After I began telling family and friends that my husband and I were divorcing, the well-meaning platitudes began rolling in. “You’re young; you’ll find someone else.” “Everybody will be okay. Kids bounce back.” “You’ll all be better off.” And so on. While there might have been a bit of truth buried within some of those sentiments, I always had to suppress the urge to ask, “How do you know?” Especially when the person dispensing the advice had never experienced anything as soul-crushing as telling the kids that mom and dad are splitting up. Truthfully, there is no crystal ball and there were so many, and still are, what I call “quicksand moments.” You know, the moments when you feel stuck, despite all your attempts to move forward. The reality is the kids and I for the most part ARE okay. Are we better off? That remains to be seen.
So much of what the kids and I have lived through has been out of my control, typical of any divorce I’m sure. As I’ve gone through the process, though, I’ve gotten advice from friends who’ve been through it and assure me that a good life is within our reach. Without further ado, a few great concrete ways to survive your divorce:
1. Bring a friend to court with you. It is a courtroom, after all, a very quiet place where everyone whispers and everyone’s there because something went wrong. It’s intimidating and scary, and cell phones aren’t allowed, so don’t even think about taking a selfie with the judge. Not that you would. Even if your attorney tells you that your presence isn’t necessary, go anyway. Familiarize yourself with that brown paneling and those chairs whose seats flip up really fast and make a loud noise when you get up, causing everyone to turn around and look at you. Trust me, bring a friend or family member along. And a book. You’ll be there a while.
2. If there was ever a time to dust off the treadmill, it’s during your divorce. Just do it, even if it’s only ten minutes a day, because before you go to bed you can tell yourself that today, I moved forward. Literally. Even if it was only 1/10th of a mile. Before long, you’ll work your way up to erasing the damage the Pumpkin Spice Latte did to your diet every day when it was in season.
3. Change your sheets. This is an easy one to overlook when all that’s being done in that bed is sleeping. Ideally aim for once a week and splurge on the expensive fabric softener. After a day spent worrying about what the future holds, a good smelling bed can do wonders for your outlook.
4. Take care of your kids. A no-brainer, obviously, but you might find yourself from time to time in the midst of a huge pity party and forget the little ones, if only momentarily. You’ll snap out of it the moment the front door opens at the end of the school day. Just be sure that the kids don’t feel that it’s their job to take care of you. You have resources at your disposal: counselors, therapists, friends and siblings. Every night I check in on my middle son and ask “You okay?” He always, every single time, responds, “I’m good. You okay?” His security rests on mine. Regardless of whether I mean it 100 percent, I tell him without a doubt, I’m okay.
5. If the budget allows and the opportunity arises, get the hell out of town. Farm the kids out (see #7) and go somewhere. Last week I flew to Las Vegas with two of my sisters. I laughed for 3 days straight and even had a Jonathan Toews sighting. (He’s taller than I thought!) We walked, shopped, and ate meals which did not require cutting into small pieces. I cried and my girls listened. I came home ready to take on just about anything and anyone.
6. Live life one day at a time. Most divorces take months to resolve, so make a short list of your goals for the immediate future. Sell the house? Find a college for the kid? Look for a job? Some days I feel like an overachiever if I’ve managed to clean out one closet. Bottom line: as moms, we’ve spent years as multi-taskers. In the middle of a divorce, this is a skill you need to let go of. Realize that stuff will get done eventually, and stop freaking out about the weeds in the flower bed.
7. Accepting a helping hand is one of the hardest pieces of advice to take because oftentimes it’s interpreted as a sign of weakness. You are not weak, you are smart. Delegate. Let go of the impulse to commandeer every carpool, plan the class party or organize whatever. Do yourself a big fat favor and let someone else step in. There’s always next year to volunteer, right?
8. Divorce used to be a dirty word. 50 percent of all U.S. marriages now end in divorce. I went for months, literally MONTHS without telling anyone and it kept me up at night like any bad secret. One day you will realize that the fact you are divorced is merely a footnote in your life story, and true friends will rally around you no matter what. I thank God for those friends every day.
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