You can overcome your fears if you learn to listen to them differently.
When the Kansas tornado picked up Dorothy’s house and whisked it off to Munchkinland, she was naturally afraid. Feeling scared of life after divorce isn’t much different, really.
Marriage, with all its imperfections and frustrations, is the thing you “know.” Or at least you think you do. It’s the “Auntie Em,” the point on your compass that you at least recognize. And familiarity is comforting -- even, ironically, when it’s uncomfortable.
Whether or not you wanted to end your marriage, divorce represents the tornado that can wipe out your dreams in one pass. Even if you see it coming, it doesn’t tell you where it’s going to drop you. Or how hard.
It’s only natural to feel scared of life after divorce. To fear being alone. To worry about your kids. To worry about finances. To dread attorneys, courts and fees. To feel angry, hurt, robbed.
The post-divorce rubble can leave you scrambling to find even one thing that represents home and happiness to you. Friendships and family ties get weird, and some disappear altogether. Money is a major issue, and often there is no retirement in place to even cushion your future.
And underneath all the obvious concerns is the fear that you will be alone, invisible and unloved forever.
Divorce, like a tornado raging through the plains during harvest season, messes up all your plans. And now it’s up to you to make all the decisions for your own life. Who wouldn’t be scared of life after divorce?
The problem with fear, however, is that more often than not it wears the black cape. It’s the bad guy, the dreaded antagonist to surviving, let alone thriving.
When perceived that way, fear prevents healing, robs you of your self-esteem, and keeps you from moving forward. Your personal demons rise up and put fear in charge of everything.
What if you could feel scared of life after divorce, but shift the power of fear in your life so that you can move forward? What if you could demand of fear its many gifts in exchange for the chaos it has created and the ways it tests you?
What if you could replace your fear of the unknown with curiosity?
Not to be hyper-metaphorical, but think about what happened when Dorothy and Toto were dropped in Munchkinland. “I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore” packs more wallop than just a famed movie line.
Suddenly the movie went from black-and-white to Technicolor -- a big move for those days. And little gremlin-sounding, elf-looking people came out of the corners, and a good witch came out of nowhere.
Fear was everywhere. But so was possibility. And adventure. And hope. And from that first step from the center of the spiraling yellow-brick road, Dorothy’s journey into the unknown began.
From shades of gray to full color, Dorothy had given curiosity and hope authority over fear. Yes, they traveled together, but fear now played a serving role.
And so it is when you are scared of life after divorce. Being uprooted and dropped into the unknown is unsettling, frightening, exhausting. But you can choose to take a new perspective that leads with curiosity about what your new life has in store for you.
Here are 7 things to remember when you’re feeling scared of life after divorce.
- You won’t be alone forever.
Fear of being alone, when you are still in the early aftermath of divorce, is really a messenger. It’s natural and healthy to long for the kind of connection you once had in your marriage. But your priority is now about finding -- rediscovering -- you.
Could you squelch that discomfort by rushing into a relationship just to fill your needs in the moment? Sure. But would it serve your healing process and bring you the kind of relationship you truly want? Definitely not.
- Your kids will express their own distress according to their age and maturity.
You won’t be the only one feeling scared of life after divorce. If you are a parent, your children will also feel completely dropped into the unknown. Unlike you, however, they are powerless to make any of the choices about their family staying together.
Don’t be alarmed by their outbursts or changes in emotions or behaviors. But do be fully present to their feelings, validating them and giving them access to the professional help that can help them adapt.
- Your social circle will change.
Divorce has a way of making friends and family take sides, or at least choose an alliance. Don’t take it personally. You may lose relationships with in-laws and certain married friends who simply don’t know how to be friends outside of “couples.”
But you will be amazed at the people who show up to fill the void. Some of them will have been there all along, but they will suddenly become a harbor in the storm. And in this way, they’ll demonstrate for you that, even in the midst of change, you can still have a sense of home.
- You can’t predict the future, but you can plan for it.
It doesn’t matter how many thousands of couples divorce every year. You will still feel like the only one. And you will naturally fear the worst and make dramatic assumptions about the outlook for your future.
Give yourself just a moment to embrace one undeniable truth: No one can predict the future. Life can turn on a dime for the better as easily as it can for the worse.
You can, however, plan for your future. You can set goals and have visions for how you want your life to look. And by taking baby steps to get there, you can make adjustments as needed, knowing that you are always moving in the right direction.
- Fear is begging you to know yourself...because you’re worth it.
We all had that one teacher that we dreaded. The one who caught every mistake, assigned homework over holidays, and expected nothing but the best of his/her students.
Usually that teacher was the one we silently thanked in our hearts as we entered college or our careers.
Fear, too, is a teacher. It knows where your landmines are buried, and it wants you to uncover them. If you can brave the journey into the origin of your fears, you can conquer them. And then you can stop tiptoeing around your life.
- Overcoming fear is immensely empowering.
Every time you tackle something that frightens you, you gain confidence. And with confidence you take more -- and bigger -- steps into the life you want. You even gain confidence in your ability to handle bigger fears, knowing that you are the one in charge.
- You’re going to be alright!
Remember, even though you feel scared of life after divorce, you are not alone! Millions of people have been “air-dropped” by divorce -- some into places far less colorful than Munchkinland.
By accepting your fears as a natural part of your experience, and then facing them head-on, you will emerge a much stronger person.
It's important to hold close in your heart the unique nature of the person you are and the relationship you are now divorced from. Nothing was for naught.
Just as your marriage was in your life to teach you important lessons, so is your divorce. In the end, it all comes down to a choice...and an awareness that you’ve always had the ruby slippers to get you home.
You can find more tips on healing after a divorce or break-up here.
I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a divorce and life coach. I help people navigate feeling scared of life after divorce. You can join my newsletter list for free weekly advice. If you want to learn more about working with me, you can schedule a 30-minute private consultation with me.