After Your Divorce, Do These 3 Things First

The first steps to take after a separation.

Woman post divorce going through her finances confidently Karolina Grabowska | Pexels

“It’s going to take at least a year to recover from this,” my oncologist is telling me. I knew it would take a few months for the side effects from the last round of chemo, but a year?

“It’s like recovering from a major car accident,” she added.

I bristled. Patience, especially with myself, is not one of my virtues. I just wanted to close the door behind this nightmare and move on like nothing happened. Yet the desired denial evaded me for a few months as I continued to watch my hair shed, including my eyebrows and lashes. There was nothing I could do to speed up the regrowth. It’s been 15 months since that last chemo. The oncologist was right: Recovering from cancer treatment is a big hairy deal.


RELATED: How My Breast Cancer Diagnosis Helped Me Forgive My Ex-Husband

And the dust from my divorce continues to settle. It has been the emotional equivalent of watching my hair fall out. Oh! There goes more of my former life and identity blowing away in the wind! How cute! Another bald spot!

Because I was diagnosed with breast cancer in both breasts a mere five weeks after the divorce meant I needed to shelve processing the dissolution of my 32-year marriage. I had matters more pressing than a boob in a mammogram.

We lived apart for nearly a year before the divorce, so there was little time to adjust to living alone. (Which was no small thing either!) Now, I am coming up on two years post-divorce. And guess what? The processing I’ve needed to do is still right here, waiting for attention. Emotional pain and trauma don’t just fade away if we ignore it.


I’ve had time to reflect on these past few years and these are the things I encourage you to do if you are newly divorced.



RELATED: Knowing This One Thing Helped Me Recover Faster From My Divorce

Here are 3 things to do after your divorce:

1. Realize it will take time to heal. 

Not only are you emotionally exhausted from the issues that led to divorce, but now you have the aftermath of the divorce itself. There is no way to rush healing. Much like the oncologist gave me a reality check regarding recovery, know that your new normal is going to take time. A lot of time.


I wish there were a way to speed through this reality, but there simply isn’t. If you still have kids at home, this is even more important. You must be patient with yourself as well as your kids. I am grateful my kids are grown, so we didn’t have to deal with this aspect.

As time is unfolding, be sure to use it to focus on taking care of yourself. Exercise. Schedule fun things to do. See the doc for a checkup. You’re overdue for your cleaning too-call the dentist. Get a new haircut. Bake some cookies and watch a comedy. From my experience, time doesn’t heal all wounds, but it sure helps soften the edges of the acute pain.

2. Get the support you need.

Friends are important, but there is a limit to how much you can lean on them. This is where getting into therapy is so valuable. There are divorce recovery groups as well. For me, I was in training as a spiritual director, and even though it wasn’t a support group, the bonds with my cohort helped carry me. They were all so loving and supportive. I also continue to meet with my spiritual director once a month. Spiritual direction or life coaching isn’t a substitute for therapy. But it is another way to get the support you need.

3. Look at your finances even though it may scare the crap out of you.

The statistics are clear on this one. If you are a woman, your standard of living just took a major hit. But sticking your head in the sand will only complicate matters. Take a deep breath, dear one. Start with your budget. Get a free account at Credit Karma to monitor your credit and make sure there are no lingering financial entanglements with your former spouse. The account is easy to set up and did I mention it’s free?


Since my divorce, I have been watching my credit score decline. Even though I have always paid my bills on time and have no debt, down it goes. This may very well be your reality. (And yet another testimony of how divorce is more economically damaging to women.) Taking steps to rebuild your credit may need to be on your “to-do” list because of this. My attitude right now is Fico scores so I’m not even messing with it. (Not to mention my disdain for the fear-mongering credit reporting system.)

I urge you to consult with a financial advisor. Or at least a friend who is financially savvy. Yeah, yeah. I hear you. “I don’t have finances over which to be advised.” I get it. But we’re talking about creating a plan to improve things, not sinking into despair. (Which is all too easy!) An advisor can help you by getting fresh eyes on your numbers and helping you create a plan of action. You are building a new financial future. This has been very empowering for me.

RELATED: 3 Simple Steps You Can Take After Divorce To Heal Your Broken Heart

Here's the one thing not to do after your divorce:

1. Don’t make any big decisions. 

OMG people. After I finished chemo, I sold my double-wide trailer. I packed up my house and put all my stuff into storage. My situation was extenuating because of the mobile home park closing. But if I could have gotten away with not doing that, I would in a heartbeat. It was incredibly stressful.


The pain of divorce can drive us to make rash and costly decisions because we want to be numb and distracted. This is not the time to buy a new car or contemplate moving across the country, as appealing as that may sound. And don’t even think about cutting your bangs with the kitchen scissors. (I just sense someone needs to hear that right now. You’re welcome.)

Instead of making decisions right now, put a date on the calendar. That simple act may bring some instant calm as you realize you don’t have to decide on everything right now. If the thought of waiting a year sounds too much, pick three months. I will put a note in my calendar that reads something like “Revisit the topic of getting a pet dinosaur” or “Make an appointment to get bangs trimmed.” Just getting the little detail dumped outta my head and on the calendar is helpful.

Divorce is a life-altering event, especially if you were married for a long time, like I was. Be extra kind and patient with yourself. And I’ll tell you something else I told a woman who was recently diagnosed with breast cancer. She was afraid to eat anything for fear of feeding the cancer. “What can I eat?” she asked. I said, “Anything your little heart desires.” (The last thing she needs right now is stress over her food choices.)


For now, it’s okay to loosen your high standards. Most of us are already just too hard on ourselves. And you’ve been through a major life event. If this means eating junk food, going to bed at a ridiculously early hour, or allowing dirty dishes to sit in the sink for three days, so be it. I know this is so very hard. Know that the light will dawn again, my friend. 

RELATED: 7 Signs You're Truly Healing After Your Heartbreaking Divorce

Theresa Winn is a writer, life coach, and spiritual director.