Building a New Life After Divorce
If you’re just finalized your divorce, no matter the circumstances, we know one thing about you for sure:
You’re a mess.
We get it. We’ve been down that road, and the journey of 1000 miles after a divorce doesn’t begin with a single step or any other whimsical zen aphorism. It starts with pulling your boots out of ankle-deep mud, wiping your hair out of your eyes, and figuring out where the hell you cratered so you can pick yourself up and start walking again.
Even if you just ended the worst marriage ever to a horrible, controlling narcissist (congrats, btw), your emotions are going to be all over the place and there will be a lot of rebuilding to do. Perhaps you’re full of boundless optimism and enthusiasm for your new lease on life. Maybe you’re depressed and looking for answers. Either way, divorce creates a lot of loose ends and important details that need to be accounted for as you start down your new path. But best of all, the future is going to be full of opportunity and excitement, so let’s talk about how you’re going to be building a new life after divorce!
Taking Care of Business
We’re going to start with the practical side of things, because frankly, it’s just easier. After a divorce, there are a number of details you’re going to need to take care of just to reorient yourself in the world clerically and financially. Fortunately, there’s therapeutic value in easily-accomplishable tasks that mark objective progress towards a more empowered and enjoyable life.
Most of this is housekeeping, but it’s nonetheless important. Make sure you get a few printed copies of the decree absolute, or divorce judgment. You’re probably going to have to submit it to several organizations as you untangle your lives, so keep it handy.
Also, if you changed your name, (think social security, driver’s license, passport etc) you’re going to have to touch base with every important institution you currently deal with. Banks, doctors, insurance, and online accounts will all have to be updated, and depending on where you live you may have to renew your driver’s license.
Any outstanding joint accounts you have will need to be closed, car titles transferred, credit card information altered, and mortgage and loan information updated. If you have retirement accounts you’ll need to clarify beneficiaries. Life insurance policies should be revised, and any online accounts will need to be edited and passwords changed.
Oh, and your will? Take a look at that. It’s still legal if you’re hit by a car.
Best to update your power of attorney and health care proxy as well!
There’s a lot of little details that aren’t critical but are nonetheless important to check off when you’re building a new life after divorce. For instance, if you have kids in school you should alert them about changing family conditions. Teachers and administration can be your first and best defense against emerging problems with custody boundaries, so keep them in the loop.
Also, it’s worthwhile to pull your credit report just to make sure you’re not missing anything.
Taking Care of Yourself
Self-care is extremely important in the aftermath of a divorce. Short of a death in your immediate family, divorce is the most stressful event you’re probably ever going to experience.
To drive that message home, the following advice is not from a random divorce site or a bunch of touchy-feely testimonials. It’s from the Cleveland Clinic—one of the finest healthcare institutions on earth—which should emphasize that post-divorce stress is not just about your soul; it’s a legitimate health and wellness crisis in the eyes of medical experts.
So pay attention. This matters.
Give Yourself Time
Make sure you take it easy on yourself for a while. Life isn’t going to stop, but there are things you need to do and things you can let go until you get your feet under you again. Remember: you know how you feel today, but you don’t know where you might be in a week. Create space for things to evolve.
Talk to a Divorce Coach/Counselor
Divorce mediators and counselors are excellent resources for navigating divorce, and just because you’re out the other side doesn’t mean that relationship ends too.
Believe it or not, your divorce counselor can actually be just as helpful getting you on the right track as they were getting you off the train. Check in. You’ll be amazed at the insights they can give you.
Take it Slow
In Norton Juster’s wonderful illustrated story The Dot and the Line—a romance in lower mathematics, the lovestruck line observes that “freedom is not a license for chaos”.
Get the book, but more importantly, don’t let your newfound freedom get the best of you when building a new life after divorce. This is no time to be starting fiery romances or taking trips to the Bahamas unless it’s very clearly inside the budget.
The Bahamas will still be there in a year. Your life savings won’t.
Getting Back To Life
My name is Paulette Rigo. I went through a fully-litigated divorce and appeal that burned up 8.5 years of my life and left me broken and hopeless. I know how painful building a new life after divorce can be because I’ve lived the entire process start to finish. I also believe in love, true connection and marriage. (I even remarried believe it or not)
I started Better Divorce Academy to help couples avoid all the mistakes and heartbreak I went through, so you can divorce with dignity, financial security, and get the best start you possibly can on your new lives.
Dreaming of a better future is your right. No more pretending, no more repeating the past, no more regrets.