During a divorce, however good or bad, it’s important to have a stable of coping mechanisms to call upon when needed. Here at Divorcist, we of course recommend healthy ones, but you know what? Do what you gotta do. We’re not here to judge. My personal top tip is to claim self care and go to Disney World with your kids. But how many of us have the resources to actually take this self care philosophy to its logical conclusion by booking a solo one-way flight to St. Barts much less dash out to Orlando? Someday, but not today. For the rest of us, there’s everyday coping strategies. This incomplete guide to divorce survival offered me some much-needed respite from a very stressful (aren’t they all?) divorce. I hope some of these strategies work for you, too.
Remember your happy place
Go back to when you were happiest. Okay, so you might not be able to actually go there, but you can remind your brain of what it was like.
What did it sound like?
Maybe you had the best year of your life in grad school, when your bestie made you mixed CDs chock full of Cat Power, Mates of State, Pulp, and the Postal Service. It’s amazing what music can do. Dig up the old playlists that used to guarantee an unforgettable and fun night. Or search YouTube for the hymns your grandma used to sing to you. Find your favorite decade on Spotify and transport yourself to a better time, if only briefly. Your body might be there packing up the bedroom you and your partner once shared, but that doesn’t mean your mind has to be.
What the happiest times of your life taste like?
Comfort food can’t be undervalued when you’re going through a tough time. From Dad’s lasagne to that gelato you got in Florence, you may not be able to replicate it exactly, but you can get pretty close. Find the candy you ate during those endless summer days of your youth (they still make Bottlecaps, right?) or make the tea you lived off when you studied abroad. Don’t forget in this day and age that you (or your loved one!) can have your favorites shipped to you. Murdick’s fudge delivers, so do a lot of world-class restaurants.
Smells like better times
Smells are perhaps the most effective at getting you out of the present and into a better state of mind. Think about what smells do it for you. New book? Baby powder? Your grandpa’s aftershave? Incense? There are all sorts of essential oils and fun perfumes that can help you stay at peace during tumultuous moments in addition to your old standards.
Don’t ask too much of your friends
They love you and they want to help, but it’s unlikely they can stop their whole world and meltdown with you. Lean on them, by all means, but try not to be upset if they can’t answer every text or phone call. Know they’re there, just not right now. You’ll probably have enough anger in you to burn a hundred effigies, but that doesn’t mean your friends should be among them. Give them a little grace, too. And if you find yourself explaining “your side” at length, just stop. Your best friends know you. You don’t need to prove that you’ve been hurt or wronged. They can tell. They know.
For best results, have a few friends and family members to help you feel your feelings. Don’t expect one person–even your best friend in the whole world–to cover every aspect of your newly upset life. Find specialists (the one who texts, the one who takes you kickboxing, the one who sends helpful articles) and you’ll all be better for it.
Find your divorce role model
For me, it was Martha Stewart. She went through some stuff and is now better than ever. You will be too.
Use this energy
If everything goes as it should, you’ll never feel like this again. But for now, you’ll have moments of feeling like you could push a Boeing uphill for a mile (perhaps, preferably over your ex). If you can harness this energy, you can wallpaper the dining room, run a marathon, or make the best darn Halloween costume for your kid in the history of your neighborhood.
Bring order to what you can
Your world is spinning out of control, but that doesn’t mean your spice rack has to be. Organize what is in your control. If you haven’t yet had your day in court, this can be doubly helpful. Name the bad things and then make a chart. No one in court cares how you feel, but if you’ve got empirical evidence (keep track of things in this notebook), justice will appreciate your cold and detached dedication to the truth. You can only really ever control yourself, so keep your nose clean while you document everything else in your life. Now might be a good time to think about tracking the days your ex has skipped out on being with your kids or to start keeping close watch on your joint bank account.
Speaking of spice racks, you may want to use any joint finances you have to stock up on non-perishables. Let’s be honest, you’ll come out the other side of this better off. But you will probably not be better off financially.
Spend a little extra at the grocery store to stock up on items you’ll need later. You may even want to grab some gift cards at the checkout. I’m just saying . . .
Think about others
Email a friend who is far away or congratulate someone LinkedIn told you to congratulate. Force yourself to pour happiness into others, if you can’t find much to be happy about for yourself.
Empathy for everyone
Compassion and empathy are going to be two of the areas where you really grow during this hard time so lean in. Just because your friends’ problems might not be as bad as yours doesn’t mean you should dismiss them. For example, your friend is having a hard time deciding a cat name. This is a stupid problem. You have no sympathy for this problem under even the best circumstances. But this is a good exercise for you. Dig deep and empathise.
Time for service!
Volunteering is a tried and true way to get you out of your head and into a better place. No matter what kind of service you do for others, you’ll be better for it and the feel good factor will last at least as long as you’re doing it.
Change your ex’s name in your phone
It seems silly, but the amount of times having my ex in my phone as “DO NOT ENGAGE” has saved me is a LOT. A quick, preemptive reminder to not get into the weeds might be all you need to avoid doing or saying something potentially harmful to your long term happiness. Try, YOU MUST BE NON-REACTIVE, or THINK OF THE BABY or DON’T BLOW IT BY SENDING SOMETHING THAT MAKES YOU LOOK CRAZY. You can do it!
Celebrate the small things
Encourage others to celebrate them too. We know social media should under no circumstances be used to air your dirty laundry, but go ahead and air your clean laundry. #starch #clean #ironed #folded. Resist the urge to be passive aggressive, but share your victories with bonhomie. You did longer than usual on the treadmill, yay! You made dinner, hurrah! You didn’t feel like crying today, woohoo!
Okay, this is by no means complete, but I hope some of it helps. Divorce is the Coney Island Cyclone of emotions. It’s not fun, it hurts, and I’m sorry you’re strapped into it. But it doesn’t last forever. Do your best, know tomorrow is another day, and things will get better, I promise.