When you hear the word divorce, even if you aren't divorced yourself, I would bet that almost instantly you conjure up images of pain and tears, of yelling and courtrooms, of kids with backpacks, of lawyers and paperwork, of anger and sadness.
And you would be right. And yet, there is so much more.
Divorce is messy and anti-climactic. It's devastating and a relief. It's life-upending and life-changing.
It's also surprising. Because, though one might expect it to, divorce does not kill you. It can take you out at the knees, yes. But it is not life-ending. That I can guarantee.
In the aftermath of a divorce, every man and woman needs to decide how he or she will start over. But what does starting over after divorce look like?
On one hand, it's scary beyond belief. You cannot see the forest for the trees; you cannot see around the bend. For some of us, we had no idea what it was like to live on our own. We perhaps never paid our own bills or worked outside the home. We more than likely never dreamed we'd be on our own, so we never bothered to prepare for that circumstance. And yet, here we are, on our own.
Or, if the marriage was extraordinarily difficult, we may find ourselves resisting feelings of relief and excitement, emotions that seem wrong and that invoke guilt. Who feels relief that their marriage has fallen apart? Who is excited at the prospect of starting over? (Those who were living in pain for a very long time, that's who.)
So starting over looks different for every person, especially depending on what your marriage looked like in the day-to-day, who initiated the divorce, and how long you were married.
But despite those differences, there are some similarities across the board.
What to expect as you start over
Grieving the marriage and the dreams you had for it
Feeling as if something or someone has died takes most divorcees by surprise, especially if their marriages were difficult. But a divorce is the death of a marriage and the death of your dream for it. Statistics tell us that divorce is the second highest stressor after the death of a spouse. It's another kind of death. The only difference, which can make it more unnerving to walk through, is that the spouse is still alive and well in the world, and you must continue at times to interact with him. You cannot move fully on into your future without first grieving this huge loss.