The Divorce Survival Plan

According to Elizabeth Gilbert, Divorce is like taking a wrecking ball to a family. It can certainly feel that way.

If you were the person who left your marriage, in other words the Dumper, then you may be feeling guilt, shame, relief , excitement, anxiety, sadness and grief.

If you were the one who was left or the Dumped, then you may be feeling all of the above plus anger, betrayal, rejection and despair.

At times like this you don’t know what to do, where to go, or how to be to make yourself feel better. At least that is how it felt for me 30+ years ago when I went through the divorce process.

I had completely lost my appetite and I was in a constant state of fear and anxiety about the future. I guess you could say I was in a state of overwhelm. I had three children to take care of, and no family around me, so I knew I had to figure out a strategy to survive, if only for their sake. I sat down and wrote out a plan that I could follow irrespective of how I was feeling. Here it is.

Physical

My weight was six stone two pounds, and I could hardly sleep at night because my bones felt like they were coming through my skin. I realised this was not good so I got into the habit of making sure I had a bowl of fruit so that I could pick something up easily to eat. I also made a point of having a large pot of vegetable soup so that I could have some nourishment without too much effort. I had been in, and still was in a chronic stress situation, so I also started taking good doses of Vitamin B Complex as I understood that it is the stress or mind vitamin and would be helpful for me to address any deficiency.

I didn’t have transport at the time but it would have been helpful for me to get myself out into nature as much as possible.

Emotional

Going through divorce triggers off all the times in your life when you felt rejected: abandoned, betrayed, not good enough, overwhelmed or in danger.

My own history was one of having been adopted, and I became beset with all the primal feelings of an infant being abandoned, except that I was responsible for three children of my own. I had no idea that the level of emotional pain I was suffering was because of my history, but I found an excellent Counsellor, who helped me integrate all the old unresolved unconscious feelings from that time, which made functioning and moving on so much easier.

I found a support group and created a substitute family of women who remain close friends to this day. We encouraged and supported each other in moving on and creating new lives for ourselves, and had lots of laughs while we were at it!

I also prayed a lot, and held onto a belief that everything would work out OK.

Mental

Accepting that you may not feel up to or even feel able to focus on anything much, if you’re able to attend a Class in something you can enjoy and which isn’t too taxing, this helps to take your mind of your problems. It also provides an opportunity for meeting new people, and is something just for you. This all helps in the shift towards your new identity of the new you.

I did an A-level in English literature and thoroughly enjoyed the head-space which this gave me and I went on to do a Degree in Social Science and Social Work qualification which enhanced my earning potential, allowed me to become economically independent and helped me with my identity shift.

I also began keeping a journal, which helped me enormously in terms of my personal development, and I still journal to this day and strongly recommend.

 Psychological

In the acute phase of divorce your identity is still very much tied up with being part of a couple, in other words, with being “We”. It takes time to make the shift from looking back to “We” to becoming “Me”and feeling happy about that. This is the time when you can form a closer relationship with yourself,

perhaps learn to love yourself for the first time.

I recognised that I was on a journey, we all are. It helps if you can use this phase of your life to consciously assess what developmental gaps you have from your early life, and how you will heal them. This reduces the chance of you making similar relationship “mistakes” in the future, and enables you to get to a stage of feeling “I am enough”.

There is no question that this “journey”can be accelerated by being part of a support group and with some therapeutic coaching, can move you through the process with less pain and more ease. The counselling that I had at the time of my divorce made such a difference to my life, that I decided I wanted to do that for my life’s work. My counsellor at the time is now my Professional Supervisor 30 years later 🙂

Social

Sometimes you may feel so emotionally scrambled you don’t know whether you want company or would rather be with yourself. Weirdly, sometimes it can be both at the same time.

Most people in a divorce situation who have children will say they can’t afford to have a social life. I thought that too. I remember thinking, I should be going out to “have a good time”. I spent money I could ill afford on a babysitter and a night at a night- club. I found myself amongst a group of people who in my view were all going through the motions of “having a good time”. I knew that it was not good to stay home all the time, and that children often worry about their parents after divorce especially if they see you isolating yourself. I invited friends to come for Book discussions, video watching discussion groups which were informative and useful and helped with the transition from couple to single.

These evenings became fun times when myself and other women friends supported each other in our painful journey.

One of the benefits In doing this, is there is no need for a babysitter, you don’t have to go out and your children feel reassured by the fact that you have friends around. Not only do they find it reassuring they make friends too. The women and children at that time are now friends with my now adult children.

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