You don’t have to dread the holidays just because you’re dealing with divorce.
The first holidays after divorce are tough. This is the one time of year when family and spending time with family is emphasized. And this holiday season, instead of being able to celebrate the whole season with a spouse (and your kids), you’re stuck dealing with divorce and dreading the holidays.
Despite how dismal your divorce is making things seem, it is possible to find at least some glimpses of genuine joy this season.
Use these three tips for making it through the holidays while you’re dealing with divorce:
- Know that it’s OK for the holidays to be different. Different doesn’t mean bad or wrong or that your divorce has destroyed the holidays for your kids for the rest of their lives. Different just means not the same. And the wonderful thing about not being the same is that you can choose to make things even better than they were before.
- Focus on what’s good…or ignore what your ex is doing for the holidays. I know it’s tough not comparing how your ex is celebrating the holidays (especially if you have kids) to how you’re celebrating them, but all comparison buys you is misery. Yup, even if you believe your celebrations are superior. Focus instead on what’s good about what you’re doing – even if you have to dig deep to find the good.
- Avoid spending the holidays completely alone. I get it if you don’t feel very festive this year as you’re in the midst of dealing with divorce, but that doesn’t mean it’s in your best interest to isolate yourself. (We both know the dark places your mind wanders when you’ve got too much time to ruminate about things.) So, make it a point to socialize some and connect with people who are important to you. You’ll be amazed at how spending time with loved ones and/or people who are having fun helps make dealing with divorce over the holidays just a bit easier.
The changes you’ve already made and survived this year as you’re coming to grips with the end of your marriage have been tremendous. The holidays are just another one of the traditions you had as a family that needs adjustment. And as challenging as this change is, you can find your way through the season by using these three tips.
Will they work miracles and make this holiday season the best ever? I truly hope they do, but chances are that you’ll need to remind yourself of these tips repeatedly as you begin to create your new (or at least revised) holiday traditions.
Making it through your first holidays after divorce will require compassion – for yourself. Being kind to yourself is necessary for dealing with divorce, but over the holidays you need to extend even more gentleness to yourself. And the best thing is that taking care of you is the most wonderful gift you can give yourself this year.
I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a divorce coach and personal life coach helping people just like you who are struggling with divorce and want to move forward with their lives. You can join my anonymous newsletter list. And, if you’re ready, you can take the first step toward working with me as your personal coach by scheduling a private consultation.
Looking for more support and ideas for feeling better after your divorce? You’ll find what you’re looking for in Healing After Divorce.
Once you know these reasons, you won’t stay stuck for long while dealing with your divorce.
Nobody wants to admit that they get stuck along the way in dealing with their divorce it would be like admitting to yet another shortcoming.
“My marriage failed and I can’t get over it!” Making a statement like that for many people would be tantamount to taking out an ad on Facebook saying “I’m a loser.”
But the truth is that everyone gets stuck somewhere along the way dealing with divorce.
Getting stuck at least once is normal because learning how to get over divorce isn’t a required course before getting married. Besides that, it doesn’t matter how many books you’ve read, how many times you’ve talked it over with your divorced friends, or even how many celebrity divorces you’ve followed, you’re going to get stuck. (Yes, this is true even if you’ve been divorced before because every divorce is unique.) You don’t know what it will take for you to get over your divorce until you’re done dealing with it.
However, in all my years working with people dealing with divorce and going through my own divorce I’ve found the most common reasons people get stuck.
By knowing these reasons, you’ll be better able to identify then when you start to get too mired in your misery. And when you know exactly what’s tripping you up you’ll have an easier time finding the specific help you need to continue dealing with your divorce instead of staying stuck.
- Grief. Many people get trapped in lamenting what they’ve lost. This includes the hopes and dreams of what their marriage meant to them. It also includes more tangible things like the house and the 401K. And it includes the relationships that are lost.
- Feeling Like A Victim. When you get ensnared with feeling powerless you’re about as stuck as you can get. Feeling like a victim also shows up as needing to assign blame – either to yourself or to your ex. Anytime you relinquish your power to change your life, you’re giving up and dealing with divorce becomes impossible at that point.
- Anger. Anger, fury and rage are a normal part of the divorce process. However, you can get imprisoned in these emotions because they feel so powerful and righteous. The trick to using these strong feelings to help you deal with divorce positively is being willing to look underneath them. When you do, you might discover another layer of hurt that needs healing.
- Feeling Worthless. Most people experience feelings of being unwanted and worthless when they divorce. And it makes sense to do so! After all, if the one person who said they wanted to spend the rest of their life with you is content to toss you out with the trash, then what else are you supposed to think? But the truth is that divorce does nothing to define your value.
- Fear. This is a biggie! Fear is the driving force for people staying stuck in all kinds of situations besides dealing with divorce. If you can remember that fears usually fall into one of three categories (fear of loss, fear of dealing with divorce, fear of the future), then you’ll be better able to deal with each of your fears.
- Unwillingness To Explore Love. It might sound funny, but many people who are otherwise successfully dealing with divorce get stuck in a belief that there’s no such thing as love for them or that they now have to have rules about how they will experience love. However, the failure of your marriage has ZERO to do with your ability to experience love in the future.
- Feeling All Alone. The loss of so many relationships surprises most people who are dealing with divorce. But on top of those losses comes the feeling that no one else really understands (or maybe doesn’t want to try to understand) what you’re going through. Divorce is a horribly isolating experience. And the only way to make it through without getting stuck in the loneliness is to find a support system.
These seven reasons people get stuck dealing with divorce are broad and you might not see exactly what you’re facing in this list. However, keep in mind that these are general categories of problems people face when they’re going through divorce and, if you look carefully, you’ll find a hint for the help you need to get through the specific challenge you’re facing.
And the best part is that by knowing how you’re getting stuck, you’ll be better able to move through it so you won’t stay stalled for too long. Just remember that everyone gets stuck as they’re dealing with divorce, but with this cheat sheet you will find your way through your healing much more quickly.
I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a divorce coach and personal life coach helping people just like you who want to get over their divorce. You can join my anonymous 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 by scheduling a private consultation.
Looking for more support and ideas for getting through your divorce? You’ll find what you’re looking for in Healing After Divorce.
Dealing with divorce effectively requires you to conquer your fears.
There are few things more frightening getting divorced and realizing that you’re all alone.
You’re alone with your daily activities. You’re alone with your kids (when you have them). And you’re alone with your thoughts.
And all of this aloneness breeds fear which makes dealing with divorce even more difficult.
Fear of not being enough to get through your daily activities because there were two of you getting everything done before. Fear of not being able to fully meet your kids needs when they’re with you and terror of not being able to meet their needs when they’re with your ex. But probably the most terrorizing part of divorce is being alone with your thoughts.
Your thoughts are so tough because they are what-if’s – the negative what-if’s. What if this happens? What if that happens? What if it all happens? How will you deal with any or all of it?
These what-if’s you create in your mind are so powerful that you’re thrown into a fight, flight or freeze response.
And, honestly, what I see the most of is the freeze response (a.k.a. overwhelm and/or over-analysis) because most of us are too frightened to make a move. We’re frightened to do anything because we’ve come to doubt ourselves as a result of our marriage ending in divorce.
Yeah, dealing with divorce is tough and it becomes absolutely horrible when you find yourself trapped in your thoughts of fear.
But what I want you to know is that you can also use your thoughts to break through your freeze response.
The first step is to identify what type of fearful thought is causing you the most trouble right now. I know you probably have lots of them you’re facing as you’re dealing with divorce, but choose just one.
Now that you’ve got the one in mind, I want you to know there are basically three types of fears.
There is the fear of loss. When you get divorced there are TONS of losses that can make anyone hesitant to do something that might result in another yet loss. So you choose to do nothing instead of proactively dealing with your divorce.
Then there is the fear of process. This is just the fear of doing something or really anything because you’re afraid of what negative stuff might happen or because you think that doing anything will be too hard for you. So you do nothing and continue feeling trapped instead of putting your energies toward healing from divorce.
Then there is the fear of what might happen on the other side. If you do x, then some horrible y might happen and that fear of the what-if keeps you from doing x or anything else.
So which type of fear is it that’s causing you the most trouble right now?
If you’re dealing with a fear of loss, then you can write a goodbye/hello letter to process the potential loss. By writing the letter, you’ll be able to put the fear into its place by taking an action to address it. And taking action will break the trap of overwhelm and over-analysis you are in.
If you’re most fearful of the process, then you need to figure out a way to make the process fun instead of frightening. A great analogy here is a roller coaster. There’s a part of being on a roller coaster that is incredibly terrifying, but everyone (just about) who gets on a roller coaster finds a way to have fun. They might throw their hands up in the air. They might scream. They might even laugh hysterically the entire time. So how can you think about what’s ahead of you in a different way that will enable to you have even a smidgen of fun?
If what the future might hold for you is terrifying, then you need to start taking control of your future. Begin dreaming about what you want your future to be like when you’re not constantly dealing with divorce. Make your dream so compelling and wonderful that you’re excited to start making plans and then taking the steps necessary to fulfill those plans.
Look, I know this is advice might seem pretty simplistic and doesn’t take into account all of the realities of your life. But here’s the thing, the truth is that your fears and the what-ifs your mind generates (just like mine did when I got divorced) make things more complicated than necessary.
Try this advice. Doing even a simple thing to help you while dealing with divorce is better than staying stuck. Isn’t it?
And who knows you might be able to break through some of your fears on your own by trying this advice. Or you might have better language to talk about your fears with others – maybe even a helping professional. And by refusing to continue to let your fears control you, you’ll be taking a huge step forward in dealing with divorce.
I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a divorce and personal life coach helping people just like you who are struggling with dealing with 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 by scheduling a private consultation.
Looking for more help with and information about dealing with divorce? Read more advice in Healing After Divorce.
Overwhelm is common in divorce. Use these 3 ideas to beat it as you’re dealing with divorce.
Do you ever feel all tangled up on the inside and didn’t know which direction to turn?
Or maybe you feel that you’re stuck in quicksand and it’s taking all your effort to just make it through each day?
Or worse, you feel that you’re wearing a choke-chain of all your responsibilities and don’t really know who you are anymore?
Don’t worry. I’ve been there. In fact, everyone I know who has been through divorce has been there too. It’s easy to become overwhelmed when you’re dealing with divorce. Overwhelm can be hard to overcome and yet it’s a common part of divorce. Knowing how to get through it or stop it all together is a critical skill to develop as you’re dealing with divorce. What I’m going to share with you today are some of the techniques I regularly use with myself, my family and my clients when things start to feel overwhelming.
1. Change your story.
When I was finding my way through the aftermath of my divorce, I used to tell myself really scary stories. They were stories of doom and I told them over and over again – like a broken recording. I was feeling overwhelmed and the stories I told myself made things worse. I didn’t see any way that I could ever stop the chaos I was living in much less get on to dealing with my divorce in any real way. I felt like I was performing and not really living. I was really miserable!
But, things slowly changed when I started changing my internal story. Instead of envisioning a life of doom and destruction, my stories became more about experiencing sadness and then more about being tired of the sadness and imagining what changes I could make. And then, I started actually making changes – some really big changes. I started living again instead of feeling like a prisoner of circumstances.
It can be the same for you. Simply by changing the story you’re telling yourself, you can dramatically (even if it takes time like it did for me) change your life for the better, stop feeling overwhelmed and really begin dealing with divorce in a way that allows you to move on.
2. Take care of you first.
For those of us who have a tendency to get burned out, when we feel stressed about divorce it can be especially easy to forget about taking care of ourselves and just focus on what needs to be done for others instead. After all, they’re depending on us, right?
It’s easy for me to identify a new client who isn’t taking care of themselves because they have a difficult time answering questions like
- Are you getting enough sleep?
- Are you exercising?
- Are you eating nutritious meals?
in the affirmative. They’ll squirm a bit before answering or try to deflect the question with a joke or some explanation as to why they can’t sleep or exercise or eat well.
If you can’t honestly say you’re getting enough sleep, adequate exercise and eating well, you would probably benefit from taking better care of yourself. Taking care of yourself isn’t an afterthought – something you do after you take care of the rest of your responsibilities. Taking care of yourself is VITAL to you being able to take care of your responsibilities. Without your physical well-being, you won’t be able to take care of anyone or anything else, so, please, make sure you’re putting you first and treating yourself well. It’s only when you have the energy that you can begin dealing with divorce in a productive way.
3. See the lighter side and laugh.
Somehow, when things are really miserable and you’re just not sure how you’re going to deal with one more pressure, there comes a moment when you realize just how ridiculous everything is – all the pressure and stress suddenly become laughable. I’ve found the best thing to do when I reach that point is to laugh. I’m not talking about a simple tee-hee-hee or chuckle, I’m talking about a deep-from-the-gut laugh.
Laughter is a great cure for stress and overwhelm. It causes you to loosen some muscles and tighten others. It requires you to breathe differently and it gets some different hormones flowing through your body – the kinds that help you to feel better.
In working with my clients, I often incorporate really bad jokes to get some laughter going. Laughing always lightens the mood and allows my clients to see things from a slightly different angle and break the strangle hold overwhelm had on them.
With overwhelm and stress being such common elements of our daily lives – not to mention divorce, these 3 simple ideas can be a great springboard for you to prevent yourself from succumbing to burn out and begin dealing with your divorce in the most productive manner possible.
Your Dealing With Divorce Assignment:
The next time you’re feeling stressed out, pick one of the 3 suggestions above and try it out. After all what have you got to lose besides your stress? I know that if you consistently take the necessary steps to help you deal with the stress of your divorce, you’ll be better able to manage it.
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 by scheduling a private consultation.
If you’re looking for more help recovering from your divorce, read more articles about Healing After Divorce.
As I’ve mentioned before, I do a lot of reading and I’ll often be reading several books at the same time. I’ll pick up whichever one fits my mood when I have a few moments to read.
One of the books I’ve got open these days is The Seven Wonders That Will Change Your Life by Glenn Beck and Keith Ablow, M.D. I found one particular passage interesting because it reminded me about perspective and how my life has changed since I got divorced. The passage is actually a quote from Robert Pirsig’s book Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance which I read about a year after my divorce was final. Here’s the passage:
The trap consists of a hollowed-out coconut chained to a stake. The coconut has some rice inside which can be grabbed through a small hole. The hole is big enough so that the monkey’s hand can go in, but too small for his fist with rice in it to come out. The monkey reaches in and is suddenly trapped – by nothing more than his own value rigidity. He can’t revalue the rice. He cannot see that freedom without rice is more valuable than capture with it. The villagers are coming to get him and take him away. They’re coming closer…closer!…now!…
There is a fact this monkey should know: if he opens his hand he’s free. But how is he going to discover this fact? Be removing the value rigidity that rates rice above freedom. How is he going to do that? Well, he should somehow try to slow down deliberately and go over ground that he has been over before and see if things he thought were important really were important and, well, stop yanking and just stare at the coconut for a while. Before long he should get a nibble from a little fact wondering if he is interested in it. He should try to understand this fact not so much in terms of his big problem as for its own sake. That problem may not be as big as he thinks it is. That fact may not be as small as he thinks it is either.
When I got divorced, I felt like that trapped monkey – terrified and held captive by my fears about what I thought was important at the time. What I thought was important back then was that my life after divorce needed to work pretty much exactly the same as it had before my divorce – except that I now had an ex-husband. This was the fact whose nibbling I ignored. I ignored the reality that one person cannot be as productive as two people working together. I ignored that it would take me longer to do all of the household chores on my own instead of sharing them with someone else. I ignored the fact that caring for 3 attention-loving pets on my own would be more of a challenge than it was when I was married. I ignored these realities and expected that I could do it all with at least as high a quality as had been done pre-separation and divorce.
I kept ignoring all of these facts about my home life and kept expecting that I could and should do it all as had been done before. I also kept expecting the same high-level of performance from myself at work, at the gym and at play. I expected so much of myself that I virtually eliminated any time for myself – any down time to just relax. I had built a very elaborate trap for myself – one that kept me frazzled and eventually led to burnout.
Today, more than 10 years later, I’m amazed by what an elaborate trap I had created for myself.
The thing is, I’m not the only person who got divorced and created a trap. I regularly meet and work with divorced people who create their own elaborate captivities.
Back then, just like the people I meet and work with today, I simply wasn’t capable of identifying my captivity when I got divorced. I thought it was just how my life was and that somehow I was defective because I couldn’t keep up with everything I thought I had to keep up with. Today I know that wasn’t the case. Today, I know that back then I wanted my rice (all my expectations of myself) and didn’t realize I was selling my freedom to have it.
Like most people dealing with divorce, I’ll bet that you are holding yourself captive unnecessarily too. Check out Your Functional Divorce Assignment to help you identify and loosen the bonds of your trap.
Your Functional Divorce Assignment:
What trap are you in? There are all kinds of traps people create for themselves when they get divorced. Maybe your trap is similar to mine in that you expect your life to be pretty much the same. Maybe your trap is a belief that you’re too old to ever find another significant other. Maybe your trap is a belief that you have no employable skills and no way of getting any. Or maybe your trap is something else all together. It could be big or small, the size doesn’t matter. What does matter is identifying how you are feeling captive.
What are the reasons you believe your trap exists? Come up with every single reason your trap is real no matter how small or how big. You might want to write them down so you can get them out of your head and make sure you’ve got them all covered. Besides, having them all listed in one place will help you with the next step.
For each of the reasons, ask yourself “Is this reason 100% true?” and “What makes this reason true?” I wish I had known how to ask myself these questions when I was recovering from my divorce. What often happens when I compassionately ask my clients both questions is that they’ll start to get a nibble of a fact they had been ignoring. That nibble will often lead to a new idea or a new perspective that allows their trap to be loosened – at least a little bit – which will often entirely change their trap if not eliminate it completely.
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 or schedule a private consultation with me.
If you’re looking for more help recovering from your divorce, read more articles about Healing After Divorce.
Here’s how to stop letting your imagination make things seem so much worse than they really are.
Since it’s the season for scary stuff, I thought I’d tell you a couple of horror stories I told myself when I was getting divorced. The first story is the everyday story. The second is the special event story.
I’ll start with the everyday story. I started telling myself various versions of this story shortly after my ex-husband and I separated in March of 2002.
My fears were LARGE. They invaded almost every facet of my life. I was afraid of living alone. I was afraid of not being able to support myself. I was afraid that I’d get sick from eating food that had gone bad. I was afraid of getting fat. I was afraid of getting old. I was afraid of losing my job.
I’m guessing you get the picture. It’s what I used to do with each of these fears that made up the everyday story.
Here’s one version of the story. I’m afraid of losing my job. Then I’d tell myself that if I lost my job, then I wouldn’t be able to afford to pay my bills. If I wasn’t able to pay my bills, then I’d lose my house and have to live on the street. If I had to live on the street then I wouldn’t’ survive long and I’d die a horrible death.
Here’s another version of the story. I’m afraid of getting fat. If I get fat, then no one will ever want to date me. If no one ever wants to date me, then I’ll never get remarried. If I never get remarried, then I’m going to be alone for the rest of my life. If I’m alone for the rest of my life, I’ll be living alone forever (which amped up the scary factor). If I’m living alone forever, then what would happen if I lost my job? If I lost my job then I wouldn’t be able to pay my bills. If I can’t pay my bills, then I’ll lose my house and have to live on the street. If I had to live on the street then I wouldn’t survive long and I’d die a horrible death.
Are you getting the idea of my everyday story? I was convinced that if any one of my fears came true then I wouldn’t survive long and I was going to die a horrible death.
OK, now for the special event story.
Shortly before my divorce was finalized, some friends from graduate school invited me to join them in Spain. Although I was in desperate need of a vacation, it took some convincing before I finally agreed to join them in Spain for a week. Initially, I needed convincing because I was afraid of spending the money just in case I lost my job. (Yes, that does mean that I started telling myself the everyday story.)
As the day for departure approached, I was happily anticipating and dreading it at the same time. I started telling myself that I was a horrible person because I was getting divorced and that I deserved to die. The closer the day for departure loomed, the more convinced I was that I was probably going to die in a plane crash because I didn’t deserve to have fun. I made myself miserable and a nervous wreck. All of the fun I could have had anticipating the vacation I turned into torment and torture.
As you already know, my horror story didn’t come true. I didn’t die in a horrible plane crash. I even managed to have some fun in Spain and on the way home I was too tired to worry about whether or not the plane crashed.
So what’s the point of me telling you my stories? Well, what I’ve found over the years is that many people dealing with divorce torture themselves with their own horror stories. I’ve heard horror stories about never being happy again. I’ve heard horror stories about never being financially well off again. I’ve heard horror stories about children never loving their parents again. I’ve even heard horror stories similar to my own.
In case you’re telling yourself horror stories, I want you to know two things. First, you’re not alone; many people tell themselves horror stories when they’re dealing with divorce. Second, it’s OK to tell someone who won’t judge you, about your stories and have them help you create a better story – a story that inspires you and makes you happy to be you.
Your Healing After Divorce Assignment:
|Image courtesy of adamr / FreeDigitalPhotos.net|
Identify the horror stories you’re telling yourself. What are the stories you’re telling yourself about your future? Anything that doesn’t inspire happiness and positive anticipation of the future just might be a horror story.
Stop torturing yourself and reach out for help in rewriting your horror story. If you’re ready to change the story you’re telling yourself into one with a happy ending, schedule a Complimentary Consultation with me. We’ll discuss how coaching can help you more quickly and completely work through your divorce and rewrite your story. Simply contact me now either by email firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone 817-993-0561 and I’ll be happy to schedule some time with you.
I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a divorce and personal life coach. I help people just like you who are dealing with the stress and pain of divorce. You can join my newsletter list for free weekly advice.