The Sucker Punch


They come out of nowhere. And we are never prepared for them. I call them divorce sucker punches.

They come out of nowhere.  And we are never prepared for them.

I call them sucker punches.  Divorce sucker punches; or the moments that unexpectedly take our breath away. 

You know what I am talking about, because we all experience them.  They are waves of sadness, loss, loneliness and grief that are triggered by something completely unexpected. 

And it doesn’t matter how long you have been divorced or even how happy you are in your new life, anyone who has walked down the aisle at their own wedding is not anticipating what life after divorce really looks and feels like; and the lingering effects it has.

For me these moments are triggered when I experience something that is “not what or how I thought it would be”.  For example, my oldest son is a senior in high school and in the process of looking at colleges for next year.  He is an athlete and will be playing basketball so many of these college visits include meetings with coaches at each school.  Because of that, he has been taking his father on the visits, in his words “Dad knows a lot more about basketball than you”, which is absolutely true.  Yes, he has also told me that he and I will visit whichever schools end up in the top three choices because he wants to experience it with me too, but I have to say, each time he spends the day or weekend looking at a new school with his dad, I find myself sucker punched.

I was “supposed” to take my kids on college visits with my “husband”.  It was “supposed” to be a family experience.  Sitting on the sideline waiting for my turn is simply NOT the way it was supposed to be.  And frankly, I didn’t think about or anticipate the college search process when I went through my divorce nearly 8 years ago.

One of my client’s was recently on a weekend getaway with girlfriends at a destination that she and her Ex used to go for vacation and she found herself crying over a martini one night when the memories of “what once was and what should have been” came flooding over her.

It may be a simple as watching a commercial, hearing a song, or having to reframe what you thought an experience was going to look and feel like. 

Life after divorce is different than what we expected when we got married.  It doesn’t have to be “worse”, in fact for many of us, it is far better.  But it is different; and it doesn’t come with a detailed manual.  The good news is that we are all in this together; anyone that experiences divorce will also experience moments of emotion that come out of nowhere.

So, how can you manage these random, out of the blue sucker punches that are part of life after divorce?

Here are my tips:

• Accept that they are part of the journey.  Divorce is a transition and going from married life to divorce lifestyle will inevitably create moments of unexpected sadness and loss.  We all experience them and they are in no way an indication that you are not moving forward in creating your new and fantastic life!

• Embrace the Sucker Punch!  You know that they are out there and that you can reliably expect one every now and again.  So when you are caught off guard, welcome it in like you would an old friend.  Recognize that it is part of the journey and nestle in with the emotions it brings.  Indulge in a hearty cry, write about it in your journal, invite a good friend over and share it with them over a glass of wine or cup of tea.  Embracing the sucker punch will hasten its departure and allow you to step even more fully into your journey forward.

• Do not seek out the Sucker Punch.  There are many ways to prepare and plan for your new life after divorce, and the many emotions that it brings with it.  If you know that there are certain triggers for your sadness, take time to find ways to avoid them.  Perhaps planning a weekend getaway at a destination you and your Ex once experienced together is not a good idea.  There are many options for weekend getaways.  We all know that there are certain experiences that will be different than we once planned for (college visits, holiday celebrations, certain social events…).  While you may be a glutton for punishment, a more healthy approach for you is to anticipate and strategically plan for these experiences in a way that empowers and strengthens you.

So take a deep breath and remember, the sucker punch is part of your new life after divorce; but it does not define it.  Like all waves, they come, and then they go; and you will still be standing strong when they do!