These days, it isn’t enough to “get divorced”; it is the aftermath, the many years of life after divorce that is often more challenging than the event of divorce itself.
Before any other factor, most would agree that creating a positive mental attitude and emotional stability, is critical to coping with divorce. Assuming that financial and childcare matters have been addressed during the divorce settlement, creating a new life is the ongoing challenge. As with any crisis, both danger and opportunity are present as options to pursue. Clearly, most people would choose the opportunity end of that spectrum, but without conscious living, the danger end can easily sneak in.
Being single (and alone), needing to work more (and tirelessly), being emotionally available to children (and less so to oneself) are some of the major challenges.
There is a difference between loneliness and solitude; learning to appreciate the latter, can open up new energy for creativity and invention. Try exploring new, or previously suppressed aspects of yourself—your dreams, interests and desires that may long ago have been tossed aside during marriage. Consider your newfound freedom from coping with marital problems, to be mental and emotional space to reinvent yourself. Read books, take classes, join groups, sign up with www.meetups.com and make new friends.
Part of surviving divorce usually involves making more money, a challenge under the best of circumstances, but even moreso in this economic “downturn”. Instead of viewing it as one more chore or burden to bear, consider wedding your long lost interests with a money making venture. For example, a client of mine who had a number of pets, that were costly to feed and care for, created a side business of organic treats for pets. Borrowing the services of a web savvy friend to develop a viable web presence, traded with a promise to clean his house for a year, she started small, in the basement, until it grew slowly. During the day she still had to work her regular job, but enlisting the help of her daughter at night allowed for “family time”, a contribution by the daughter, and a labor of love. Another option for someone could be to revive an earlier musical aptitude. A different client, who played a stringed instrument in high school and college, got back into it, took lessons, and began to play in chamber groups. For fun, they played at a friend’s wedding, and thus began a mini career in “playing for weddings”—sometimes for pay and at other times for free. While time-consuming, the joy and satisfaction actually created new energy for her, as well as some extra money.
A third aspect of life after divorce is to remain emotionally available and connected with your children, without losing a sense of oneself. Paying close attention to the activities and conversations that matter to your kids, can help to draw you into their worlds. At the same time, it is an irony of parenting that one of the best ways to take care of your kids, is to take care of yourself first, so that they don’t have to worry about you, and so that you have the wherewithal to be a provider. The well known instruction upon embarking on a plane trip—to give yourself the oxygen before your child-- in the event of an emergency, is a perfect metaphor for surviving divorce.