Are you recently divorced and learning to live without your children? It may be occasionally, part-time, or all the time that you are now without your kids. It’s a new life. A different life. It can turn you upside down for a bit. No matter what the new time split is with your kids it will be an adjustment.
“Many of the 1.5 million children in the U.S. whose parents divorce every year feel as if their worlds are falling apart. Divorcing parents are usually very concerned about the welfare of their children during this troublesome process. Some parents are so worried that they stay in unhappy marriages, believing it will protect their offspring from the trauma of divorce.”
The spousal battle around custody and time with the kids can wreak havoc upon your emotional and physical health beyond divorce. There are moments you actually feel and think that you’re out on an island all by yourself. Coupled with this, you are entering a grief and loss period which seems to go on forever. There’s no one that comes out of this marital break-up unscathed.
Personally, It has been approximately 1620 days, or 231 weeks since I started learning to live part-time without my three incredible boys. I still count the time from when my boys go to their dad’s until they are back but I have had a few years to adjust. My experience is just my experience. I can only share what I have learned in my life and what has helped me. Every family is unique.
I came to understand my ability and sometimes inability to resolve the fact that what I experienced as family had changed.
I, for the first time, experienced loss on a grand scale. Not only had I lost my marriage, I had lost family, and a spouse. My life had been turned upside down. I was on a surreal-like auto pilot place trying to regain some focus and equilibrium simply to survive. For a time there, I had lost myself.
I am at a better place after all those days and have regained who I am and I am more confident and focused about this new life with my kids though I would like to have them permanently.
There are five things that helped to make the transition a bit smoother for me. I will tell you, I have had a lot of bumps in the road but I hope that if you are new to this, you will be able to take something from my list of things to consider.
*Order does not suggest what’s most important
1. Find hobbies you enjoy. If you let all of your hobbies and past times go when you became a parent you may have to try to remember what it was you used to do and enjoy. Or maybe while you have been busy with your kids you have seen others learning something or spending time doing something that sparked an interest in you but you knew you didn’t have time for it.
2. Focus in on your career or skills a bit more. This could be the time to get going on a new career. Or maybe it’s time to ramp it up in your current career. Maybe there is a new skill or trade you would like to learn. This is the time to do it! Put that energy towards something productive. This is not the time to be sitting around thinking of what you had, it’s now time to think about what you have. This could be an ideal moment to set an appointment with a career coach or counselor.
3. Friends are important. Re-connect with old friends. Make new friends. I realized after my divorce that many of my current friends were my children’s friend’s parents. It was challenging to find time to get together. The friends who were married were usually having family time with their children and spouse. The other parents who were also divorced often were on different schedules with their kids than I was. You will have time alone but DO NOT cut yourself off from others. Chances are good that you need support. I did and don’t know what I would have done without my friends. Keep in mind that some of you will experience a loss of friends also. It is not strange to find yourself having to form new acquaintances after a divorce. Thank God, I didn’t lose my friends.
4. Exercise/ meditate. Research shows that exercise raises your endorphins to put you in a more positive frame of mind. I have always been an avid exerciser but up until my divorce had never let myself experience the benefits of meditation. If you do nothing else, take a short walk. You are most vulnerable for picking up unhealthy habits at this juncture in your life. Meditation allows you to focus and feel freedom that is incredibly refreshing. Meditation and mindfulness exercises where you allow yourself to think only in the moment, placing your personal thoughts and to do’s aside, may deem beneficial for you.
5. Find support groups. Most importantly, getting help from those who are going through the same things. There is comfort in finding others who are in the same boat and can actually EMPATHIZE with you. Please don’t think of it as “misery loves company”. People who get together out of life’s struggles have the potential to pull each other up!
In addition, keeping a journal of your day-to-day growth, challenges, and insights will show you how much you have achieved since the beginning of your new life.
You will always be your children’s parent. Keep your feet planted on the ground as much as you can. Make yourself and your kids proud of you. Who are you? What do you want to accomplish? What goals would you like to set for yourself? These are questions I found most relevant for me and I hope will work for you. Seek a Life Coach who has professional training and who perhaps have walked in the shoes you’re wearing!
Often you’re not going have your cake and eat it too. You however can begin, at where you are to visualize your new world, your new family, beyond divorce.
Tara Henderson, Guest Writer, is a speaker, writer, and communications strategist. She holds a Masters in English and is presently attending a Masters in Public Health at the University of Missouri. Tara is an advocate and spokesperson for Dating Abuse and Domestic Violence, providing workshops on college campuses in surrounding communities in Columbia, Missouri.