Bonus: Solid financial resources for education scholarships!
For many women currently dealing with complicated relationships, in the process of a divorce, or already recovering from the fall out and trying to rebuild, an opportunity to go back to school can be a powerful way to move past the chaos and take back control of one's life.
Here is a look at the ways education can play a powerful role in shaping the direction you choose at each of these 3 stages of divorce.
1. When you are thinking about getting a divorce.
If you are in that thinking about it stage, chances are your relationship is confusing and you are feeling pretty bad about yourself.
As educators who have studied how women learn and problem-solve through crisis, we call this phase Divorce Stage 1.
If you are in Stage 1, it does not necessarily mean you will divorce. It does mean that on some level you are looking for clarity or answers to your situation, but because of the nature of your dilemma, it is hard for you to see clearly and to fully understand what’s going on. In fact, it is very hard to know what is the right thing to do. Do you divorce or not?
Combine this with the fact that you are stressed and in pain — and you have a mind-altering brew that keeps you in a stupor of hoping something will change, and yet, how many times have you circled this dilemma and found yourself in this same place?
In our work educating and empowering women, we know that women in this pre-divorce stage often not only lack clarity, but basic self-confidence.
Many feel unskilled, intimidated, or too old to try something new. The unknown beyond their comfort zone is terrifying.
This is understandable. If you’ve been a stay at home mom, maybe all your adult-life has been focused on your kids. You haven't kept up with the rest of the world, let alone new versions of Microsoft Word. The very prospect of going back to school may be frightening, because you may fear the technology. How would you ever take notes and keep up?
You would be amazed what taking a computer class at your local community college might do, or how enrolling in a couple of classes in the Continuing Ed program at your nearby university might shift your sense of powerlessness.
When her kids finally entered high school, Lily decided to enroll in a local college to finish her BA. She used to want to be a teacher, but when she had gotten pregnant at age 21, she had dropped out to marry and raise her family. She didn't know if teaching was still her calling. What she did know was that she had to get out of the house, and the structure of school with its black and white goals appealed to her.
It wasn't easy, Lily would tell you. She had to learn how to research and write using a computer.
“Writing a paper bears no resemblance to my college days. But working really hard and getting my first A? And being listened to? This made me feel on top of the world! Like I still have something, I am not worthless! And that’s a whole different message than what I was hearing in my marriage."
School was the kick start Lily needed to consider a change across the board, and as she neared her final credits, she could not take the situation in her marriage anymore. She filed for divorce, confident as she was that she had experienced facing her fears before: she’d gone back to school. And with that little step, she had surprised herself.
2. As you navigate your way through the divorce process.
Going back to school while you are actually navigating divorce is Herculean, but for some people, like Patricia, it’s just what they needed.
“Listen," she said, "My divorce was so messy, so ugly, it triggered me to be sooo small, that going back to school reeled me in and inspired me to be a better person!”
Patricia was embroiled in a nasty court case, which was sucking the very life from her as it dragged on. Her lawyer told her the judge would require her to have a plan for moving forward, and it would be a good idea if she went back to school.
Patricia resisted. She didn’t want to go back to school, but in the end she found it was good for her.
“There was no room for hate or for me to obsess on how I was going to vindicate myself in the divorce when I had papers to write and tests to take. I had to get outside my sense of victimhood.”
Ultimately, Patricia channeled her experience of leaving an abusive situation and navigating the court system into a way of helping others. Now post-settlement, she’s a different person. Patricia talks about school, the new friend she's met who is also divorced, and how the certification program she is finishing will allow her to be a social worker.
Patricia is looking forward, not backwards.
3. Reinventing yourself once the divorce is final.
It isn't until after the divorce document is signed and the dust settles that many women feel the real grief hit.
“He’s no longer there to blame,” explained Asia. “I’ve had to face myself and figure out just what I did to contribute to the end of our everything. I needed to heal, while another part of me just needed to get the hell out of the house!”
This is your post-adolescent phase of divorce: you are picking up the pieces and trying to find yourself. Who are you? You are grieving and also trying new things.
Going back to school is a superb way to find a new community in which to grow, to build skills for your future and your next job, and to test what really turns you on. Be it practical or esoteric, take the class you know you must, or the salsa lessons that will help you laugh and loosen up.
If you feel like the slow one in a demanding class, join a study group for support and help. Audit classes. Meet with a professor and impress her by telling her why you're really there and what it's doing for you.
Taking these little — and big steps — as well as trying things out and learning what’s for you (and what’s not) could lead to your next best job or dear good friend.
Not to mention, you’ve got to get your tech skills up a bit to explore online dating, right?
Or not. Maybe you want to write your divorce story or the next great American novel.
If money is a concern for you, there are financial resources available to assist you in heading back to school.
Unfortunately, school does not come free, and for lots of women it’s the lack of resources or access to cash that causes them to stay in unhealthy marriages in the first place.
Happily, there exist today resources that target women just like you.
Increasingly there are companies and organizations looking to support and hire older women, because they know you are part of a large and growing demographic, and also because they know that as an experienced, savvy woman, you are a great investment! You have perspective, social skills, and are may be a born negotiator and team player.
Plus, you are extra motivated because you know this chance is precious. You will not squander it. So start Googling now — “Continuing Ed scholarships for women.”
You will be amazed at who is offering you a contribution toward your next chapter!
Here are some of the best we found:
- About.com lists grants and scholarships for single parents across the country.
- Worthy, a smart online solution for selling your diamond jewelry wants to support your recovery tour and they now offer scholarships to women enrolled in a creditable continuing education program. You write an essay explaining what makes a Worthy Woman (ahem, is this your autobiography?) and submit it. (Note you must be enrolled and the deadline to apply is December 2016.)
- Wildflower Group is a national network of business people who support women experiencing the transitions of divorce and widowhood; and for women living in Colorado has financial aid for educational pursuits, legal consultations, and other financial needs.
- Maybe your going back to school is focused strictly on getting a job, any job or the job of your dreams. If so, check out iRelaunch, an incredible organization dedicated to helping people who have been out of the workforce gain traction and skills so they can reenter the workforce. iRelaunch has ongoing, online classes (that would help build your computer skills). They also have career coaching classes.
Whether you are considering a divorce or already navigating the experience and aftermath of divorce, one thing we see making a significant difference for women is the conscious choice to not do divorce alone. Smart women around the world have chosen SAS for Women to educate and partner them through the emotional, financial, and oft times complicated experience of Divorce.
"A successful divorce requires smart steps, taken one at a time."
~ SAS for Women®