Don't worry — life won't feel upside down forever.
Life as a newly separated or divorced woman can feel pretty strange. It's filled not only with all the physical and logistical changes of living alone, but also comes with a strange cocktail of emotions that seem to fluctuate wildly day by day (sometimes minute by minute).
One moment you're heartbroken about the divorce, and the next you're terrified. And then you feel elated because you're finally free of a marriage that wasn't really working. Then, you slip into guilt about feeling good.
It's a positively Twilight Zone existence.
At least, that's how it was for me when I first separated from my ex. I felt completely lost, confused and utterly alone. I wasn't sure if my experience was normal, or if I'd truly lost my mind (as well as my marriage).
Now I know that I was both sane and a little bit crazy, but that's all completely normal.
If you feel like you can relate, here are 11 struggles only newly divorced women can understand:
1. You worry that you're going crazy.
You have incredibly strange, frustrating, and even obsessive thoughts exploding in your mind almost constantly — incessant thoughts that wouldn't make sense at any other time, but somehow now they do.
2. You have fleeting thoughts of suicide.
This is one of the most unsettling thoughts that pop into your mind (but if the thoughts are anything more than fleeting, talk to someone about it immediately!).
Your mind is on a constant search for a way to make things better, and it throws everything against the wall to see what sticks. Just let this one fall to the ground.
3. You keep getting hit with waves of guilt.
It doesn't matter why your marriage ended, there's something you probably feel guilty about — even if it's just that you married your ex in the first place.
Hindsight is 20/20 but there's no use second guessing yourself now. Just learn what you need to learn and move forward.
4. Your mood swings make PMS seem tame by comparison.
Remember all those strange and unsettling thoughts? Well, it's a bit like a chicken and egg thing with thoughts and emotions — which comes first?
Do thoughts create the emotions or do the emotions create the thoughts? Either way, as your thoughts careen around from one extreme thought to another, so will your emotions.
5. Yet, you're also feeling positively giddy about being 'you' again.
Except for when it terrifies you because you're not exactly sure who you are at the moment, but that's part of the true joy of divorce — rediscovering you!
6. Trying to figure out how to do it all makes you want to scream.
Gone are the days of shared chores, dual income and shared parenting. No more tag teaming. You're it.
You're the boss, the housekeeper and the solo parent. You now manage the finances, become the sole breadwinner, have complete responsibility for the kids (when they're with you) and maintain and fix the house, the yard, and the car.
7. You're living on less sleep than parents with a newborn.
One obvious result of doing it all is exhaustion, and I'm not just talking about physical exhaustion. You're weary to your bones mentally and emotionally, too.
Divorce turns your whole world upside down and inside out. It takes a sh*t-load of work to get your life working, much less set it right again.
8. The loneliness and pain take your breath away sometimes.
This is how you become emotionally drained. You grieve a million and one losses — some big and some small — as it sinks in a little more that your life will never ever be the same again.
You've lost not only your husband and his family, but also friends and having your kids around every day. The sense of rejection and shame that sometimes come with divorce, combined with this loneliness, can produce soul-crushing misery.
9. Trying to create a new relationship with your ex is awkward.
If you're one of the lucky ones, you don't have kids, pets, or a business with your ex, so you can just walk away as soon as you sign that decree.
But it is usually more complicated than that. You want nothing to do with him (most of the time), but because he's your kids' other parent, you must deal with him for the rest of your life.
Figuring out how to shape that new relationship is one effing monumental headache. (FYI: fleeting thoughts of how much easier life would be if he just keeled over and died are fairly common.)
10. You're not entirely sure who you are anymore.
As a wife and mom, you made sacrifices and compromises for the sake of your relationship and family. Now that you're no longer 'his wife', you feel betrayed and used. And of course, now you also feel enraged.
Instead of staying stuck with the anger, use that energy to try new things, have new experiences and redefine yourself because you're no longer his wife. Now you're a woman who is a terrific mom, great friend, and entirely her own person.
11. Trying to date again feels weird and confusing.
Starting to date again is just plain odd. Sure, there were men you noticed or even fantasized about over the years, but now you can actually be out there and interact with them!
Are you excited? Curious? Terrified? Conflicted? If you're completely honest, the answer is YES to all of those questions.
You may even feel like you're cheating the first time you go out. Men you've known for years will suddenly start looking at you in an entirely different way. You'll experiment with online dating. Your heart will break — again. But you'll get the hang of it.
There's nothing simple or easy about divorce.
No one can begin to adequately describe the struggles, frustrations, fears, and exhaustion newly divorced women feel, unless they've been through it themselves.
But those of us going through it (or who have been there in the past) get it. We know. And despite how you might feel at this exact moment, you're not alone and a better, brighter life IS waiting for you on the other side of the upheaval and uncertainty. So, hang in there and keep going.
Dr. Karen Finn is a divorce coach and advisor helping people who are considering divorce make a smart decision about staying or leaving their marriage. You can join her anonymous newsletter group for free advice or email her for a free consultation. Don’t let divorce stress ruin your life, help is available as soon as you’re ready.