I have the greatest respect for people facing divorce. I know first hand, heart and head, the courage one must gather in order to proceed. Divorce tests the limits of the sturdiest people. It can challenge our self-view, lifeview and bearing all at once.
What follows are a few things I learned through my own divorce and mediating couples through theirs.
1. Support. Get help early and often.
Contrary to the image of the lone hero, strong people know the importance of getting support. Emotional support isn’t a luxury, it is critical for your physical and emotional well-being and consequently, for your children’s. If you aren’t getting encouragement from the expected places (i.e. family members or old friends), look elsewhere (therapists, support groups, etc.), but under no circumstances go without emotional support.
What is support? Genuine support validates your authentic self. It generates feeling valued and accepted. It is the nourishment you need to take care of yourself. Emotional support provides a safe place to feel your feelings. People who provide emotional support accept you as you are while you move through uncomfortable and undesirable thoughts.
A common error people make is waiting too long to get help. There are no points for seeing how long you can go it alone. In fact, if you wait until you are in desperate need, you will likely require more intensive help for a longer period.
Just as you would not refuse to refuel your car, and spend weeks pushing it around rather than conceding to pull into a gas station, check your emotional tank regularly and be sure it’s at least ¾ full at all times.
Support can take different forms. When Ken Feinberg, Special Master of US Government’s September 11th Victim Compensation Fund, was meeting daily with families of victims from 9/11, he spent his evenings attending concerts and symphonies. Feinberg supported his well being by consistently partaking in a life-affirming activity he loves. Find what nourishes your mind and heart and seek it out regularly to regenerate to face the challenges of divorce.
2. Think with care.
Stay away from negative projections and globalizations. If you were physically rundown you would nourish your body conscientiously. When you are emotionally fatigued it makes sense to take the same precautions. Pay attention to what you allow into your brain. Be vigilant about your thoughts. Nourish your wellbeing by replacing critical, habitual thoughts with encouraging, gentle affirmations.
A paradox of our minds is that we are most compelled to ruminate on our major problems when we are least able to access our analytic thinking. If you are going through a divorce, it is time to keep your thinking in the present, and keep it simple. It is not a good time to review each of your character flaws and every personal and professional disappointment. This is an exercise you can start (if you insist) after the immediate demands of divorce have passed, when you are availed of your best, balanced thinking.
(Reprinted with permission from the New Jersey Association of Professional Mediators)