When you get married, you make a decision to wrap your life around not only your own goals and dreams, but also the goals and dreams of your spouse and the goals and dreams you have as a couple. Divorce declares that decision null and void. So, when the marriage ends, what’s next? You have to move on, but where do you go and how?
“Divorce shakes the whole foundation of your life and puts it on sand that blows in the wind,” said Joanie Winberg
, author of “Rising to the Top: A Guide to Self Development.” Winberg became a single mom after a 20-year marriage. Her struggle to rebuild her life after divorce led her to become part of the newest coaching specialty -- -life planning after divorce.
Figuring out what’s next involves sifting through the rubble of your life to find out who you are now that you’re no longer part of a couple. “After a divorce, you have to reinvent yourself,” said Shelley Stile
, a life coach who helps clients refocus their lives after divorce. “It’s a time of upheaval, which means it’s the perfect opportunity to understand what matters most to you as well as what causes you to stay stuck so you can go about creating a life around your own unique passions and strengths.”
Planning a new life after divorce can sometimes feel like creating a road in the wilderness. Here are nine tips to keep your compass on true north. 1. Work through your grief.
Give yourself the gift of holding a sacred space for healing because there is no way to create a new life until you’ve let go of the old one. “A divorce is a death. It’s one of life’s great losses. People want to start creating their new life right away, but before they can move forward, they have to work through the denial, the grief, the anger, rage, and depression that are part of divorce recovery,” said Stile. A good therapist as well as a grief or divorce recovery support group can be invaluable. While Stile finds that her clients tend to start feeling better about life in six months to a year, it can take years to finish the grieving. “The single most difficult thing to do is to be able to fully accept what is versus what you think should be, could be or might have been,” Stile said. 2. Recognize your survival mechanisms.
In order to survive the difficulties of life, we develop ways of thinking that help us cope with disappointment and stay safe from hurt. “Survival mechanisms are all the ways you know how to be and get things done in your life,” said Accomplishment Coach Josh Miller
. “They’re not necessarily good or bad, right or wrong. They’re a way to manage your present and move forward, but they aren’t the most empowering way to live your life.” Survival mechanisms include: whining instead of asking for what we want; being afraid to let people in;
saying yes when we really mean no; being so busy figuring everything out that we’re never really present to the situation. Going through the pain of a divorce can add layers to those defense mechanisms. Become aware of the ways you hide from hurt and then tell them, “Thanks for the great job you’ve done protecting me from failure, disappointment, and rejection. But, right now, you’re keeping me from stepping outside my comfort zone and that’s where my goals are — outside my comfort zone.” 3. Assess your talents.
When you go through a divorce, it’s easy to focus on what you don’t have going for you. However, your talents are the building blocks of your future life, so start focusing on what you do have. “Realize you have gold nuggets you were born with and focus on the good, rather than where you’ve failed,” said Winberg. Write down five things you love about yourself. “Now, look in the mirror and tell yourself you see those five things,” Winberg said. If you’re not sure where to start, ask friends to tell you three things they see in you. Also, check out “Strengths Finder
” by Tom Rath, who leads Gallup’s workplace research and leadership consulting. The book comes with a link to an online assessment that determines your top five strengths.