Life After Divorce: How to Take Care of Yourself And Your Family
Updated February 14, 2020
Medically Reviewed By: Karen Devlin, LPC
Divorce can be a difficult and drawn out process. Even if you are the one who requested the divorce or if it was a mutual decision, it can be a sad and painful end to a relationship. It also brings many life changes, both logistically and emotionally. Suddenly, your life may look very different from what it did, especially if your relationship was several years long. The stress increases when children, pets, and other family are involved. Sharing some business or other assets also makes it more difficult.
During the process of divorce and just after it has occurred, both parties need to take care of themselves and their family, especially the children who may struggle to understand what is happening. There are many things you can do to take care of yourself and your family. Try these helpful tips:
- Share In The Responsibility
Ideally, when couples divorce, especially when children are involved, both parties will refrain from playing the 'blame game.' It does little good for either party, the history of the relationship, the relationship going forward, co-parenting efforts, or the health of the parental relationship when children are involved, to blame one another. Especially do not discuss blame or responsibility with the children.
In most cases, unless there has been infidelity or domestic violence, divorce cases occur when couples have grown apart and no longer find happiness in the relationship. In these cases, truly no one party is to blame. Instead, each person must admit their responsibility in the situation and agree to work together to have a civil divorce. Doing so will allow both parties to heal better after the divorce.
- Show Maturity And Calm
Divorce proceedings are inherently stressful. There is little that can be done to eliminate the situation and the effect it has on one's emotions. However, your reaction to the situation can affect the level of stress. If you react strongly with anger and outbursts, it will make an already stressful situation even more stressful. However, if you demonstrate maturity and calm it can help diffuse the situation.
However, for the person who did not personally want the divorce, it may feel difficult not to react with strong emotions. Being mature and calm does not mean you will not feel your emotions and perhaps even talk about them supportive people in your life. However, it does mean you will not lash out at those around you, including your soon-to-be-ex. In the end, reacting that way will not accomplish much other than adding to the stress, making the process more difficult, and making it harder to get along. Keep this especially in mind if the two of you will need to get along to co-parent your children.
- Seek Support But Avoid Gossip
When you are going through a divorce, in many cases you are losing one of the more significant relationships in your life. Turning to your other social relationships for support is important.Talking about your feelings helps you to process through them. It also allows you to gain other perspectives. It can help you to find a sense of calm so that you do not react so strongly in other settings.
Find supports who will listen to all your intense and negative feelings. A good support will validate them and will also help you find ways to let go of your emotional reactions. Sometimes, good friends will be the ones that even challenge you to keep yourself and your emotions in check. Unload whatever you want with your friends and family, but do not unload on your children.
Although, communication with your children about the divorce can help them to understand and feel secure during the situation, do not put them in an adult role by talking to them about your emotional reactions. Instead, you will likely be providing them lots of emotional support. Also, let them remain children in the situation, and allow them to hold yourself and your ex-spouse in good opinion still.
While it is good to talk and seek support, it is important not to engage in gossip about your ex and the situation. Talk to people you trust, whom you know will keep the information in confidence. When others inquire about the situation, be careful of what you share. It may be tempting to say things out of spite, but those negative comments could hurt your children and affect the co-parenting relationship.
- Ask Others For Help
As your life entirely changes during the process of the divorce, you may find yourself needing help with things. There may be things that your spouse always did. You may have a hard time finding a new balance in time. You may need help with small tasks and bigger tasks. Childcare may be another area you need extra help with. Sometimes the culture tells people to be independent and manage everything on their own. However, that is not always productive or helpful.
Instead, ask others for help. Your close friends and family will likely really want to support you in whatever ways you need. Ask them for help with whatever tasks will alleviate the burden. That may be mowing the lawn, dropping off dinner, picking up the children from school, and more. As you start to find a new balance in time and routine, you may need less help, but being a single parent or a co-parent can be a tough job. So, it is always okay to seek out an extra set of hands.
- Practice Self-Care And Self-Compassion
There is a hierarchy of needs that everyone must have met to be healthy and well. At the base of that are basic self-care needs such as food, water, shelter, and other basic resources. When you go through a difficult situation like divorce, you may neglect these needs. This can be especially true if you are also taking care of children. However, it is important to make sure you meet these basic needs.
Above that, people have safety needs such as personal security and good health. During a divorce, your sense of security and safety could be disrupted. Your life may feel so different, and it can be hard to feel secure during all the changes.This is when it can be helpful to make sure your finances are in order and ask for help from others if you need it. Knowing that you have help can increase your sense of security.
When you are feeling unsafe and stressed, due to life's circumstances, you can also combat those feelings with relaxation techniques. Often, the body remains geared up to deal with stress,and that can eventually leave you feeling tired or even sick. Use Deep Breathing, Muscle Relaxation, and Mindfulness Meditation to calm your body,and in doing so, you can calm your mind, restoring a sense of security.
Above that, people need a sense of love and belonging to others. This is why social support is so important. As you lose a significant relationship to divorce, you may feel a sense of grief because it could also reduce your sense of love and belong. However, you can turn to your other family and friend relationships to maintain connection and a sense of belonging to people who care about you. Also, consider attending a support group or getting connected others who are in a similar situation.
Beyond that, you also need esteem. This includes a sense of respect for others, self-esteem, strength, and freedom. A divorce can disrupt one's sense of self-esteem as the loss of a significant relationship can leave you feeling differently about yourself. You might even start to engage in negative self-talk, telling yourself the situation is your fault.
To combat this, instead, practice self-compassion. Treat yourself nicely and give yourself positive messages, just as you might to a friend going through s similar situation. With self-compassion, you can help to maintain your sense of self-esteem.
Finally, people have a basic need to become the best they can. A divorce can seemingly disrupt your plans and leave you worried you will not get to live the life you planned for. This may even leave you worried that you will not get to be the person you planned to be. When you struggle with this, sometimes you need bigger help to resolve the confusion and get yourself back on track with life.
- Get Bigger Help
Divorce is a stressful time for both parties. For this reason, many people choose to seek out support through counseling. Today, many people even elect to go to Couples Counseling. There is a misconception that Couples Counseling is just intended to repair relationships. However, it can help any pair of people to resolve the conflict. Divorce is a great time to seek Couples Counseling because the therapist can help the two parties figure out how to civilly end their marriage and be good co-parents.
Couples counseling can be obtained in your local community or online. Many people choose to participate in online counseling or teletherapy because it is easier to do so on their schedule and it is more discrete.This counseling can help each party,and it can also help to support the family unit to still have good interactions and relationships, even after the divorce.