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Ten Essentials For Starting Over After Divorce

Design Your Plan
Much has been written about surviving a divorce. One sees articles, for example, about “Getting Through a Breakup”, “Getting Over a Breakup”, and “Getting Back in the Swing of Things After a Breakup”. In this article, I thought it would be helpful to give you a summary of these many points, so you could draw a plan for the beginning of your new life after divorce. If you would like to have more information about any of the points in this article, please let me know in the Comments section at the end of this article or on the Ask Judy page of this website. I welcome your suggestions on how to make this website helpful to you.

Give Yourself Time To Grieve
Divorce and the losses that flow from it often brings about an immediate grief that can overwhelm you. Grief can take the form of sadness or fear or anger or other negative emotions. Just as with the losses one feels after the death of someone close, there is no way to circumvent these feelings at first. You can only accept them. Although the duration differs from one person to another, we all need time to process grief.

Sudha Prathikanti, a psychiatrist at the University of California says, “There’s something about the external act of cleaning that allows for an internal cleansing as well.” It can help clear away the difficult memories associated with the marriage. It’s the idea of putting away all of the tangible reminders of your relationship – pictures, souvenirs, etc. – that helps you feel that you can clear away your connections with your ex.

Use The “E” Word
How often we are given advice to exercise! (I, too, wrote about this issue, in earlier posts on this blog. Link to post here) The fact of the matter is that exercise can have huge benefits as a mood lifter. An article in a Revolution Health newsletter reports, “Recent studies show that if you exercise at moderate intensity five times a week, 30 minutes each time, it’s as effective as an antidepressant.” You do need to be consistent to get those results, but once you ‘get into it’, your body releases a compound called serotonin, which can be very mood-enhancing. …..and you are benefiting physically as well.

Nurture Yourself
Prathikanti points out that touch is a key way to nurture yourself. “It’s very important”, she says. Prathikanti recommends people get massages. Even self-massage is helpful.

She explains, “We’re almost hard-wired to need touch, which releases endorphins and neurotransmitters like serotonin - all of which help to make you feel better physically and emotionally.

Eat Healthful Foods
When you’re feeling needy, it’s so easy to deal with it by hunkering down in front of the TV with a pint of ice cream. While eating ‘comfort foods’ feels good at the time, we all know the negative consequences that result after wallowing in junk food.
Additionally, I learned that healthful foods might even help improve your mood. Food rich in omega-3 acids, like flaxseed and walnuts, and green leafy vegetables, that provide folic acid and other B vitamins, seem to help prevent depression.

Believe in Yourself

It’s so important at this difficult time to value your own self-worth. Concentrate on it. You can start by making a list of 10 good qualities about yourself. Write each one on a sticky note and place them all around the house. Even if you don’t read them, they can supply subliminal messages that have a positive effect.

Have an Attitude of Gratitude
Every day, make a list of 3 good things that happened that day. It’s critical to remember that, despite your loss, there are still good things in your life. If you look at each of those good things, and note what part you played in making them happen, you will strengthen your belief in yourself at the same time. It is critical to focus on these activities because they will help carry you forward.

Talk It Out
Don’t spend too much time brooding alone. Find someone with whom you can be honest and open – a close friend or family member, a therapist or a coach. Be sure not to let those conversations take over your life, however.

Find Closure

As I wrote in an earlier post on this blog, some people use rituals to end a relationship symbolically. [Link to post here.] Sherry Amatenstein, author of Love Lessons from Bad Breakups, says “If you find yourself bothered by concrete reminders of a relationship that has ended, get rid of them.” Amanstein also suggests finding closure by writing a letter to your ex (that you won’t actually mail) - expressing your feelings about the breakup.

Think of It As a New Beginning, Not an End

Bella DePaulo, author and visiting professor of psychology at the University of California, Santa Barbara, expressed my philosophy to a “T”. She says, “ Although the end of a relationship can be disorienting, the singlehood that follows has the potential to be expansive, liberating and fulfilling.” DePaulo believes that the end of a relationship offers the opportunity to reclaim – or discover for the first time – the passions and interests that are your own.

“Living your life to the fullest is a win/win situation” DePaulo says. “If you stay single, you are already living authentically and unapologetically. If you decide to couple again, you will do so from a position of strength.”

To those ideas I say, “AMEN!”

  • Which of these activities has been difficult to initiate and maintain? Tell us about it.
  • What other things have you found to be helpful in generating a positive outlook? Can you share those with us?
  • About which ‘building blocks’ would you like to have more in-depth information?

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About the author: Judy Smith, personal coach and founder of The Center for Planned Change, focuses her practice on helping women over 50 create a new life after divorce.

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