Getting a divorce can be physically exhausting and frightening. It’s life-altering, filled with decision making and turbulent emotions. And, it’s not a journey you should take alone.
Having a support system in place before, during and after can give you a consistent lifeline to pull you through even the most difficult divorce or separation. Here are several ways to ensure that you have the support you need, right when you need it.
Surround yourself with family and friends.
In the beginning, it can be very painful to repeat your story again and again. Think about entrusting a point-person, a trusted friend, or family member who can convey basic facts and answer simple questions. Be clear about what you are willing to share with others, and what you are not. Remember that even if you consider your personal business to be private, gossip will likely surround you. So choose someone who will respect your boundaries and not want to stir the pot.
When you’re ready, let those closest to you know what you need, and what you don’t need. People don’t always know how to react to news of divorce, nor do they know what to do. Start by letting everyone know exactly what you would find helpful: a shoulder to cry on, someone to go with you to a difficult event, or someone to sit with the kids while you see a counselor or therapist. On the other hand, you also should be clear about what you don’t need: to hear about your friend’s own divorce and how awful it was, platitudes and criticism, or angry comments about the soon-to-be ex.
Not everyone you know will respond in a positive light (it’s sad but true). These individuals may not be appropriate to look to for emotional support. This is a time to let others support you with compassion and not be judged, so be selective when building your inner circle. Choose those friends and family who honor who you are and those who are faithful and trustworthy at a time when you are vulnerable and hurting.
It’s also important for you to realize they may not fully understand what you are going through. Even if they have experienced divorce first hand, different beliefs and thoughts about the final outcome will vary individually. Their divorce is not your divorce. Nor does it need to be.
Realize the grief you will experience over the loss of your marriage will be uniquely yours. The grief cycle isn’t a one-fits-all process and you will be on your own clock, not theirs.
But, it will be your responsibility to be sensitive to those you choose as confidants, even at a time when you may barely be able to get through the day. While they may be great listeners and provide you a place to softly land where you can vent or cry, everyone has their limit. Your support system is in place to help you get to the end, not remain stuck in the middle in an unending cycle of anger and pain. If this is the case, seek professional help to move past issues that may seem to be impossible hurdles, knowing your family and friends are there when you need them to heal.
Keep in mind, there will be awkward times, both now and in the future, when you may need someone to help you face certain situations with grace and strength. This may mean attending school events, wedding, funerals, or any other occurrences that bring you and your ex together in close proximity. Instead of going it alone, ask a friend or family member to attend with you. Beforehand, consider asking this person to help you prepare for potentially awkward situations or conversations. A plan is always beneficial in all situations. It’s the surprises that can rock the boat, but being prepared with a flotation device at the ready can save the day.
Seek out community support circles.
Look outside your circle of friends and family. Despite the fact that your inner circle is usually there for you no matter what, these people may not truly understand what you are going through. Divorce communities are a great source for connecting, online or in-person, with others who understand exactly what you are facing and the feelings you are experiencing. These forums can add an unbiased source of camaraderie that, unfortunately, friends and family can’t always offer.
Realizing you are not alone in itself can be a lifeline as you move through the trying steps of divorce or separation. Being with others who are going through a similar life-changing process can provide effective results. Communities built around divorce are a great place to gather information and gain understanding, a place to find hope from others who are walking in your shoes.
Find a group you feel comfortable with, and one that is mindful of where you are in the grieving process. It’s also ideal if they’re willing to help you move to the next step, with an end-goal in mind. If you’ve chosen to end your relationship in a way that benefits both you and your ex and keeps your children’s health and happiness foremost in the process, a community that is more focused on amicable resolution may be the best forum for you.
Build and shield your social world.
Sometimes it’s hard to imagine that there is still a stigma that surrounds “splitting up” when half of today’s marriages end in separation or divorce. But it’s there. And nothing will bring this home more than watching how your personal life transition shakes up a tight-knit group of friends.
In most marriages, you have a close group of friends, friends with whom you meet for dinner, go to the latest movie, or enjoy a fun night out bowling. Often, during a divorce, a person’s circle of friends grows smaller. Yes, it happens. It’s even considered a natural progression amongst divorcees. In Where Have All My Friends Gone, an article written by the Wevorce Team, we explore why some friends won’t survive your divorce. From the article:
“What is it about getting a divorce that causes some friends to disappear? It may be fear, rooted in the simple but illogical thinking that associating with someone whose marriage has ended may somehow cause contamination of their own. Many family and friends will take sides, choosing which spouse to support and who to remain in contact with. It’s rare for someone to remain friends with both ex-spouses, even if you and your ex aren’t mortal enemies.”
Take heart, you will find new friends that will fit into your new life. And don’t take it personally; it happens to just about everyone who divorces. So grieve for your losses, both your marriage and your old friends, and try your best to move forward.
Seek professional help.
At times like this, family and friends are important, but these people are usually not professionals. They probably won’t have the required knowledge to provide advice on the legal, financial, and emotional issues you will need to address to ensure you are making the best decisions for you and your family. They are just one part of your journey, so take care to cover those areas in which only a professional can help.
You will also need to take care of your physical wellbeing. Whether you need a psychiatrist, therapist/counselor, or a doctor, don’t ignore serious signs of mental or physical distress. Seek help when you’re in need, as difficult as it may be to ask for help. This is a good time to call upon your point-person to check in on you and make sure you are getting the professional support you need.