When going through a divorce, the end of court proceedings is not really the end of the divorce.
"When is your divorce finalized?" This is a question I received numerous times while going through the legal aspects of divorcing.
"When will it be done?" "Won't it be wonderful when you are finished with this part of it?"
Well, honestly, for me, it was very anticlimactic. When we finally signed the papers, I was exhausted, wrung out. I did not feel like I could celebrate. What was there to celebrate? I thought I might start to feel better afterwards, but I did not. I was glad the papers were signed, but then I began a whole new kind of journey. One that I did not expect after the papers were signed.
I thought my ex would stop fighting with me and try to create a co-parenting relationship. I thought he should be happy, he got everything he wanted in the divorce. I had to leave the house, my friends, that life and start all over in a different town, all alone.
So, as I moved out into a small apartment, a new process began. I want to share this process, as I think it may help others as they move through similar things. It will not look the same for everyone, but there may be parts of this that help you in your journey to live life as a divorcee.
The stages of my post-divorce life to date.
1. Exhaustion I was so completely mentally and physically exhausted before the divorce and after the divorce and it upset me. I managed to get moved, after the divorce was finalized, before my 90 days were up in the house per our marital agreement. I took the first place I saw with the kids that had a pool. It was 20 minutes away from my old house, but I did not care. It was within the 10 miles radius that was insisted upon in the divorce decree and I had no energy to really look for anything else. It had an indoor/outdoor pool, so the kids were happy. I knew there was not really anything out there that would satisfy my desires, as I lived in a house that I designed and I loved that house.
After I moved, I was able to put the apartment together enough to make it feel like a home in a couple of weeks. That move and set up took everything I had. Then I was completely spent again. Many friends and acquaintances were asking me when I would start working, what I was doing, etc. I was barely making it out of bed in the morning. I had no energy. I was not working out. I was not doing much of anything except what I needed to do to survive.
I was angry with myself for this, but that only prolonged it. It is okay to be completely drained after an extended period of major emotional drama. It really is. Being angry about it is another way to avoid dealing with the real issue under it. I was exhausted because I had gone through a very difficult time and it was not over.
I became the permissive parent that said "okay" to things I may not have normally. Of course, nothing life threatening or dangerous, just little things. Like I let whining get them what they wanted. Or crying. I also knew the kids were exhausted and transitioning too, so I cut them as much slack as I could and as much as I needed to make it through.
The exhaustion was total. I was not depressed. I was just tired. Bone deep fatigue that needs attention but is hard to give in to when you have three young children who are also feeling the drama of the new situation and need extra attention.
The exhaustion is still coming on at times, but I am getting some of my energy back in fits and spurts. I am doing everything I can to get back to normal, but it takes time. And a lot of self understanding. There is only so much your body can take before it needs a break. I am having more days of feeling like me and less of feel like the exhausted version of me, but it is still there. I have to allow it. Otherwise it makes it worse. My body has gotten me through some things that have been pretty crazy, so I must honor it and listen to it. I hope you honor your body too.
I have been having "talks" with my kids lately about how I was not able to be the Mom that they knew for a while, but that is changing and I am letting them know what is acceptable and not acceptable for behavior with me. I also remind them that there is nothing wrong with wanting to be with me or with their Dad. We both love them and wanting to be with both of us is normal. And missing the other when with one is normal too.
I am trying to run more again and write more articles. I have written numerous articles that may never be "published", but hat is okay. A little bit at a time. I can only do what I can do. And what I can do is all I need to do.
If you are exhausted from a divorce or major life upheaval, allow it. Honor yourself. Your body takes on a lot of your stress and it needs time to heal and when it does, it will be stronger than it was prior, but that takes time. Give it to yourself. As much as you can. Forgive yourself for being human and needing break.
2. Fear What did I do? Where am I going? How am I going to do this? Do I even know how to have a "good" relationship? Can I make it on my own? Will I ever love again? Do I even know how to love? What am I teaching my children? And the list goes on and on...
There are so many issues in divorce that can trigger long buried insecurities that you thought you had eliminated or released. What is the real fear? Well, that depends on the person. You often have to dig deep to see what it really is.
Can I do this on my own? This is one I have had poking me again and again. Really, it is a fear of not being enough. Can I give my children what they need emotionally , financially and physically? Can I give myself those things as well?
Historically, I have no reference for this. I worked before I met my ex and worked until after we had our second child. However, until my last job before I was laid off due to a merger, I had not liked any of my jobs. My last job was my most exciting job. My boss understood how to get more out of me and could unitize my strengths and allowed me room the create new things to assist him. I loved that job. I was not just doing daily boring tasks that anyone could do. I was able to use my creativity and intelligence. Before I had children, I loved being there.
However, once I had children, an old idea of working and succeeding in order to get married and have children kicked back in. Yes, that was the idea I held in my head since I was young. I wanted to be successful to attract the "right" man. To have children that would be successful and the children would be sucessful because I would be home with them, nurturing them every step of the way. Yes, I am admitting that out loud. I don't think I have before.
Of course, now I know that is a false idea. But I held it for a long, long time.
I wanted someone to come in and take care of me and let me raise my children. My Mom worked full-time my whole life. I knew she wished she could be home with us. I wanted her home with us. She was always so exhausted when she came home from work. I wanted to do it better.
At least I thought I did. The reality of being a stay-at-home Mom was very different than my dream of it. I found it mind-numbing and tedious. I love my children with every ounce of my being. But being at home with no "adult" outlet that was consistent and satisfying, was extremely hard for me.
Making meals, cleaning up, snacks, cleaning up, playing, cleaning up, another meal, cleaning up, messes, cleaning up, dinner, cleaning up, trying to get them to bed, then cleaning up. That is what my life felt like. Not the poolside, bon-bon eating, bikini-wearing Cosmo cover I had expected. I had no idea how much work children really are. And it never, ever ends. Ever.
I wanted to go back to work after my third child. I was just wiped out from all of the wiping up. But, there was a fight and I backed down.
However, while I was raising kids and putting in my duty time, I was also becoming a Coach and Healer on the side. And releasing much of my old baggage. So those old fears..many of them are no longer relevant. I can do this. I did much of it on my own prior to the divorce.
My ex is a very hard working man who plans to run a large business one day. He had long hours. Not a lot of time with us. I took vacations without him. Spend summers alone with the kids while he had to cultivate client relationships at games and golf outings. I am not bitter about that. I understood and encouraged it much of the time. It was just hard and I did it. I can do it again. I do do it again.
So, I can raise the kids. I have the fortitude to provide for them. I have the desire. Now I am finding where I am supposed to be, so I can really succeed in this world. This is where I am meant to be. Telling my story, admitting my faults and mistakes so that others can see where it may also be true for themselves. Does that mean I do not still have ghost feelings of insecurity? No. I am human. I still get freaked out about what exactly my future will look like. But I know I will do whatever I can, whenever I can, to make it work. Even if it means going back to a full-time job after my youngest is in school all day. But I hope to make my business work before that. No, I plan to make it work (see, human...I worry too).
Do you hold old fears that are no longer relevant? Are there old ideas of a life you created in your head when you were a child that keep you from living your life the way that is true for who you are now? What tape is playing that tells you that you are not able to do these things you want to do? Is it your voice on that tape, or someone else's? All of these things are releasable. No, really..these fears can all be released. I am proof. I have seen others do it.
3. Sadness/Mourning Ahh.... This one hurts. We like to push it away when it shows up. I have been pushing it away. No more.
Realizing you failed at something you thought would last forever is a painful thing to look at. I do not know of many people who plan on divorcing the day they get married. I did not. I thought for sure I had married the man who was destined to be my husband. And he was. I was correct! I was just a tad bit off on the forever idea.
I do not regret marrying my ex. He was the one I was meant to have children with. I know this. I will not deny it, ever. I can't regret the things that I learned from the dysfunction in our relationship. I needed to learn those things. And I did. I have and I continue to learn from it. I do not regret divorcing him, no matter what types of judgements have ben passed on me regarding it, I know I made the right decision for me, and for my children, in the long run.
Not regretting these things does not mean I do not have any sadness. I do. I have sadness that I am not able to cultivate a better co-parenting relationship with my ex. I am doing all that I can, but as it existed in our marriage, there is a disconnect. I can only do so much and I have to be okay with that. At times it is very hard to be okay with that.
I also have sadness about the things I let slip by during the divorce. I allowed my ex to talk me into some thing that he promised would play out one way, but used to his advantage later on. He was just doing what he thought was right for him. I allowed it, just as I did in the marriage. I have days where I feel like I was a complete idiot for allowing many things that I "should have known better" than to allow. But I did allow them. And I believe there is a reason. I must learn from it and move on. This one still gets me at times.
For example, this past weekend, my middle child had a cub scouts bbq at the park across the street from my old house. The park I helped design (the former park was redone one year after we moved in and everyone in the area had the option of helping design it, and I took that option and went with it), and the house I designed for my children. While there, I saw many of my former neighbors and friends. I was incredibly sad to see this beautiful house and park that had been mine. This gorgeous front garden that my ex and I had put in the from with a view of the park. All of that life that I built, it was not mine any more. I was really sad.
The cub scouts party was fine, I was not. I was just really saddened by the loss of that life I had built and this was the first time I had had the space to see it. It was sad. I had to allow myself to really feel it. I really let go of that dream of that life I had held on to.
If we allows ourselves to regret the decision we made to get married in the first place, this one can hang on much longer than it needs to. It can also turn into bitterness. Feel the sadness. Let it go. There will be many things that make you feel sad. That is okay. It is okay to mourn all that you have lost or changed. Allowing this helps you move through it and release it.
4. Regrets Like and excuse or a butt, we all have one, or two, or many of these. And they can pile up when going through something like a divorce.
Regretting what you did not fight harder for..
Regretting what you said or did..
Regretting who you hurt..
Regretting the actual divorce..
Regretting how your children are dealing with the divorce.
I think you get the idea. Regrets need to be released too. There may be too many to deal with all at once. Whatever happened in the divorce, it is done. Mourn it and let it go. I happened for a reason. If there is more to do, you will do it when it is time. Otherwise, you are probably needing to move on from the actual act and just let it go.
I hurt a few of my relationships with friends while I was in the throws of my divorce. I am slowly trying to heal those, but I may not ever be able to do that. If that is the case, I have to let it go. There are others that I hurt when I was just miserable in my marriage. Again, I will try to mend what I can, but the rest I must release. Once you have done all you know you can do, you let it go. Otherwise, it can turn into bitterness or anger and that is not a life. It is a bad plot in a movie you probably would not even watch.
As with all of these things, they come in at random times and hit me suddenly. I forget that I am in the process of rebuilding. It can be a slow process. But I know with a lot of forgiveness of myself and a few others, I will rebuild and it will be stronger and better than it ever was before.
Here are my steps to moving on and getting stronger:
Acknowledge (the sadness, the anger, the regret)
Feel it (allow it in)
Do what you can (if there is an apology that needs to happen or a shift in perspective, do it)
Let it go (once you have done all you can do, let the rest go, and know you will continue to make mistakes, but you will continue to make amends as well).
As with all things, I believe in regretting what I do, rather than what I don't. And I thank everyone who has assisted me in learning these lessons as I continue to move forward.