Finding Hope Is The Key To Moving On After Divorce

Move on after divorce to find happiness again.

When I was 13, my Grandpa died. I was devastated. He was my favorite person in the entire world and I was never going to see him again.

I wasn’t alone in my grief, my entire family was devastated – especially my Grandma. Grandma and Grandpa were very happily married and they were each other’s world.

Eventually, we were all able to process our grief and move on with our lives – except for Grandma. For the next 20 years, until her death, my grandma mourned the loss of her husband. When things happened that she didn’t like, she’d say, “Your grandpa wouldn’t have let that happen.” When things happened that she did like, she’d say, “Your grandpa would have liked that.”

It was really hard for me to hear her make comments like these. Every time I heard her make one of these statements I would cringe internally. It seemed to me that she must be missing out on life since she was so focused on the past and what she had lost.

I have very similar feelings today when I hear one of my clients tell me about how much they mourn what they used to have in their marriage. Don’t get me wrong, grief is a very normal and necessary part of divorce. No one can tell anyone else how long they need to grieve.

The thing is I also know that sometimes people don’t know how to finish grieving and start moving on after divorce. They wind up keeping themselves imprisoned in what was and what they believe should have been instead of figuring out ways to enjoy what is and what might be. I certainly don’t want that to happen to you.

What I’ve discovered in my years working with people dealing with divorce is that the individuals who are most successful in moving on after divorce are those who have hope that their life can and will be good, if not great, again.

Going through divorce can feel like you’re stuck in a long, dark, dank, cobweb-filled and scary tunnel. Hope can be the light at the end of the tunnel.

One of the quickest ways to find hope and start the process of moving on after divorce is to get in action – directed and planned action. To do this requires thoughtful planning. I’m not talking about the kind of planning that you force yourself to accomplish by a specific deadline. I’m talking about creating plans that inspire you to take action, that make you happy to think about accomplishing and that you are willing to do what it takes to achieve.

For many of my clients moving on after divorce often starts with the hope of being in another relationship. We start to turn this hope into a plan by stepping back from the idea of being in another relationship by figuring out what has to happen before they can be in another relationship. Usually that means they need to be dating. If they’re not currently dating, we take a step back and ask what needs to happen before they can be dating. Usually that means they need to meet people they can date. We continue this process of backing things up until we find an action they can take right now. An action that gives them hope that what they want to have in their life they can!

Your Functional Divorce Assignment:

What do you hope to have in your life? Allow yourself to truly dream when you answer this question. You can look at divorce as a chance at a do-over. What do you happily hope for?

As you take a step back from this hope, what needs to happen before your hope is a reality? It’s OK if you don’t know the EXACT thing that needs to happen before your hope is realized, just think about what in general needs to be true before your hope is realized.

Continue taking steps back until you have an action you can take today. Every day you have choices you can make about what you do. Wouldn’t it be great fun if one of the things you did today got you closer to making your hope a reality?

I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a divorce and personal life coach helping people just like you who are dealing with the stress and pain of divorce. You can join my newsletter list for free weekly advice . And, if you’re ready, you can take the first step toward working with me as your personal coach.

If you’re looking for more help recovering from your divorce, read more articles about Healing After Divorce.

Divorced? How To Add Some Happiness To Your Holidays

Unlike Grandma’s recipe for fudge, dealing with divorce over the holidays isn’t usually a recipe for happiness. More often than not, it’s a recipe for days of pasted on smiles and long nights of extreme sadness. Luckily, it doesn’t HAVE to be that way.

One of the things I teach in my teleconferences and to my clients is that when you’re going through divorce you need to learn the difference between your emotional box and your business box.

You’re in your emotional box when you allow yourself to express and experience all the emotions associated with your divorce. Depending on where you are in your divorce journey, your emotional box could be filled with pain, hurt, shock, denial, fear, loneliness, guilt, rejection, grief and anger. None of these emotions are especially helpful for making the holidays merry and bright.

You’re in your business box when you allow yourself to focus only on the decisions and tasks that you must address. For example, it’s best to be in your business box when you’re selecting your divorce attorney and when you’re negotiating the terms of your divorce settlement.

Because these boxes have such distinct purposes, it’s very helpful to be able to choose which box you’re in to deal with different parts of your divorce.

To give you a little practice with this idea, I’m going to ask you to step into your business box as you read the rest of what I’ll be sharing with you about how to experience more happiness in your emotional box.

Continue reading the rest of the post.       

Dating After Divorce? Consider Blended Families

Bonus children, FTW!

When it comes to dating for re-singled (a.k.a. divorced) parents, odds are that the people you’re dating will have kids of their own, too. Thoughts of entering into a serious relationship or even remarriage gives many re-singled parents cause for pause if not outright alarm because we’ve all heard the stories about evil stepparents since we were little (thank you, Cinderella!).

But that’s not how it has to be! With a bit of work, It’s possible to create successful blended families.

My husband and I met online through eHarmony. The picture he used for his profile was an adorable one of him with his youngest son (now my bonus son). When we had our first date, one of the things I asked him about was his kids.

Boy, talk about a conversation killer! He made it clear that he didn’t want to talk about them. I laughed a bit when he told me this and told him that he should probably consider changing his profile picture in light of that! Luckily, we found other things to talk about and wound up enjoying our evening.

What I didn’t know then was that his first attempt at a blended family didn’t turn out well. His refusal to talk about his kids was just his being protective. 

Luckily, we’ve been able to avoid some of the missteps of his first attempt at a blended family. Through some trial and error, we’ve been able to create a successful blended family.

You can create a successful blended family, too. The number one thing you need to know?

Successful blended families don’t “just happen” — they take work and planning.

Before you enter into a serious relationship or remarriage, it’s important that you spend some time with your new significant other planning what type of life you’ll have together, before you dive into that life.

In addition to planning your dreams of happily ever after, you’ll want to agree on parenting styles, discipline styles, and lifestyle (yes, I did say “agree” and not “compromise”. Successful blended families require partners to be on the same page in these critical areas.)

Once you’ve reached agreement, you’ll need to consider each of your children, their personalities, and how different these styles of parenting, discipline, and living are from the way you’re currently doing them.

Will the changes be large or small for each child? The smaller the changes, the more easily the child will be able to adapt. If the changes are large, you’ll want to consider making the changes gradually before blending your families full-time so each child will have the fewest obstacles to overcome in making the blended family a success for them, too.

No matter how carefully you plan or how easy you try to make the transition, it’s really normal for the kids to have different plans. These different plans are usually based on confusion and fear. It’s also normal for kids to feel jealous of their bonus family members. And it’s fairly typical for kids to feel angry about your remarriage because it messes up their dream of Mom and Dad getting back together again.

The five best things you can do to help all the kids involved are:

  1. Be clear about expectations and boundaries
  2. Communicate regularly as a family about family issues and with each child about what they’re feeling and what’s going on in their lives
  3. Let each child know you support them in loving their birth parent and that your new spouse is their bonus parent
  4. Take time every day to spend time one-on-one with each of your children and offer the same to each of your bonus kids
  5. Do fun things as a family

For most re-singled parents, their kids are a top priority, but successful blended families aren’t built on being great parents and making the kids happy. Successful blended families are built on marital bliss!

Marital bliss also needs to be planned for. You’ll need to plan for and schedule alone time for dates, vacations alone together, loud sex, and even just walking around the house naked.

The one thing that can help the most with all this is getting the kids on the same custody schedule as much as possible. That way you can regularly have kid-free weekends to focus on each other, connect, and strengthen your marriage without the demands of parenting. It’s from this base of a strong marriage that the success of your blended marriage must be built.

Creating successful blended families does take planning and the best plans include heaping helpings of communication, respect, commitment, and patience.

Try this Functional Divorce Assignment to get your planning off on the right foot:

  • Spend some time dreaming together about what you want your life together to be like. Make your dreams as specific as possible. By being specific about your dreams, you’ll both know when you’re on-course and when you drift off-course so you can correct things more quickly.
  • Talk about your parenting styles, discipline styles and lifestyles. Be completely honest here. I know one couple who didn’t have completely honest conversations about parenting and discipline styles before they got married. The result was that the first time the new wife saw her new husband’s parenting style and non-existent discipline style with his child she told him that she wouldn’t have married him if she had know this before-hand. Luckily, they’ve been able to work it out, but it would have been so much easier to do before they blended their families.
  • Consider each child’s potential reaction to having a bonus family. Each child has their own personality and will react differently to having a bonus family. By working together you and your new spouse can help to make the transition into your blended family be easier for each child.

I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a divorce coach and advisor helping people just like you who are dealing with the stress and pain of divorce. You can join my newsletter list for free weekly adviceIf you’re interested in taking the first step toward working with me, you can schedule an introductory private coaching session.

This article originally appeared on YourTango.

What I Wish All Kids Of Divorced Parents Thought About The Holidays

Little girl decorating a Christmas tree.

For way too many kids of divorced parents the holidays aren’t all that merry. Instead, the holidays are filled with confusion and guilt.

These kids experience confusion because they often have a hard time keeping track of schedules about when they’re going to be with Mom, when they’re going to be with Dad and when they’re going to be with their friends. Then layered on top of this confusion is guilt.

Kids of divorced parents often feel the need to be actors. They don’t want to upset Mom by talking about Dad in front of her and they don’t want to upset Dad by talking about Mom in front of him. So, these kids learn to act like their other parent isn’t as important as the parent they’re with right now. The pressure to continue the charade amps up around the holidays and then the guilt comes. Many of these kids feel guilty that they’re looking forward to being with the other parent and that they have to leave the parent they’re with right now to do that.

I got to see this confusion and guilt first-hand with my bonus sons.

The first time I spent the holidays with the boys, I was uncertain what to expect and a little cautious.

The way things worked out, our first holiday together was New Years. Cameron, our youngest, was only 13 at the time, and he was required transfer flights in traveling from his mom’s home to our new home in the other side of the country. Because none of the adults involved, much less Cameron, was comfortable with him doing this on his own, his older brother, Anthony, came along with Cam to visit us.

The boys were extremely happy to be spending time with their dad. I did my best to make sure we all had a fun time and celebrated the New Year in a way that everyone could participate in. (I bought some fun champagne flutes and chilled a bunch of Dr Pepper. Instead of toasting in the New Year with a glass of champagne, we welcomed it with our Dr Pepper and a burping contest. Talk about unusual and fun!)

At some point during their visit, I innocently asked the boys about their Christmas. It was as if I’d hit a switch. Both of them became very quiet, their faces went blank and they gave me an obligatory “It was fine.” I was genuinely interested in hearing about how wonderful their Christmas was, but they just weren’t comfortable talking about it – especially with their dad within earshot.

I also was confused about Cam’s repeated asking about when he and Anthony were going to leave. Back then, I wasn’t sure if he was asking because he was homesick, because he couldn’t remember, or because of some other reason. Now, after learning all I’ve learned about blended families and enjoying my bonus family, I understand that it was probably a combination of all of the above. I understand that the other reason was just a fact of having two different homes – one with Mom and one (in our case, very far away) with Dad.

Luckily our holidays today aren’t tainted by any of the kids feeling confusion or guilt. Of course they’re all adults now, but we’ve all made an effort over the years to encourage them to enjoy the holidays and look at them as opportunities for double the presents, double the fun and double the love.

THIS is what I wish all kids with divorced parents thought about the holidays – double the presents, double the fun and double the love.

The thing is kids with divorced parents need help to get there. And it’s up to us, their divorced parents along with their bonus parents to help. We need to be OK – really, genuinely OK – with knowing the kids love their other parent and bonus parent and that they have fun with them. It’s only by being OK with this knowledge that any of us are going to be able to provide a safe place for the kids to just be themselves and not worry about having to act a particular way in front of us. By doing this we can go a long way to eliminating the guilt that so many kids with divorced parents experience during the holidays.

Eliminating, or at least minimizing, the confusion the kids have about where they’re going to be and when is something that’s fairly easily solved with calendars that gets used and talked about in both of their homes. That’s one thing that I wish I had known about when Cam was still a kid. I know it would have made a HUGE difference in how he was able to keep track of time while he visited with us because I know the HUGE difference it’s made in the lives of other kids with divorced parents.

So how can you help your kids with divorced parents think about the holidays as being filled with double the presents, double the fun and double the love? Take a peek at Your Functional Divorce Assignment and I’ll give you a few ideas.

Your Divorce And The Holidays Assignment:

Get really comfortable and OK with the facts. Your kids love you. Your kids love their other parent. Your kids might even love their bonus parents. Your acceptance of these facts is the first step for you to be able to support your kids in having healthy relationships with all the adults in their lives.

Encourage your kids in their excitement about spending some time with their other parent – especially over the holidays. Have you ever noticed how much more you enjoy something when you’ve been able to anticipate it? The same thing works for your kids. The more you allow them to anticipate the holiday events with you and their other parent, the more they’ll be able to enjoy all the festivities and the more comfortable they’ll be in just being themselves.

Get a calendar. If you haven’t already, get a calendar that you can use as a family to note when the kids are going to be with you and when they’re going to be with their other parent. It goes a long way toward helping the kids be able to plan what they want to do to.

I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a divorce coach and advisor helping people just like you who are dealing with the stress and pain of divorce. You can join my newsletter list for free weekly adviceIf you’re interested in taking the first step toward working with me, you can schedule an introductory private coaching session.

If you’d like more help with how to deal with your life now, read more articles about Life After Divorce.