The papers are signed, the money is settled, and the kids are for the most part situated. Today is the first day of the rest of your life. The divorce is over and there is a big scary world in your windshield. You are feeling sad, happy and angry –all at the same time. While you are a little bit in denial, you know it is real. Surreal actually. You bargain with yourself about what could have gone differently, but you know you must move ahead. What follows are ten tips for recovery from divorce to help you navigate the upcoming months:
Community: This is embarrassing. My wife and I have a dog we named Wilson. Wilson has gotten in the bad habit of waiting till the dark of night and creeping his way into our bed, using the bench at the base as a little ladder, for he is only about a foot tall. I know what they say happens to you when you lay down with dogs, but he none-the-less has been known to wedge himself in between me and Rachel. You see, Wilson does not think he is a person; he thinks we are a bunch of dogs lying around. Wilson is right. People are pack animals. We need community. Whether yours is a life group, book club, softball team or group of fellow students, you need a community of like-minded people who let you be who you are, or better yet, who you are becoming.
Cut Out Media: I know this article is posted on Facebook and every other media outlet I can find, but I think you need to take a break from media for the first six months after your divorce. Delete the Twitter App from your phone, cut off the television and put down the newspaper. I like social media and a good TV show as much as the next guy, but when you think about it, they can be a mind-numbing downer, and you don’t need that in your life right now. Through social media, people are for the most part posting the best 5% of their life, so make the choice not to look at it, as you will inevitably compare your worst to their best.
Books: As I have gotten older, books have become an important part of my life. Who doesn’t love a good story of redemption and overcoming adversity? I know this sounds like a Schoolhouse Rock song, but you can go anywhere and do anything through a great book. Expand your mind. Yes, read that piece on transcendental meditation. Why not study the history of Venice, Italy or the life and times of Dave Grohl? If you are not growing, you are dying, and post divorce is a time for lots and lots of growth.
Journal: I am starting to work with this old book called The Artist’s Way- A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity by Julia Cameron. One of the keys to her ideas on becoming more creative is the idea of writing “morning pages.” She suggests to discover and recover your creative self, you should put three pages down on paper to clear your mind each morning. This is stream of consciousness not meant for public consumption. It is a time to clear away the cobwebs, pray, and seek to understand what is going on in your head. I have heard this talked about in spiritual circles for years, while I admit I am not very good at it. If you are worried it could be used in court at some point in the future, make it in the form of a letter to your lawyer.
Don’t Date for One Year: This is a tough one I admit is easy for me as the Monday morning quarterback to say. You may have been in a loveless, sexless marriage for years and are ready, quite frankly, for some love and some sex. Okay, that’s fair. While I have never lived it, I have observed a new love relationship being like Novocain to the wounded heart. A new lover does not heal the “what’s wrong” it covers it up. If you do it again, you want it to be for keeps, and if you or your new interest has kids, it is going to be more difficult. One must become good alone before they can be good with someone else. Jerry Maguire was lying when he told Rene Zellweger “You complete me,” and you are lying to yourself if you are saying that about the new person in your life. Your lover is simply not enough for you to be a whole person.
Help Others: I obviously don’t know your story, but as a Mississippi divorce lawyer for a long time now, I doubt very seriously if it would surprise me. I promise you are not alone, and while your story sucks, others share an equally crappy set of life events with you. Psychiatrist Dr. Victor Frankl was a contemporary of Sigmund Freud and a holocaust survivor. He said for people to have meaning in their lives, they need to be focused on selfless projects, be in loving community and find redemptive purposes to their suffering. Living in America, we are some of the richest people in the world. There is some aspect of the human condition that pings your heart. Roll up your sleeves, drive downtown, hop on an airplane or a train or a bus, and go help someone. See if you can feel sorry for yourself while helping someone less fortunate than you. I bet you can’t.
Get Healthy: I have suggested you wait a year to date, and you have already lost some weight over the stress of the divorce. It is time to get your body healthy. Go get a complete physical and find out what you can and cannot do. Let’s get that body moving and put down the ice cream. You are going to feel better, look better and have more confidence for whatever is next.
Take an Adventure: What have you always wanted to do? Backpack through Europe? Ride a motorcycle across California? Take a rafting trip up the Salmon River in Idaho? Hike to basecamp of Mt. Everest? Visit every Major League Baseball park in the country? Learn to surf? Now is the time. Captive, you have been set free. Don’t squander the gift of reinventing who you are. Go make a memory you can tell your kids about.
Counseling: I have a bunch of counselor friends and I am on the board of a local group of therapists. I know one has to find redemptive purpose to the bad things that have happened in their life, but I want to see you moving forward as well. Like any other profession, there are good counselors and bad ones, ones with whom you will relate and ones with whom you will not. Find a forward thinking counselor and dig in to do some work about who you really are and who you would like to become. I have said before and I will say again some of the wackiest people on any college campus are in the psychology department, and that’s good, because we need to start thinking outside the box about the next chapter of your life. Counseling is a tool, it is not the end all be all to your redemption. Do it, but not in isolation, and if you don’t like the one you are with, find someone else.
Fill Your Life with Love: I believe God designed us to love and be loved. Above my backdoor, there is a painted piece of wood that says “Go Be Love.” I think this list can be summarized by those words. If you focus your recovery on yourself alone, you are limited to your individual capacity. Dig deep with your kids. Dig deep into your own heart. Figure out what geeks you up and gives you a transcendent glow filled with love and do lots and lots of that.