Huffington Post author Melissa Smith published an article today called “7 Steps to Finding Your New Normal After Divorce.” Her tips are good, and they’re certainly relevant: “Find Your Tribe” “Own It” “Purge” and so forth. She’s right in that divorce is a process.
However, I’d like to add one more step (tool?) to the mix – THERAPY.
Oh my goodness. Therapy, therapy, therapy. As a divorce attorney, I personally think therapy is so great and that everyone should be in therapy. It doesn’t matter if you’re so happy you could burst, or so sad you feel like you might soon melt into your bed. Therapy is one of the best mental tools ever invented for humans. It allows us to honestly face our feelings, and to meet ourselves exactly where we are.
We take on a lot in our lives. We’re on a constant quest to feel well-rounded, and we want to have it all: the perfect job, marriage, family, dog, body, house, social life, boat, wardrobe, travel life, etc. When facing divorce, it often feels like failure, like your picture of perfection has been shattered. One of the balls you were juggling falls out of the air, and all of sudden you forget how to juggle at all. When everything comes crashing down, you think – how. on earth. am I. going. to. live. now.
You were building a life with someone, and then POOF. It’s essentially the death of a future. So treat it like a death. Even if you’re so sick to death of your soon-to-be-ex-spouse that the idea of freedom makes you want to turn cartwheels at CityMarket – it’s a death. It will be hard, and as Ms. Smith so eloquently stated, “Even the most amicable splits are messy and scary and brutally heartbreaking.”
When someone dies, we allow time to deal with the shock and pain, we cycle through the stages of grief, and we seek therapy to help us grasp our new normal. A divorce is no different, but we think that showing heartbreak makes us weak. Especially if the other spouse appears to be coping better. Especially when there’s money involved. Especially when there are children involved. But don’t fool yourself; you’re probably not as good at hiding your feelings as you think you are (especially with your kids). It’s okay to be sad, worried, angry, hurt, and all of the normal emotions associated with a loss, but you need to figure out how to feel your feelings in a normal way while still carrying on life as usual. And, truthfully, 95% of the world doesn’t need to know about your problems (think your bartender, your kids’ soccer coach, your hair stylist…) but your friends do. Your family does. Your pastor/rabbi does. However – they can only help you so much. Even your attorney – who cares about you and wants to help you through this difficult time – can only help you legally.
But – THERAPY! Therapists are there solely to hear you talk and cry, and to guide you through this rough transition. Therapy allows you to create your own safe space to talk honestly about your fears associated with your new normal, to have your feelings validated by a neutral third party, and to develop healthy coping mechanisms. I strongly encourage putting your kids in therapy too (with someone different and age appropriate) to allow them to have their own safe space, so they can talk about their fears without worrying about upsetting Mom or Dad. And if you and your ex can’t seem to get a handle on co-parenting, get everyone into family therapy.
You will get through the divorce process and you will emerge a different person on the other side. But with therapy, you could even end up a better person. And who doesn’t want to be a better person?