There's no way around it, divorce is one of the most difficult life challenges a person can face. Even the most amicable splits are messy and scary and brutally heartbreaking. So while I can't help with the heartbreak, I have compiled a simple list of steps to help take some of the messy and scary out of the equation. If you are going through divorce, you've got enough on your plate. Use this plan to step into it with the support you need, and out of it standing on your own two feet in your personally- and intentionally-created new normal.
1. Own it. Listen, I know this is not an easy thing to talk about with friends, family, or heaven-forbid... co-workers. But the truth is that the people who care about you can't support you if they don't know what you're going through. Opening up about my failed marriage and subsequent divorce was probably the most significant step I took towards healing -- by letting my guard down, it opened up the flow of support from those around me. It's okay. You are not a monster for getting a divorce, nor are you abnormal. Sadly, upwards of 50 percent of marriages end this way. People will be a lot less judgmental than you might think.
2. Find your tribe. Once you've come clean, take note of those who go out of their way to support you. This, my friends, is your tribe. And believe me, you're going to need it. After divorce, particularly if you have children, those off nights can get pretty lonely. Even if you can't wait to get away from your spouse, the emptiness that is created once you take away that longstanding companionship is real and can be quite overwhelming. Be sure you have at least a friend or two who you can call up on a moment's notice for a talk, a walk, or a glass or two of wine. Keep in mind it might not always be your usual go-to supporters. It could be a co-worker who has been through divorce before, or a friend might introduce you to her neighbor who is going through the same thing. Be open. They will come.
3. Sit with it, then let it go. Unfortunately, the only way out of something is through it, and you can't exactly go through something if you just ignore it. So, after leaning on your tribe for awhile, it's time to start becoming comfortable spending time by yourself. This is the tough part, and where a lot of people unfortunately turn to someone, something, anything to fill the void. But true healing comes from working through our emotions, particularly the icky ones. Once you discover that you are able to just sit and be comfortable with yourself, you can finally let all the pain, anger, frustration, resentment -- whatever needs to be worked through -- go.
4. Purge, purge, purge. Now that you've let go of the pain of the past, you are ready to set the stage for your future. Now's the time to get rid of anything and everything that reminds you of your ex. Give away the bed you shared together. Sell expensive wedding gifts on eBay. Still have the dress that reminds you of your first kiss? Gone. If you're not up to throwing out a few special pictures, or want to hang on to some wedding memorabilia for your children, that's okay. Just keep them out of site somewhere -- like the basement or attic. By clearing out the old things that no longer serve or have special meaning for you, you are creating space for the new to come into your life. This could also be metaphorical -- perhaps it's time for a review of your Social Media friends and followers to be sure you will only be witness to news and updates from those that make you feel happy, proud and supportive. If you don't want to be reminded about people who could create feelings of anger or frustration, "unfollow". Trust me on this. Before long you won't even notice they're gone.
5. Create a sacred space. With the new space you've opened up by clearing out the old, it's now time to make your newly declared place your own. No longer do you have to run paint colors by your spouse for approval. Want purple stripes in your bedroom? Go for it! Always wanted the perfect outdoor entertaining space? Make it happen! This is the time to make your space a reflection of you. Buy a new bed (who needs to be reminded of shopping with your ex for your first bed together anyway). If you're on a strict budget, there is still so much you can do; buy some old furniture from Craigslist and restore it to your own taste. Search antique and thrift shops for pictures of whatever speaks to you, then use them to decorate your space. Pinterest is full of DIY projects that won't break the bank. You've done so much work to clear out the things that no longer serve you, it's now time to invest in creating an environment that is supportive of you and who you aspire to be.
6. Do your thing.Always wanted to take rock climbing lessons? Maybe Zumba is calling your name. Perhaps now is the time to finally sign up and get in gear for that marathon you've had on your bucket list. Whatever makes your heart sing, this is your chance to go out and do it. It's an opportunity to reinvent yourself -- one not everyone is offered. Try to really dig deep -- what have you always wanted to do but you were too young/afraid/shy/busy? Give it a shot! Exploring and trying new things is a proven way to invoke confidence and joy, and we could all use a little bit of that after going through one of life's most difficult changes. Get out there, do your thing. This is your time.
7. Look around... You have arrived. You did it! You found your tribe, called on them when you needed a little support, then did the dirty work of sitting with the pain and grief and frustration and worked your way through it on your own. You then cleared yourself and your surroundings and created your own personal space that is a reflection of you. You even dusted off a few items from your bucket list and boosted your confidence by doing something exciting adventurous. So take some time and look around - this is your new normal...for now. You will find that this is a journey, and that there really isn't a finish line that you ultimately cross and where you declare "That's it -I'm done!". But know that you have just completed one of the most significant and treacherous treks on this journey, and the beauty of it all is that wherever you decide to travel on from here, is completely up to you.