The period after divorce can be a very devastating and challenging time in a person’s life.
That is why we asked experts to share their insights on how to move your life forward after divorce.
Dawn Burnett, CSA
Transformational Divorce Coach | Wellness Strategist |
Author, Connect How To Love And Accept Yourself After Divorce
As painful as divorce can be, there is a way to take the dirt out of divorce so you can get back into the strength of the amazing human being that you are.
Here are 10 steps that will help you thrive after divorce:
Take inventory of your life
That means reflection without judgment. When did all the chaos start? Perhaps it was a root from childhood.
You did the best you could with the information you had. Often times we find a space in our heart to forgive others but the most important one that gets left behind is you, take a deep breath and forgive yourself first.
Get out a piece of paper and journal, that’s right what we focus on we get more of so write down the things that are working in your life and what you are most grateful for.
Plug into a support group
It can be online if that’s all you have time for. When we connect with other people that have walked through similar journeys it helps us to feel normal and by connecting in a group that lifts you up and holds you accountable you will blossom, sprout your wings and start flying in the direction of your dreams.
Write down what your dreams are
In marriage, we tend to put our needs last, well this is the time to put yourself first and give yourself permission to dream.
Set an action plan
Write out an action plan and take baby steps each day or week towards the direction of your dreams. Life is a journey, not a destination so make sure you enjoy every step along the way and celebrate your wins.
Don’t date for a while
This is a time to rediscover who you really are and an opportunity to come into your authentic self.
Do some mirror work
It will probably feel awkward at first but stand in front of the mirror and look at yourself deeply in the eyes, say, “I love you” until you feel it.
When is the last time you told yourself that you are enough and that you appreciate you? The more you learn to love yourself from a place of authenticity, the more love you will have to give to the world.
Surrender to all things that are out of your control
At the end of the day, the only thing we really have control over are our thoughts which turn into actions and thoughts become things.
Understand that everything you need is within you
Looking outside of yourself for happiness, love and acceptance, leaves you feeling bankrupt.
Katherine Eisold Miller
People in the process of divorce find themselves at the intersection of what was and what will be. That intersection exists in many areas of their lives including money and parenting for sure but it may also be true about where they live and what they do with their time every day.
There are two things that are crucial to successfully navigating through this intersection:
Visualize a future that you want rather than focusing attention on revenge or loss
Divorce is a disorienting time for many reasons, including the experience of confusing and contradictory emotions. Those feelings include the fear, anger and hurt that we normally associate with divorce. They also include surprising feelings of relief, excitement, and hope.
Those more positive feelings are sometimes buried but they are the beginning of creating a fabulous future. It is important to find a way to get in touch with those feelings and bring them to the surface.
Find a creative outlet that permits personal expression
Whether that expression is dance, painting, ceramics or poetry doesn’t matter. Creative expression helps people focus on themselves perhaps in a new way and that promotes healing and the creation of a new life.
Another thing that many of our clients find useful is journaling or some other form of written expression. Writing uses a different part of our brains then speaking and journaling allows people to get a different perspective that, in turn, helps them move on from divorce.
Charese L. Josie, LCSW
Licensed Clinical Social Worker | Owner and Founder, CJ Counseling and Consulting Services
Couples that went through divorce need to understand that divorce is a process. Some people may feel angry and believe that is the best way to cope and move forward quickly.
Actually, this hinders the growth process in moving on after a divorce. Anger is oftentimes a mask for grief as we want to avoid the feeling of embarrassment or that we have failed in some way.
Allow yourself to grieve
It does not matter if you are the one that initiated the divorce. There is a change in lifestyle for all involved and we need to allow ourselves to grieve this process.
We must differentiate between grieving the loss of the person and grieving the loss of the hope that we would have a long-lasting marriage. In this area, the focus is on the feeling of embarrassment and the feeling of failure.
Alter your role
In marriage, we assume certain roles and responsibilities. Once the marriage is over, we need to decide what to do with those roles. These options include redefining the role, letting the role die or re-assigning it.
Increase your insight about what roles you had in the marriage and what you want to do with these roles. This can provide a feeling of taking control of your life and your healing.
Achieve your new normal and do something different
Post marriage, we have to learn who we are again-our new normal. In order to do this, we need to do something different by trying new things.
Examples include finding community activities to participate in, trying new gym exercise classes; or traveling. Learning about your new normal can be small changes in your routine.
If you are an extremely social person, explore what it feels like to be comfortable with yourself alone. If you are often alone, try small social gatherings or going outside and engage in small talk with someone.
Examine your support system
During the separation and divorce process, our previous support system may not provide our needs to assist in coping. Manage your support system by having one person that allows you to think out loud (without giving advice) even if there is no rationale to your thought process.
Have another person that keeps you goal-oriented and focused and has a third person that reminds you to laugh and have fun. You may need to establish boundaries for other people during this time.
This provides a healthy opportunity to manage your mental health as you are healing and adjusting.
Seek a counselor that will provide you additional practical ways to move through your divorce to be a healthier you.
Lawyer, O’Connor Family Law
During the divorce process, a person usually feels a wide range of emotions; fear of the unknown, excitement for a new beginning, sadness for the loss of what they once thought was a good relationship, as well as a host of other ups and downs.
When you walk into court, there’s a significant amount of anticipation. Then you actually get divorced and it’s usually a bit of a letdown. You generally walk out of the courthouse with your lawyer and then just get in your car and drive away. I’ve had clients tell me that it is in those very moments where the reality of the divorce hits them.
It can be difficult moving on. Your entire life has changed. Sometimes it has happened over a period of time so you’ve already started to adjust, but other times, you’re also dealing with a new parenting schedule, a move, a new way of doing everything on your own now.
It can take a little while to start feeling “normal” again. But there are some things you can do to help the process along.
Give yourself the room and leeway to feel whatever it is you need to feel
If that’s sadness or anger, that’s okay so long as you do not let those feelings start to take control of you. If you find yourself staying stuck there, go see a really good therapist that can help you through it all.
Figure out what it is you can do that you’re passionate about
Many people give up so much of themselves when they are married, especially when children are involved, that after the divorce, they wonder what it is that they even like sometimes.
Challenge yourself to find your passion. Whether that’s volunteering at a local animal shelter, taking up hiking, ballroom dancing, or fishing – figure out what really makes you happy and take time to do it.
Give to others
Have you ever noticed that a smile is contagious? When you get out there and help other people, it does something to you that no other activity can do.
It makes you feel good about what you’re doing because you’re stepping out of your own problems to help someone else. This is one of those times where you will always get back more in return than what you give.
Let go of any anger, resentment, jealousy, frustration, or any other negative feelings
Those types of feelings will do more damage to you than it will affect the person you’re no longer married to. If you have kids, those types of feelings will make their lives more difficult.
This is definitely one of those situations where it’s easier said than done, but it’s so important for being able to move forward so you can start to build a life you are absolutely in love with.
Related: How to Let Go of Anger and Hate
Dan Blair, LMFT, LCPC, NCPC, CAMS
Divorce is a game-changer. It is a chance to redefine who you are, like who you are, and develop new boundaries. Strong personal boundaries increase your ability to hold others accountable in healthy relationships, so how can you get your confidence back?
Grieve the loss of your marriage
Let it go. It served its purpose. There is nothing more you can do. Build a strong relationship with your kids, but they don’t replace your ex or peer relationships.
Set your own life standards
Second, get off the performance wheel trying to be someone you are not. Instead of needing to meet other people’s standards, make your own using ACES.
What gives you a sense of accomplishment? You know that good feeling when you set out to complete a task, persevered, and looking back feel great you got it done?
You may not get that at work, or helping others, but we need the energy that you get when you do something for yourself.
Connection to others
Instead of isolation, which slowly reinforces thought patterns that are self-incriminating, reach out to something bigger than yourself including friends, family, faith, fresh air, philanthropy, or fun.
What do you look forward to? What gives you energy when you are done? Yes, binging may be a great escape, but how well do you feel when it’s done?
Steady routines of sleep, exercise, and a healthy diet can rival the positive effects of anti-depressant medication. Also, use mindfulness of what you are doing and how you feel about it.
Most of us may be vaguely aware of how we feel about things, but often do not connect what we are doing in the present moment and how we feel about it. We may discover alternative behaviors or thought patterns that feel better.
When you feel better about yourself, you are more willing to take new risks.
Divorce Attorney | Founder, Davis Law Practice
I’m a divorce attorney by profession, having opened my own family law firm five years ago, so for better or worse, I have a lot of experience with divorces. In terms of moving on, there are several things I recommend to my clients.
Develop new habits
You develop habits and routines around your spouse, so when you’ve separated and it’s time to move on, try to focus on new habits and routines that are positive and different from your marriage.
These can be really simple things – if your spouse slept on the left side of the bed, maybe it’s time for you to sleep on that side of the bed. Find time to exercise and maybe join a new group activity such as a sport, fitness class or book group – this can help you meet new people and prevent you from focusing on the divorce.
Recognize your feelings
I also advise my clients that the intense feelings you experience after a split will not last forever. The sadness and anger can be overwhelming – especially if you think you will have them forever. Recognize that you won’t.
Try to stay away from social media
Spending hours on Facebook or Instagram where people post about how great their lives are can be depressing and isolating. It is far better to put away screens and either spend downtime with yourself or go out and be around people.
Divorce and Health Coach, The Separation Project
As a divorce coach, my top 5 recommendations for moving on after divorce are:
Accept what is
Time definitely does help but acceptance is actually what promotes healing in people.
Look after yourself
So often people are so worried about others that they don’t make self-care a priority and start to unravel. Please, please, please do what you can for yourself first, like putting on that oxygen mask on an airplane, then check what others need from a calmer and more grounded place.
Get very clear on your own personal goals
If you do not have a vision for your future you will tend to drift through life instead of creating the life you want.
Take time to heal
No need to rush your next relationship. Healing needs to take place before another relationship will be able to thrive. You need to build your next relationship on a foundation with a strong sense of who you are, what you actually want and what you need.
Remember you are not alone
Unfortunately, lots of people go through a separation and divorce – you are in good company!
Michael C. MacNeil
Divorce and Family Law Attorney, The Law Office of Michael C. MacNeill
Be careful in managing your finances
Besides the emotional toll that divorce takes on a person, there is often a financial toll. I should know—I have been helping clients with their divorces while simultaneously handling my own.
In the aftermath, it is necessary to clean one’s financial house by streamlining the spending and budgeting and also by planning for the long term. This can mean reducing expenditures, improving savings, and setting a course for retirement, among other things.
Often in divorce cases, houses are sold and the parties have to move. Some parties get too attached to the home and they agree to buy out the other party by refinancing the home with a loan they cannot really afford. If the house is sold, they should likewise use the proceeds of the house wisely, rather than overspending.
Also, retirement accounts are divided. When this is done, there is an opportunity to liquidate these accounts without paying a penalty. This is a tempting opportunity to squander that cash. Remember, it is called a retirement account for a reason. You are going to need that when you retire.
There are professionals who can help manage money, whether it be a situation where a person is in control of more or less than was the case during the marriage. Seek out these people and consider their advice.
You can achieve financial stability. By doing this, your stress level will be reduced and you can concentrate on your relationships and your career.
Rabbi Shlomo Slatkin, MS, LCPC
Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor | Certified Imago Relationship Therapist |
Co-founder, The Marriage Restoration Project
Take care of yourself and work through your emotional blocks
Moving on after divorce is never easy, and its difficulty varies depending on the nature of your experience. While divorce may seem like an end to a marriage, it is not necessarily an end to your relationship, especially if you have children.
It is important to take care of yourself, work through your emotional blocks and challenges so that your negative experience does not impair you moving forward. This can be especially challenging if you don’t have closure from your failed marriage.
Realize it is a process and will take time, but if you become more conscious, you move towards a healthier future.
Tiffany Ann Beverlin
Life & Divorce Coach, Dreams Recycled
Divorce is the only time in your life you are forced to come to terms with changes in your relationship status, your parenting, the location of the home you live in, your finances and an entirely new life all at the same time. It is no wonder divorcees fight against the change.
The best thing that you can do to move forward is to not just accept the changes but embrace them
Using divorce as that excuse to really take charge of your life and throw yourself wholeheartedly into your new life. When you start to shift your mindset that change brings with it a slew of opportunities and possibilities instead of viewing it as a negative, your life starts to feel a lot better and you start to realize you have much greater control in the direction you life heads than you may have thought.
If you are still struggling with moving on, the best practical thing to do is to make a list of things you alone have the power to change, then take small positive daily steps towards these changes and your new goals.
It is amazing how empowering it becomes to take charge of your destiny and plan for what truly can be your best life yet after divorce-in short the key is to focus all energy on what you have gained from divorce, instead of what you have lost.
Certified Mental Health Consultant, Enlightened Reality | Relationship Expert, Maple Holistics
Finding a new normal
A divorce will throw anyone for a loop, and it’s hard to know how to move on after such an ordeal. The most important thing is to try to embrace your new normal and get into a rhythm. Create new routines and traditions so that you can own your new life and you’re not longing for the past.
Part of moving on is getting rid of reminders of your ex
Now of course, if there are kids in the picture, you must be careful with how you do this so that you don’t upset them. But in the comfort of your own privacy, feel free to throw out mementos, gifts, etc.
Some people even like to do this ceremoniously, such as by burning pictures, in order to symbolize a true end so that they can get closure and move on.
Lean on your loved ones for support
No one is expected to get through a divorce alone, and your friends and family certainly want to be there for you when you need them.
Don’t be afraid to reach out when you’re having a bad day or to initiate celebrating the holidays together. Chances are that you won’t just be helping yourself by doing this, you’ll be helping them too.
Life and Divorce Coach
Divorce can feel traumatic and most people think they will feel better as soon as it’s over. In fact, a lot of my clients are really surprised to find that once their divorce is over, they feel exactly the same way they did in the middle of it. The reason they feel this way is that they are thinking the same thoughts as they did during the end of the marriage and into the divorce.
The way that people move on is to see this new phase as an opportunity for growth
I work with my clients to get really clear about the desired life post-divorce. If the goal is to have a life that is full of joy, for example, it’s the time to start understanding what thoughts bring joy; looking for activities that feel light and consciously cultivating joy in this new life.
We remove the trauma of the divorce and develop new confidence and strength so that life looks better and brighter post-divorce.