There are times in life where the unexpected, unthinkable or even the unbearable happens. Then there are times in life when these three forces come together to create the perfect storm. Divorce is one such storm.

Towards the end of my marriage, I could sense impending divorce. But even when you can smell a storm in the air and you put up barriers to protect yourself, the storm of divorce always hits harder than predicted. The aftermath leaves a path of destruction and impact was ill anticipated. It is at this time that you have reached a pivotal moment in your life. You’ve hit your sink-or-swim moment. Are you going to allow this frightful storm to sink you or are you going to get through it? Are you going to swim?

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How empowering that we have this big life defining choice and while we’re faced with this choice, sinking for me was never really an option. I had two young children (ages 7 and 9) who were also hurting and they were looking to me for answers, assurance and stability. I needed to figure out how to swim.

The waters are rough, cold and most definitely choppy, but we’ve got to navigate through them. We have to take steps to swim. To survive and to come out of this somehow… but how? It’s difficult to look too far ahead, past our storm because our visibility is zero. We have no idea how things will settle, and quite honestly, we wonder if things will ever settle at all. They will. They always do.

Here are 3 ways that helped me navigate my way through:

1. Allow yourself time to mourn
In the months following my separation, I set aside 20 minutes every morning to just be sad. Once the kids had left for school, I would make myself a cup of coffee and I would sit in my living room, staring out the window and just be sad. I would sometimes cry, I would sometimes be scared, I would sometimes just sit. I would use this time to mourn. I mourned the loss of my marriage and my partner. I mourned the loss of my old life. I mourned the days of having my children with me all the time and the predictability of my life. I set the timer and when my 20 minutes was up, I would get up, and on with my day. Some days I wanted more time, some days I wanted less, but I always took my 20 minutes. That was my time and I still like to take it. I use that time to sort through whatever feelings are going on inside me that day. Your mourning may not look like mine, but it’s important that you grieve.

2. Try New Things
Open up your mind to new things….try new foods or a new restaurant, sign up for a workout or yoga class that perhaps you’ve been wanting to try. Maybe a new hair cut? These changes don’t have to be drastic or costly. You’re starting a new life and you’re getting to know a new you. Why not explore who you are and expand your horizons a bit?

3.Change Your Bedroom
This was one of the best things that I did in the weeks following my separation. I stayed in our home and there were far too many reminders of my old life. While I couldn’t afford to re-decorate completely, I chose to change my bedroom…(it helped that my husband took the bedroom furniture!). Even if you’re working with old furniture, you can freshen up your room and put your stamp on it in a cost effective way. A fresh coat of paint is a great start! Do it yourself or have a friend help you. It’s very liberating to choose your own color, and it’s very gratifying to do it yourself. It also will give you something positive to focus on when your kids are with your ex for a weekend or a few days. New linens are a must! Start fresh and make this room your personal space!

While change is terrifying for many and debilitating for some of us, we really must look the storm head on and just swim through it, grabbing whatever we can to help us along the way. The waters will calm and when they do, take a moment to savor the smell of all possibilities that lie ahead.

Editor’s Note: I wrote this article shortly after my divorce.  It originally appeared in Divorce Magazine Canada under the title, “The Storm of Divorce.”


About Heather Feldstein

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