Getting Back Into Life After Divorce

Getting back into life after divorce can seem like an overwhelming task. After all, it's a lot easier to stay inside and not have to worry about making any changes in your life. But, by making the effort to move forward, you get the chance to experience so much more in your life. If you're striving to get started on rebuilding your life, the following article can give you some steps to gently ease outside of your comfort zone.

Escaping the Fog to Make a Change

By Catherine Endicott

Are you trying to make sense of your current situation? Are you trying to find direction in your life? Are you unsure what to do next? With divorce, comes a life change and this change can feel overwhelming when you don't know where to start or what to expect.

Change is a process though, and like any process, it can be broken down into stages and activities. Yes, there are emotional and mental affects with this change and I don't want to minimize their impact. Here in this article though, we will focus on taking actions that can help you work yourself towards feeling in control and to where things can again make sense for you.

Closeup up of woman's eye looking forward as she begins getting back into life after divorce

Knowing the different environments of change and how to navigate them can greatly enhance your ability to move on to the next and more enjoyable stage in your life. Depending on where you are in your process of change will determine what course of action to take. Change is a journey. Where are you in yours?

Do You Need Change?

If you feel like you are walking in the fog, you may be unaware that you are in need of a change. Or maybe you know it is time for a change, but you are resisting it and avoiding taking that first step. At this time in the journey, it is possible that family members, friends, or work mates are trying to send you a message. They may be saying things like, 'Forget about your ex!', 'It's time to move on', or asking 'Have you gotten out much yet?' While these well-meaning comments may make you feel anxious, angry, or irritated, it is worth being open to the underlying message that it may be time for a change.

If you are feeling fear or denying the need for a change, then just recognizing that you are in this stage is the first step. Use this feeling to help identify actions that can help motivate you towards a change. Examples may be feeling and looking good again, spending quality time with the ones you love, spending time doing the things you enjoy, or thinking about the future when you are not feeling unsure or overwhelmed.

Contemplating the Possibilities

The next stage, contemplation, can feel like a dark forest when you do start thinking about making a change. Your confidence may be a bit shaken as you become aware of your need or desire for a change.

It is at this moment your reality hits home. It may mean feeling uncomfortable, anxious, fearful, and sometimes happiness in the knowledge that something is going to change. You start thinking more and more about the change. At this point, it is important that you take good care of yourself and try avoiding slipping back into the fog of denying that you want to change at all.

Give yourself this time to explore what the changes are that you want to make. Also note why you want to make them. Are the changes you are thinking about consistent with what you value in your life? Discuss the possibilities with people you trust, maybe people who have been through it and you can see have come out stronger. Is this the time for you to get back some normality or is the chance for you to start living out your dreams?

You do not have to commit to anything at this point. Just allow yourself the opportunity to explore your options and match those to your needs and desires in your life.

Some questions to ask yourself during the contemplation stage:

  • What do I value in my life? 

  • What are the costs and benefits of making this change? 

  • What are the costs and benefits of not making this change? 

  • Are these changes in line with my values and beliefs?

Preparing For Change

OK, you have now got through the fog of denial. You have trekked through the deep forest of contemplation. Now it is time to choose your path of preparation and commit to your change. During your preparations, focus on your motivation for the change. Write them down and post them where they will remind you to move forward each day. Explore your different options, set your goals, and gather all your resources.

Creating an Action Plan

Ensure that your goals are realistic and achievable. Avoid setting yourself up to fail. One way to do this is to create an action plan for your goals that is broken down into manageable 'bite-sized' chunks that are achievable. Taking small daily steps will keep you moving and help you avoid the overwhelming feeling from setting in. It will amaze you how these small steps quickly turn into huge achievements.

In your action plans, think about any potential or likely obstacles you may face. How will you overcome them? What will be your fallback plan should they occur?

In gathering your resources, think both about support as well as any skills or resources you will need to obtain to achieve your goal. Let people know that you are making a change. Join a support group, confide in your best friend or family, or hire a coach to help keep you on track. Having support helps keep you accountable to making the change, can give you a sounding board to bounce ideas off of and gives you someone to celebrate achievements with.

Tips to progress through the preparation stage:

  • Have a goal that is realistic and achievable 

  • Create an action plan and break it down into small, achievable steps 

  • Plan for overcoming potential obstacles 

  • Stay clear on your motivation for the change 

  • Get support - let others know of your commitment to the change 

  • Identify any skills or resources you need to achieve your goal 

Taking Action

Now that you have done your preparation, it is time to take action and climb your mountain to successful change. It is at this point you will begin to put your plans into action. Your confidence will increase with each small step you make. You begin to see your plans come to fruition and with the help of your support structure you can begin celebrating your successes.

You may even learn new skills, meet new people, and find out some exciting things about yourself that you had never known before. It is important that during your action stage, that you keep the momentum going. Take those small steps and treat any mistakes as an opportunity for learning how to do something better.

In many cases, if you are obtaining new skills, you should be proud of them and make sure you are demonstrating them to others. Doing this, will further enhance your skill and make it become more ingrained in your processes.

You will also find during this stage, that your fear, guilt, depression, and hostility will gradually turn into acceptance. It is also worth noting that for many, it often takes 3-6 months to modify behaviors, so stick with it and you will find that it becomes easier and eventually second nature in your life.

Some tips to progress during the action stage:

  • Review plans and modify as needed 

  • Keep support structures in place and active 

  • Identify new behaviors to substitute for old unwanted behaviors 

  • Reward yourself for small accomplishments 

  • Treat mistakes as learning opportunities, not as set backs 

Keep It Going

Destiny Quote by William Jennings Bryan

It is the final stage that makes it all worthwhile. You have climbed your mountain and now you are able to sail on a smooth sea of maintenance. At this point in time, you will have worked through your plans, achieved your goals, gained confidence and possibly even become an expert in your newly acquired skills. Is this the end of your change process? Possibly not, it may be just the beginning of something new.

Tips to progress during the maintenance stage:

  • Pay attention to what works for you and continue doing it. 

  • Recognize your achievements. 

  • If there is risk that you will get bored with a routine, find ways to vary it. 

  • If you find the challenge was your initial motivation, set new goals and start again.

Finally, it should be noted that the steps to change will not always flow in a perfect sequence. You may find that you have to go back and revisit your preparation stage. Or that something knocks you back into denial of making the change at all. Or you may find you move quickly through to the maintenance of a life that you are back in control of. Use the model to help yourself successfully work through the changes that are causing you fear or anxiety. And know that while a change may feel difficult now, it is a door open for you to move through and progress to the next stage in your life. 

Article by Catherine Endicott, a personal and business coach who specializes in working with people through significant changes and transitions.

Getting back into life after divorce is an ongoing process, but you will get there. The following tips can help: