "STORY". When I was very newly single, it was so awkward to tell people I was divorced. In the very beginning, I almost couldn't do it without tears. I was mostly sad for our best friends finding out the news for the first time - it was just the worst news to share. Anyway, you will be faced with sooo many situations where you will need to explain that you are no longer married. There will be waves of situations, depending on how close the associations are. And it may continue on for about a year. After you've told your core people, it helps to start thinking in advance what you would like to tell the next round of people, and also consider how much info is appropriate. Otherwise you might be caught off guard when you run into that former coworker or you see some old friends (and boy oh boy, they WILL be caught off guard if you run into them and they haven't yet heard the news and they see you on a date with another guy!! Hahaha - I don't know how on earth this happened, but it sure did - more than once. It turns out that even Manhattan is like a small town sometimes!) And, for people that you barely know, you can have a quick, one-liner explanation ready. Also, in most cases, I recommend just sticking to the facts. People will be able to read between the lines. And you'll be better off letting them do that instead of you bearing every detail.
-MEET WITH A SPIRITUAL HEALER OR LEADER FOR SUPPORT. (Bishop, Rabbi, mentor, teacher, holistic/spiritual healer...anyone you admire and trust & who gives sound advice.) During my divorce, I had some of the most beautiful moments of my life with some of the people I consider spiritual leaders. I would scramble to write down every word they said afterwards, because they were so dang uplifting & inspiring. You see, if someone is in this position, it will usually be their main goal in life to love everyone around them and help those in need & to help them achieve greater peace & joy in their lives. They are gifts to our communities. Be proactive and seek this out! There are so many people available to you, if you seek it. In the Mormon church, there are Bishops that offer counsel. And I have yet to meet one that is not one of the most solid & truly loving people I have ever met.
-GET YOUR BUTT OUT THE DOOR & SERVE SOMEONE. :) This is my #1 tip. I cannot recommend it enough. Charity is love. And love is the greatest power on this earth. I can think of no greater power strong enough to uplift you out of the darkest moments of your life. There is no greater power that can bring deliverance to you as you face one of the hardest trials of your life. Serving others really is the secret to life & the secret to happiness. I know this firsthand. The week before my husband left, I was asked to take on a position serving some of the youth of Brooklyn. And serving those girls during that time was the single greatest thing I did. So - go find someone you can serve regularly. If you are a member of a church, ask to be put to work. Or find an organization in your area where you can dedicate a lot of your time to serving. You might have good days and bad days when your motivation to do this might fluctuate, but overtime, if you can increase your tendency to think of others instead of yourself, your life will be blessed.
-FILL YOUR HOME WITH FRIENDS & FAMILY. This will take the edge off the loneliness. I was lucky. My home was filled with those young Brooklyn kids several times a week, starting when my husband first left. So I know how powerful this can be. In fact, the very day I found out my divorce went through (which took many months to process), I happened to have a Christmas party for many of the kids already scheduled in my home that night. I could have cared less that my divorce had become final earlier that day. I was busy making baked ziti. Trust me, it's hard to mope about being alone when you have a night of laughter, cooking, and a freaking awesome hip hop dance-off in the works.
to each & every one of you,