Dealing with divorce and moving on is never easy, especially after a long marriage, or when you didn’t want the divorce. When you have kids, the added perspective of suddenly being a single mom can be downright daunting. No matter how much or how little your ex is involved in your children’s lives, it’s still pretty overwhelming to face being on your own, raising these tiny humans.
My ex-husband first asked me for a divorce when I was 18 weeks pregnant with our second son. I tried to save my marriage for the sake of my son and the baby on the way, but it just didn’t work out. We officially split when my youngest was just 3 months old. It’s a long story, and one I hope to tell one day, when the time is right.
At the time, all I could do was go on autopilot. Getting my oldest off to school, tending to a baby, splitting and packing up a household to start over, not to mention going back to full-time shift work, it was overload and overwhelm. I was dealing with a rollercoaster of emotions, stages of grief, guilt and anger that I thought I had tackled, only to circle back around and face them again.
That was almost 11 years ago now. It feels both like forever and the blink of an eye. Even now it’s challenging to look back and dredge up old memories and emotions, but I hope in sharing my experiences and strategies it can help others facing the same situation. You can get through divorce emotionally, move forward, and have a happy life that’s YOURS!
Tips for Dealing With Divorce and Moving On
There were a few key things that I did that I really consider touchstones; strategies that were pivotal in my journey to moving on, and becoming who I am now. Some I did right away, others took a little longer, but were equally freeing and fulfilling. Hopefully these tips will help in dealing with divorce and moving on!
Focus On Your Kids
Part of divorce means reframing your vision of the future for your kids. It might not be the big house with the yard and the white picket fence that you had planned. Sports and activities you dreamed your child would participate in may not happen now that finances, custody schedules and other commitments have changed.
But focusing on your kids, redefining “family” (we call ourselves the Three Musketeers now) can take your mind off your own loneliness and heartache sometimes. Going on autopilot like I did can turn into a routine. Routines create a new sense of balance and stability for you and your children. Seeing their smiles, feeling their hugs and snuggles, hearing the “I love you Mommy” at the end of the day is gold.
Make plans to do fun things together. Check out some kid-friendly ideas in my post on Summer Activities or Getting Outside in Winter. Although not the healthiest suggestion, on rainy days my boys will ask to do “our tradition” of hitting the McDonald’s drivethru, splitting a pack of McNuggets and fries while going for a drive to just get lost.
Spend Time With Your Girlfriends
Yes, the biggest chunk of your time is going to be focusing on your kids, and being the best mama you can be. But in order to do that, there has to be time for you too! Getting out and socializing with your besties is key to keeping yourself sane, and filling your own tank. Get a babysitter, ask your parents, siblings, or trade with another mom. If all else fails, plan day dates at the park for coffee while the kids play!
Talk about your feelings, and what you’re going through. Ask for what you need, whether it’s advice, a shoulder to cry on, or even just a non-judgemental ear to listen while you vent your frustrations. Your true friends will be there for you! They just might not know how to act, what to say or do, especially if they haven’t been through a divorce themselves.
Moving On By Moving Him Out
The process of splitting up often means packing up, selling the house and going your separate ways. Sometimes, like in my case, I was able to keep the house, and my ex moved out. Except that he didn’t exactly take all his stuff with him. There were boxes in the garage and basement 5 years later!
Make sure he either takes all of it with him, give him notice when it has to be gone, or get rid of it yourself! All it does is clutter up your space with memories. (It’s also negative energy if you’re a believer in that sort of thing. I “smudged” my house once him and his things were gone, to get rid of the bad mojo and get a fresh start.)
There is one exception to this. Let your children keep pictures of their father in their room. I got rid of every trace of pictures, digital and print (even my wedding photos) in the beginning. But as my oldest son grew up, he asked me why there were no pictures of his dad. I realized it was important to him, regardless of my feelings. He now keeps a picture of his dad on his nightstand. (I struggle with it to this day, but I know it’s the right thing to do. Doesn’t mean I have to look at it.)
Get Rid of the Memories
While you’re packing up his things, don’t forget about the “us” things, especially reminders of your wedding. It’s hard to get through divorce and move on when reminders are everywhere. While it might be nostalgic to look back on the “good old days”, inevitably it’s just going to bring up all the hurt, anger, resentment and tears that go along with those memories.
Use this moment to put a positive spin on things! Sell or donate your wedding dress to someone who could use it (think alterations for prom or a christening gown). Some jilted wives have a dress trashing party, inviting all their girlfriends to celebrate a new beginning!
Sell your wedding rings and use the proceeds to spoil yourself with something special. I bought a Vitamix blender! Now every time I blend up a healthy smoothie or make a comforting soup, I think of my ex and smile. It’s very therapeutic! That thing has lasted longer than my marriage did!
Time To Discover You
It might be too soon, too raw, too real when you’re newly trying to get past the emotions of divorce. But in time, you will realize you’ve got a whole new world that belongs to YOU!! Don’t forget to spend some time alone, to find yourself after divorce. Take time to discover the things you really like to do, that make you happy, and bring you joy. Things you might have sacrificed or given up when you were too busy being married and raising a family.
Reading a good book, binge-watching a favourite show, or going for a walk. Having an actual hot cup of coffee before you start the day! Have a relaxing bubble bath after the kids are in bed. If you are sharing custody with your ex, when the kids are with him, devote some real time to yourself!
Try writing down your thoughts in a journal. Don’t worry about what it says, about spelling or grammar, whether it’s neat or messy. This is just for you. Check out some of my tips and supplies for journaling. In the process you may just discover the “you” that’s been inside all along!
Take yourself on vacation. It doesn’t have to be somewhere really expensive or far away, even just a local hotel or bed and breakfast for a night or two. Ask for it as a birthday or Mother’s Day gift. Walt Disney World had been my “happy place” long before my ex and I honeymooned there. So to celebrate my divorce, I took a solo trip back. It was tough, like ripping off a bandaid, but I wanted to reclaim that place for myself. It certainly didn’t hurt that I travelled with a bunch of other Disney-loving singles I had met online. Some of those friends I still keep in touch with today, 10 years later!
Getting through divorce and moving on is not easy, and it takes time. It’s okay to feel every emotion, and to deal with them on your own terms. Know that you are not alone! Hopefully these tips will help you navigate the waters. Got some other tips and advice for moms facing divorce? Leave a comment below!
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