1. Let go of Anger:
There is a Buddhist quote that states, “Holding on to anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.” I think this quote says it all. During the divorce process, your spouse, friends and loved ones have probably let you down in one way or another, while you were busy navigating the painful process of getting divorced. Now that your case is over, you need to find a way to let go of the ill will you feel toward others that resulted from your break up. If you have children with your spouse, the most important release of all is forgiving him or her. Letting go of anger does not mean you need to continue relationships that no longer serve you. Divorce is an excellent weeding tool to learn which people in our lives are keepers and which ones are not. Certainly let go of the relationships in your life that are not healthy. You are an adult and you get to make the choice to surround yourself with loving, supportive people. Let the others truly go, by making the choice to no longer let them hurt you. Life is too short for toxic, energy-suckers; especially after surviving a divorce.
You may grieve the demise of your marriage during the divorce process, but there is a different type of grief that occurs when the divorce is actually finalized. Grieving takes time. After all, you are not divorced until a Judgment of Divorce is entered with the court. Before entry of the Judgment, you are immersed, to some extent, with the actual business of getting divorced, rather than what the final outcome will look and feel like. The anxiety and fear you may feel while the case is pending may be quite different than the feelings that emerge after everything is final.
Give yourself time and space to grieve. The death of a marriage really is a death. Nobody goes to the alter expecting that someday they will split from the person they loved more than anyone else in the world on the day they said, “I do.” While you grieve, it is important to take good care of yourself. This should include, exercise and eating right. Some people find it helpful to spend time in nature, to journal their feelings, meditate, or grieve with the help of a confidant or therapist. Be mindful of the fact that you can’t eat, drink, shop, exercise, gamble, or pop a pill to make the hurt feelings go away. Justifying bad behavior because your life is in turmoil will not resolve your grief. A quick fix will only mask the pain temporarily, at best, and compound the misery, at worst. Getting to the other side of your grief takes time and effort, but be gentle with yourself all the same.
3. Make Your Happiness a Priority:
Ask yourself this question: “I am most happy when I_____.” What truly makes you happy? Keep track of your feelings while engaged in various activities. Which experiences make your heart feel less heavy?
Commit to trying one, new activity every month, for 6 months. Trust your gut, here. If you follow your intuition, you can’t go wrong. Block out the fear-based thoughts that cloud your head and get in your way. Most of us are more motivated with a goal in mind, so set one. You are starting a new chapter in your life and with it you can also make positive new changes that bring you joy. Is there a trip you’ve always wanted to take? Perhaps a class or a workshop? Now is the time. Challenge yourself and remember that happiness is a choice, but is something we need to actively work on to be successful. Choose happiness and get started making your happiness a priority, now.
4. Be a Role Model for Your Kids:
If possible, make a pact with your ex to keep the details of your relationship confidential. To make the task easier, no matter how angry or how justified that anger at your former spouse may be, consider the adverse effects of openly expressing that anger. Ask yourself: “Who benefits from learning about my family’s dirty laundry?” The answer should be, “No one!”
Make no mistake; your children are watching you! The way you and your ex-wife/husband treat each other and how you behave in general, will have lifelong effects on your children. This will especially impact their ability to maintain healthy relationships of their own in the future. That alone, should be a tremendous motivating factor for you. Of equal importance is the fact that, while your marriage is falling apart, your children are still looking to you to provide them with stability and support. Remember, they are the innocent and unwilling by-standers of your split from their mother or father and their faith in the world should not be lost as collateral damage. Children should never be placed in the middle of your break up. They should never serve as your confidant, either, even if they have reached the age of adulthood. Your children are first and foremost, your children; they are not your friends and they are not obligated to heal you, help you or fix you. If necessary, “Fake it ‘til you make it.” It might take tremendous will power to keep your children out of a messy divorce, but if there was ever a time to do the right thing and put the needs of your kids first, this is it.
5. Be a Role Model in General:
We can’t control the actions of others, but we can control our own. If you let go of toxic people in your life, as a by-product of your divorce process, then you are off to a good start. Choose not to gossip or seek validation from your community at large about your ex’s bad behavior or short comings. Your marriage, as well as the dissolution of it, should be consistently treated as private and privileged. This does not mean that you shouldn’t turn to a few trusted people to honestly confide in. Everyone going through a divorce needs support. Just don’t let your pain become your neighbors’ entertainment.
Much of the advice regarding being a role model to your children also applies to being a role model in general. Preserving your dignity while going through a divorce sets an example for the people around you. It will certainly impact those in your life who find themselves in a similar predicament. Helping others cope with respectful solidarity and zero drama feels good for everyone involved. This is truly the change we need to see in the business of divorce. Let the general public get their drama from reality television, not from your family’s reality.
After practicing family law for more than 20 years, I promise you things will get better. I also know from experience that tremendous growth comes from painful situations. The negativity that drowns you today will diminish over time, as your bravery and strength grows. Just remember to be kind to yourself and allow yourself the time to do the healing work you need to do to achieve peace, prosperity and happiness. This is everyone’s right.