Sunday, November 25, 2018

Moving Forward After Divorce

(Interested in more thoughts On Being Divorced? Click here to view the series.)

Moving forward after tragedy is difficult. Recovering from divorce and battling loneliness is no different. Here are a few ideas I've tried and gleaned from others.

Be flexible and above all patient – with yourself, (yes, even with your former spouse), with your children, friends and extended family members. You are all learning how to navigate this new way of living. None of you are going to do this perfectly. It takes time and repetition to get right the intricacies of living divorced. Grief isn’t suddenly “gotten over” and we all take our own time and way to heal. There's no magic formula or one-size-fits-all.

Friends who've not experienced divorce or a great loss may not understand how best to help. It's necessary sometimes to let them know what you need. Children of divorce are hurting and may not recognize your grief. It's fine to give them the bottom line, without going into detail, of why you need what you need. Be upfront about your expectations of them and let them off the hook for things that they may feel is their responsibility, but isn't. I have a child who sometimes takes on my emotions and tries to do what he can to shield me. He's a teenager. That's not his job and shouldn't be his worry. We've had several conversations regarding this because it's easy for him to forget he's allowed to be a child, growing into a man and not expected to be full-grown at his age.

 Reprioritize and Simplify – Purging your living space can be cathartic. Already a neat freak? Purging someone else’s living space can be cathartic too. Living in a clutter free environment, calms the mind and spirit. It's a two-part gift to yourself. There are many books and articles on the best way to do this. Try this chart from PopSugar  or this set of ideas from Love and Marriage.

 Journal – we’ve heard this a gazillion times, but have we really done it? I kept a list that I made (right after my former husband left) of all my blessings. I’ve gone back and read it several times. Each time I’m astonished at how I could find so many blessings during such heartbreak. With nothing as devastating as my divorce, surely, I could find even more blessings now. It’s healthy and productive to revisit gratitude lists and make new ones.

 Remember life is about relationships -- Consider becoming a pet owner. Unconditional love from a dog or a cat gives you something to focus upon other than yourself. Renew old acquaintances. Get caught up with that friend from seventh grade history class that you used to cut up with in the back row. Facebook makes that easy. Invest in your children's hobbies and interests. The bonding that can take place over a plate of cookies that turned out terribly is never a waste.

Don't postpone joy – Cross off an item or two on your bucket list. Take that cruise with the girls. Visit Paris with a family member and try every wine and cheese combinations possible. Need something a little closer to home like I do? I’ve always wanted to learn Italian.  It wouldn’t take much to sign up for a college class. One step closer to meeting that hot Italian actor, right?


Switch things up -- Who says Christmas or New Year’s must be celebrated the same way in the same place as usual? Rent a cabin and head for the mountains for Christmas. Instead of watching the ball drop on tv, watch it in person and have a rockin’ New Year’s Eve.

One year, as a newly divorced woman, I celebrated Thanksgiving with family members at a local, somewhat fancy restaurant. The food was good, but we had chosen a family style restaurant. Not a problem until we realized we’d be sharing a table with strangers and their family as well. Not quite what we had in mind. My family agreed, our usual tradition around my parents’ table was what we missed the most that year. Sometimes it takes a change in environment to make us appreciate our traditions. Lesson learned.

Focus on others -- Volunteer at a hospital, assisted living building or animal shelter. Maybe you are like I am and putting yourself “out there” is way out of your comfort zone. There are behind the scenes ways to volunteer too. Deliver meals, leave a washer’s worth of quarters to pay for someone else’s load, ring a bell for The Salvation Army, stock shelves for a food pantry, or really go behind the scenes and help out backstage at a Christmas play.

Invest in your faith – This seems like it should be a no-brainer. In the midst of the most heart-wrenching devastation, it’s easy to turn to our faith. Once things settle a bit and we feel like we are doing okay, our faith is the easiest thing to let slide. Yet, it’s the most important thing. We cannot continue to be faithful in honoring the Lord, if we aren’t faithful in maintaining our relationship with Him.

If nothing else, do the last suggestion. It truly is an investment for eternity. As a beloved family member reminds me often: It's either about Jesus, or it isn't.

Let's make it about Jesus, above all.


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