If your divorce has left you spinning, reeling with mixed emotions and confusion, than you are experiencing a mere taste of what your children are feeling. You may feel that there is no way you will ever forgive your ex, so how can you possibly get along with them? It’s understandable to feel this way. But what is more important to you, the disgust you have for your ex, or the love you have for your children?
This book is not about learning to forgive your ex. It’s important to understand that you do not have to forgive your ex. You do not have to forget how badly they hurt you or how deeply you hurt them. For your kid’s sake, you will need to quarantine those feelings. Keep them safely insulated and out of your dealings with your ex. I should note that burying your feelings is not likely to be the best advice for your long-term psychological wellbeing, but in the context of co-parenting with your ex, it is the cornerstone of success.
As important as it is that you put your children first after divorce, you also need to take care of yourself. Even the easiest, no-hassle divorce is tough on a person. No matter how happy you may be to have your ex out of the daily aspects of your life, you have suffered a substantial loss, and to some degree your identity has changed. Work with a counselor to address any ill feelings you may be harboring, but keep those emotions out of your dealings with your ex-spouse.
Do whatever it takes to get some extra support during this tough time. Spend as much time as possible with others who know you, love you, and want to help you. If they are offering support, graciously accept it, because you need it now. Seek out the comforting company of friends and family as often as you need to. They are probably more willing to be there for you than you think they are.
If you do not have close friends or family, you will definitely have to work a bit harder to get the support you need. Don’t be discouraged, because you are not alone, and there are people out there who care about you. Because you will likely have some extra time on your hands now, you can use the time to start building a social network. Here are some very effective ways to meet people (many of whom may be in very similar circumstances to you):
The problem with most online “social” networks is that they aren’t very social at all. What’s cool about a Meetup is the real-life social aspect of it. If you are not familiar with Meetup.com, I’ll give you a quick overview. The website works as a coordination point for people with common interests to schedule meetings, outings, trips, and more. If you live near a major metropolitan area, you will likely find meetups for divorce support, singles, making new friends, barhopping, bowling, jogging, and just about any other social function or hobby you can imagine. If you can’t find the meetup you’d like to join, you can always start one.
Many local healthcare facilities, churches, and organizations coordinate divorce support groups. Find them online or in local newspapers and magazines. These groups are usually an excellent way to get the focused support you need. Don’t discount the beneficial impact of working through difficult times with others who are in a similar place. You may be surprised at how much it helps you.
I have setup the www.http://practicalcoparenting.com/ website to provide additional support throughout your co-parenting journey. Visit the forums to ask questions or share experiences and tips. Download free co-parenting related forms, templates, and resources. I hope to meet you there and would love to hear your feedback.
Join a Club, Organization, or Charity
Focusing on the needs of others, especially when we are struggling ourselves, gives us the reprieve we need. It feels good to give, and you may make some lasting friendships in the process. There are nearly endless options when it comes to the number of organizations and charities seeking your help. Try something new. Others will appreciate your efforts and it certainly feels good to be appreciated.
CharityNavigator.org is a great online resource to find and research charitable organizations that are looking for your help.
Getting Professional Help
If you are feeling like garbage day-in-and-day-out, or even slightly suspect that you may be clinically depressed, GO GET HELP. Watch for depression warning signs. The National Institute of Mental Health has identified the symptoms of depression as:
- Feeling sad or “empty”
- Feeling hopeless, irritable, anxious, or guilty
- Loss of interest in favorite activities
- Feeling very tired
- Not being able to concentrate or remember details
- Not being able to sleep, or sleeping too much
- Overeating, or not wanting to eat at all
- Thoughts of suicide, suicide attempts
- Aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems.
If you think you may be depressed, don’t wait for things to get better on their own. Depression is a real medical condition, and it’s nothing to be ashamed of. If you had the flu and it lasted for weeks and weeks, would you continue to wait for it to get better, or would you go see the doctor? Depression is no different.
You need to be a whole person before you can give your full attention to your children. If you can’t or won’t get help for your own sake, then do it for the sake of your children. Being the best parent you can be requires that you do whatever it takes to get better; doing nothing when you could benefit from professional help is not putting your children first.