How often, in separation and divorce, are you forced to pretend, at least, that you can manage everything that’s happening to you? How often, instead, would you prefer to throw yourself on the ground, acknowledging your grief and fear, and throw a tantrum like you might have done as a toddler? Whether you chose divorce or it was decided for you, it is likely that the overwhelm of emotions has, at least occasionally, been part of your journey. When so much of our culture now celebrates competence and coping well as the most important virtues, where does this leave our overwhelm and grief?
No matter the reason for your divorce, there is likely much to be done and much to be felt. Although you may pretend that simply continuing to move forward, with clear thinking, is enough, you must allow time for your heart to grieve the loss you are experiencing and all the changes that are occurring in your life. In fact, not allowing the emotion may result in the inability to make the best decisions for you going forward.
How can it possibly be that allowing emotion is better than allowing the head to rule the heart? It’s really quite simple: your emotion will find a way out. Instead of grief, for example, your emotion may become a hum of anger you carry with you throughout each day and in your interactions with others. You may make decisions in your divorce based on anger. Although it may seem OK in the moment, it will not serve you or loved ones well over time. As the divorce process unfolds, there are many decisions that must be made, especially if you have minor children. If, at each stage, what you do is dictated by the angry hum, you may find yourself, much later, in a difficult place with your STBX (soon-to-be ex). If the STBX is also in an angry place, and willing to be combative too, you may find that you both expend energy and resources against one another that could be better spent on figuring out what’s best for each of you and your children, if you have them. Since the emotion is real, there must be a way to allow for it and still make best decisions for yourself and your children. How can it be done?
It is, frankly, both simple and not easy. If you can take these three steps wherever you find yourself in the process now, you will be well-served and have better results for yourself and your loved ones in divorce.
This isn’t as easy as it sounds although it is simple. It is, literally, a breath but also a time of reflection. Use the moment to assess, honestly, your situation. It helps to have an objective person, neither friend or family member, help you at this stage. Often, a divorce coach can be the objective advocate you need right now. You can do an inventory of what’s working and what’s not wherever you find yourself in divorce. Of course, you must remember that you are only able to change what you do and cannot control or change the behavior of your ex or anyone else involved. Knowing this, however, is quite liberating as it allows you, right now, to assess yourself and your role in whatever is occurring. If you dig deep enough, you can likely acknowledge what’s working and what’s not. With a good coach, you may even develop a plan of action to keep what’s good and discard what’s not, one step at a time.
After the hard work of self-assessment, it’s time for self-care. What are you doing, right now, to manage the stress and worry? It’s important to recognize that thriving and not just surviving during and after divorce requires you to take good care of yourself right now. If money is tight, take a walk, alone or with a friend. Turn up the music and dance. Engage your coach in support exercises or, if needed, see a therapist for anxiety or depression. Do not skip this step as it is as important as good financial planning in divorce. You matter, the most, especially if you hope to care for minor children after the divorce. Hold self-care near and dear and make a plan of action, each day, to do something just for you.
Finally, you can and should begin to implement the plan that you created from your reflection. Even baby steps make a difference. Can you change the tone of an email to your STBX, and does that change the response? Even if it doesn’t change the other, how does it feel for you to “take the high road” and act in line with the person you decided, in step one, you want to be? Continue, in this way, to take action each day that reflects who you know you are and want to be. Eventually, your behavior will be reflexive and authentic. You will see the “you” emerging that you created during this time of change. If you have spent the time making certain your values are in line with your actions, you will, indeed, find some peace -- no matter how your STBX or anyone else decides to behave.
So, yes, “Put Your Big Girl Panties On And Deal With It.” But, do this carefully and with much compassion and reflection for you and your children, if you have them. A thoughtful plan of action, in line with values you embrace with heaps of self-care added too, will allow you to survive and even thrive after divorce, no matter what comes your way.
For more resources and coaching advice, visit www.deardivorcecoach.com. Cherie Morris and Vicki Vollweiler are here to help you!