By: Jenny R. Jeltes
- Get counseling (even if you don’t think you need it).
Whether you have had professional counseling in the past or whether you and your spouse attended marriage counseling together, divorce is a huge life transition. Even if you were the one to initiate the split, all terminated relationships present adjustment issues. There is always something from which to learn and grow. It may be a poor choice you made or a behavior you should not have accepted. Whatever the circumstance, professional counseling can, at the very least, help you become more self-aware and better able to choose the right partner in the future. It can also help you heal from the emotional pain, especially if you were the “left behind” partner.
- Get a grip on finances.
Divorce can be expensive. Even with minimal assets and income, there are filing fees and perhaps some attorney fees that must be paid. One household will suddenly split into two households, which can put a significant financial burden on both you and/or your spouse. Perhaps some property needs to be sold, or one spouse may need to start paying child support. Even though you may want to bury your head in the sand, take control of your finances by knowing exactly what is in the bank. Take inventory of your debts and assets (both separate and joint), and adjust spending habits throughout the divorce so that you do not come out of the divorce with more debt. If you were not working and are able to re-enter the workforce in some capacity, consider taking a part-time job for additional income.
- Share the news with your closest friends and family.
Whether it is a close family member or a friend, sharing this news may bring small comfort. When others know what you are going through, they can help support you. It can be hard to ask for help. By telling the right people, however, you are being kind to yourself and serving your highest good. Whether it is spiritual guidance, a shoulder to cry on, or someone to help pick up the kids from school, now is the time when you most need support! There are people out there to help you and it is no sign of weakness to reach out to them.
- Find a competent and qualified attorney.
The legal process can be daunting, to say the least. All of a sudden your married life has devolved into legal jargon like “dissolution,” “dissipation,” and “valuation.” You do not have the mental energy to deal with all of this alone. More importantly, you probably do not know what you are or are not entitled to in your divorce. Both financial and custody issues alike can be very complicated. A skilled lawyer will help you navigate through this process and guide you, whether it is through mediation, tactful negotiation, or fighting it out in court.
- Get adequate sleep, good nutrition, and exercise.
Now more than ever is when you need to take care of yourself physically, mentally, and emotionally. Going through a divorce can be incredibly stressful and difficult. Your immune system may be low and it will likely be easy to fall into bad habits (ie. a gallon of ice cream or a bottle of wine). Although these indulgences are okay in moderation, remember that your health affects your mood and energy. You will be much better equipped to handle the stress of a divorce and get through those super tough days when you are well-rested and nourished.
- If you have kids, prepare and consider how you deliver the news.
Regardless of the age of your kids, they will certainly be impacted in some way by the news of divorce. Depending on age, he/she may react with anger, fear, or just plan sadness. In cases where there is no history of physical abuse or a situation where you cannot be in his/her presence, it is best to deliver the news to your children together. Even if the divorce wasn’t a “joint” decision, a group discussion of the news is best. By sharing the divorce with your kids and spouse in an open environment, your children may feel safer and more inclined to share any questions or reactions. Children need to grieve as well. Avoid discussing issues of custody or negative legal problems with your children. Encourage your children and let them know that this is a transition that will be okay.