Starting Over After a Divorce

How can starting over be so difficult. Some people think starting over is just finding someone new or dating. While dating is one aspect of starting over it is not the only thing. In fact, there are a more practical tasks to figure out (although dating is a possibly in the future).

You will now have to learn how to budget, change a tire, unclog the bathroom sink, change the air filter, set the sprinklers and change the storm windows. What is more daunting is that you will be doing all of these things alone.

That is the part that sucks the most.

Your divorce or breakup may have left you drained, broken or even betrayed. You probably feel you are never going to move on or get over it, which is exactly what people have told you that you need to do.

Starting over is neither easy nor straightforward.

Tips for Starting Over

There is no right or wrong way to start over. Everyone is different. There are a few things that will ease the pain and make the healing a little easier.

1. Finalize the Divorce

After the judge signs your divorce decree and you are
officially single again there are tasks you have to complete to finalize the
divorce. This is an important step in starting over. You have to free yourself
as much as possible from this other person.

Go line by line on the divorce paperwork and check off the items that you have already completed. Joint accounts and credit cards need to be separated. The assets and debts need to separated as well, as stated in the divorce.

If you need to remove or obtain your own health insurance now is the time. The day your paperwork is signed by the judge and you are officially divorced is the moment one of you is without insurance. Contact your place of employment to make changes (it is okay if it is not within the open enrollment because it is a change in circumstances).

If you have kids this is the time to finalize the way you will communicate about the children and their activities. Create a calendar for the schedule you will have them and vice versa.

2.Take Time to Grieve

This is a death of your marriage, but it is so much more. It is a death of your expectations of the future and the happily ever after you envisioned. 

It is also the death of your identity. You were a spouse and a married couple. You had a role that you played and divorce changes who you thought you were in the world.

What does grieving look like after a relationship?

Expressing your feelings. Talking them through with a friend, family member, counselor or health care professional.

Allow yourself to feel sad. Stay away from substances that will numb the pain such as drugs or alcohol. When the numbness wears off the feelings can worsen. So, feeling the emotions is important.

Sleep. Get good sleep. Find a new pillow and some relaxing music and just get some sleep.

Keep your routines. You need to continue to go to work, church, family get togethers and so on. You need to keep going.

Eat healthy. Do not binge on pleasure foods. Make good choices and it will fuel your body.

3. Figure Out Who You Want to Be

You were a we now you are an I. You have lost your role as wife, husband, mother, father. When you became a couple, you lost some of you. The problem is when you get divorced your identity vanishes. Suddenly you are alone. If you have children, you must become both father and mother in the home.

Your roll changes. Your identity changes.

Do not rush to find this new identity. Take your time. Find new hobbies. You could try a painting class, yoga, crafting, a new fitness routine, biking, walking, reading, or jewelry making. Try something you have thought about but have never done.

You may choose to make a new career choice. Now is the time. No time like now for a new you and new career.

Life will go on. So, make decisions now on what the future will hold.

There is power in making decisions you could not make before. This step takes soul searching and reflection.

4. Me, myself and I

Now you have to make all of the decisions and do all of the chores. Time to learn new time management skills. Laundry, dishes, bills, grocery shopping, cleaning bathrooms, the lawn and weeds, clean the garage, change the air filter, and put up storm windows are all things you are now responsible for. When you were married you were able to divide and conquer these chores.

Now you will be either paying a handyman to do some of these tasks or you may start using Youtube and Google to find out how to unclog a bathroom drain or change a headlight.

There is nothing more empowering than being able to say, “I did it myself” or “I don’t need someone else.”  The feeling of accomplishment and satisfaction of completing these chores is like none other.

5. Get Counseling

No, You are NOT crazy but divorce is many things and some even have a feeling of embarrassment and failure. Simply stated it is crap. Starting over sucks.

A therapist is a way for you to rearrange and reorganize your feelings. You may start having emotions that may surprise you. You may have been verbally abused and treated horribly. You were told you were nothing and now may believe you are nothing. You may have been completely shocked by the divorce. Counseling and therapy will process through those negative thoughts and coach you through and lingering resentment, anger or even sadness.

If you are a parent, it may be necessary for you to seek therapy for your children. They too are going to struggle with change and a new routine that may result in switching of houses every few days. This is an adjustment period for you so you can imagine how a child may respond to these drastic changes.

6. Friendships

When you get married you loose friends and gain others. Depending on the person you married the friendships you “gained” may be his/her friends.

When you get divorced you may also lose friends. Sides will be taken by those you did not think would take sides. The couples you hung out with as a married couple now must chose who to invite over for the super bowl party.

With all the chaos that ensues with divorce, you may need your friends the most and it can feel lonely and disheartening after divorce when those friends are not there for you. First you lose a spouse then you start losing friends. In fact, your friends list is going to change dramatically.

Time to make new friends. You do not even know where to make friends. Making friends as an adult is completely different that making friends as a child or teen.

You can start attending church groups with your same life scenarios. Divorce Care and Single and Parenting are two great programs offered by churches around the country to help navigate divorce and/or parenting with a biblical perspective. Now, do not go thinking that this is a place to meet other singles or single parents because the men and women are kept in separate groups. These groups will bring you closer to others who are navigating the same life obstacles.

See my post about adult friendships after divorce when you have children. Making New Friends After Divorce When You Have Kids 

7. Redecorate

This is going to be the most fun. You will be either moving with half of your stuff or staying with half of your stuff. This is where memories live, in the belongings you shared with your spouse.

Start by purging the house, going through the items and deciding how many memories they hold. If the memories bring you sadness, anger, resentment or just plain bad feeling then that item needs to go. If the item doesn’t bring you memories or you have an indifferent feeling for the item, it can stay.

Garage Sales or Yard Sales are a great way to get rid of those unwanted items. Also, craigslist or Facebook marketplace offer a way to make money on bad memories.

Redecorating is a way to change a feel of a room. New paint, new décor and rearranged furniture will change the entire emotion.

Divorce usually leaves you financially drained for a while, but redecorating does not have to be expensive.  A great way to save money is with Craigslist, Facebook marketplace and garage sales. Look for sales at local discount stores.

8. Bucket List

When you were married you had plans for your future. Things you wanted to do. Time for you to make new plans and a new bucket list.

The bucket list is yours, put what you want in it. Maybe it will hold places you want to go, gardens you want to grow, adventures you want to be part of.

Go slow. Let yourself dream and add. Do not rush to check everything off as fast as possible. The point of a bucket list is to allow yourself to experience life.

9. Forgive

The hardest part is to forgive. You forgive for yourself not the other person. It is part of your healing. Forgiving is however NOT forgetting. Do not forget the past, the hurt, the pain. It makes you who you are.

Not only do you have to forgive your ex but your ex’s friends that “chose” him, your ex’s family, the judge, the lawyers, and maybe someday your ex’s new flame.

Also, you must take time to reflect and forgive YOURSELF.

You are not in this alone.