Facing Your Fears After Divorce

Facing your fears is an important part of recovering from divorce. As you know, divorce has a way of screwing up all the carefully laid plans that you had for your life. Where once there was certainty, now there is the vast unknown with its uncharted waters.

road sign reading doubt and fear with dark clouds in the background

It can be overwhelming to realize that it's now up to you to make all the decisions, including what you want to do with your life. But crawling into a safe little hole and letting the world pass you by is not the solution. Moving forward and facing your fears is what will allow you to really live life to the fullest. To help you get started, the following article has strategies for facing your fears, understanding the root of your worries, and tips for moving forward with your life.

Divorce Recovery: Are Your Fears Holding You Back?

By Shelley Stile

Divorce turns our lives upside down. It throws us into a major life transition that is colored by intense feelings and emotions that can be debilitating. I believe that fear is the main culprit that holds us back from not only healing and letting go of our pain, but also from moving forward into a new life. So it is fear we need to identify and then overcome.

Fear debilitates. It acts as a paralytic agent that keeps us stuck. It inhibits any real forward motion. Fear, whether it is conscious or unconscious, is a non-believer: it refuses to see any good in our present situation or the possibilities of the future. It robs us of our self-esteem and confidence. It runs the mind chatter in our heads that continuously tells us what we cannot do, have or be.

The trauma of divorce re-activates and exacerbates deep seeded beliefs about ourselves that we have held onto for years. If one held a belief that one was not really smart or capable enough, that belief is made all the worse by the divorce and one comes to fear their future. They believe that there is no possibility that they could heal their deep wounds and move forward with life. Our personal demons rise up and fear starts to run the show.

Putting Your Fear of the Future into Perspective

We fear the future, the unknown. It is like looking into an abyss. How will I manage? What will I do? Where will we live? How will I pay the bills? What if my kids are taken away from me? Who will ever want to be in a relationship with me? I’m going to be alone all my life. It is the unknown that overwhelms us, not having the answers, not being in control of our lives.

Look, here’s the thing about the future: nobody knows what is going to happen. Wall Street is built on predicting the future and yet all they really offer are educated guesses. We don’t know what will happen tonight let alone next month or next year.

Not knowing, not having all the answers is a simple fact of our existence. We must accept the fact that we don’t have to have all the answers and that we cannot predict our future. All we can do is rise up and create a vision of what we would like our future to look like and then take the action steps to get there.

We have no control over the future either. The fact remains: the only thing or person that we can control is ourselves. We cannot control the future but we certainly can plan for it. We can determine what we want and then take the steps to move us towards our goals. The future will unfold before us with our deep involvement and abiding faith that our future can be better than our past.

Overcoming Fears

Here are a few pointers on how to overcome our fears during and after our divorce:

1) Fear is a clue that we are stretching ourselves and entering new waters. We can use fear as a sign that we are on the verge of something new and different and most importantly, something that will help us to evolve into a better human being.

To Use Fear quote by Peter McWilliams

2) Fear is a door into knowing ourselves and a unique opportunity to discover where our fears come from in order to conquer them.

Fear quote by Marie Curie

3) Overcoming a fear immediately empowers us to take further steps. Much like a child who is frightened of the water, once they have taken that first step to dunk their head under the water, they discover to their delight that it really wasn’t so bad after all. The fear itself was worse than the feared object. Then off they go. Take small steps that will lead you to bigger ones and with each you gain more confidence and power.

4) What is stronger or more important to you: your fear or your belief that perhaps life will work out after all? If you can have faith that the future holds new promises, opportunities and possibilities, then yes it will. Remember self-fulfilling prophecies? It becomes a matter of choice: be in fear or be in a belief of the myriad possibilities that life holds for you still.

5) Try on a new perspective. Take off the lens of fear and replace it with one of hope and optimism. I know that is easier said than done but a change in attitude not only changes the way you think, it changes your reality. Fear is contagious. When you are looking at everything that is wrong or impossible in your life, you will certainly find it.

6) I found this definition of fear on the web: To be afraid or feel anxious or apprehensive about a possible situation or event. The operative here is possible: anything is possible. Things can go in many directions and we simply do not know what will occur. Choose to believe that things will indeed go right and work from that premise.

7) Consider what you might actually gain by facing your fears? So for instance, think back to the example of the child and their fear of water. What they gained was the joy of swimming and the ability to venture out into open waters and experience the awe of the ocean. How about the ability to save themselves from drowning? And what do you gain from not facing your fears? What is the cost to you? Make lists of both sides of the coin, the gifts and the costs and it will become obvious to you what to choose to do.

8) Take the advice of sages throughout the ages and live in the now, the present. The past is gone and the future is yet to come. All we have is the now. Live in the present versus a hypothetical future that does not exist. In the now, there is no fear of the future.

9). Learn to turn off that negative mind chatter that keeps telling you to be afraid and stay where you are; the ‘gremlin’ or little demon in your head that tells you everything that you should fear and all the things that you cannot do or be or have; the voice that exists in everyone’s mind. Just notice it when it starts yapping, thank it for sharing and let it go. That voice is not you. It is your wounded ego.

10). Become more aware of your underlying fears that are stopping you from moving forward in life. Many people simply don’t realize that they are afraid. For instance, a person won’t go to the mall to shop. Why? They don’t really know. They are just uncomfortable in crowds. Well what is it that they fear about crowds? Perhaps it is an underlying fear of germs, of getting lost, of being with masses of people? Explore and uncover the fear. Knowledge is power.

11). Think of all the things that you have conquered, accomplished and done right in your lifetime. Don’t minimize anything. Surviving a difficult childhood, raising a family, earning a living, juggling ten things at once, handling loss…the list can go on and on and on. Know that if you have overcome odds in the past that you can and will do it again.

In closing, I must share with you what is probably the most famous quotation about facing your fears from Franklin Delano Roosevelt: “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself”. Think about that. It is the fear that gets in the way of our personal fulfillment, joy and meaning. Just the fear itself, not the thing that you fear. Remember that fear is just a feeling and not a fact. Don’t let a fear of what might happen, the unknown stop you from having the best life possible.

Divorce recovery is a process, and the following articles will give you more tips on facing your fears, help you understand what you are experiencing, and give you strategies for moving forward with your life:

Your Perspective on Divorce 

Embrace Your Transformation after Divorce 

Divorce Is Not the End, It's a New Beginning 

The Emotional Stages of Divorce