Go ahead and get ugly. You're entitled for one year.
Over the summer I visited a longtime friend. As we sat at the beach, our kids playing nearby, I noticed her hair was uncharacteristically oily and snarly. Her unkempt bush was bursting out the crotch of her green tank suit, and her toddler son sat nearby, eating sand and crying. She didn't notice.
“I'm in a good place,” she said, looking away from me. “I'm thinking of dating.”
“Hm,” I said.
What happens in the first year after divorce
She was in a good place: That post-divorce, hot, steaming, crying, screaming, angry, elated, miserable, hopeless, desperate, stinky, hairy, eating-sand place: The first year after divorce.
My friend's husband, you see, had moved out — after she discovered he'd secretly gambled away all their savings. She was exactly where she was supposed to be: deep in the denial phase of grief.
I see it all the time, and you likely do, too. People fall apart when their marriages end. No matter if it is an amicable, Gwyneth Paltrow uncoupling, your decision or his, whether there was plenty of money or everyone is now destitute, divorce is trauma. Every single vertical of your life unravels: finance, real estate, the kids of course, and how much you will see them and where. Money is a giant, scary question mark, and your relationships with friends and extended family likely change and are challenged. If you are like I was, your ideas about your own sexuality, identity and future are questioned, and your health can take its toll.
How to get through the first year of divorce
You get a year. A free pass for 12 months to be a freaky weirdo. Drink too much after the kids go to bed. Smoke a few cigarettes at break time with your colleagues. Let the house go, let the dishes pile up in the sink. Hell, might as well preemptively cancel the gym memberships, because you're not going. Be stinky and oily, and let your pubes hang out of your swimsuit on a public beach in the midwest. Sleep with a bunch of completely inappropriate people and wear things that no one at your age with your body should ever even think about wearing in public. Stay up all night stalking your college boyfriend on Facebook.
You're good. No judgement here!
Listen to my podcast on post-divorce shit shows!
Am I describing your friend or sister? Let her have at it, hang it all out. It's part of the process from which she will emerge, mind-blowingly successful and stronger than ever.
What about the one-year anniversary after divorce?
But at month 13? Time to tidy up business. Your Post-Divorce Hot Mess Pass has expired.
Get a wax. Go on some nice dates with nice people. Get that career going, wrap up the final, ugly details of your divorce, and pay a little more attention to the kids. Early to bed, and go to the gym for crissake. Hit the therapy, online or IRL. [My list of best online therapy apps]
And if you're the friend? Bring over a decent bottle of wine for after the kids go to bed. Two glasses each, and a toast to celebrate that that horror is finally behind her.
Real moms respond to “After divorce you get a one-year pass to be a hot mess” (and notes on restarting life after divorce):
I giggled at the article while giving you the “oh yes sister, you’re talking about me” nod. Feels like I’m on my way to recovering now though thank goodness. I do have my drink when the kids are sleep. My “woe is me” when some of my favorite love songs come on. Also my angry I hate this dude moments. Incomplete projects and the home is a wreck. And oh my poor kids hair…sometimes it’s cute and sometimes it’s just not…smh. I just want my life back. Unfortunately I’ve made the decision not to date and my trust for people is just not there anymore. But Jan will make a year so we shall see. Oh yea…2 days ago I chopped off all of my hair so start fresh, lol! No telling what I’ll do next!
Looking for inspiration for your new life? Check out my list of books for single moms, and gifts for single moms (from yourself, your kids, lover, friends). Also, my single-mom homie Karen Salmansohn is a great source of inspirational quotes for moms.
Why are you so focused on your friend’s (and by extension other women’s ) public hair? What business of yours deals with how she holds up to your physical ideal about her body hair, especially relating it to being unkempt/lazy/etc? If a woman’s hair is a bit too greasy for you, or bed head, or god forbid crotch not waxed into submission, does that make her a hot mess of insanity? Is this how women are supposed to support and motivate each other? I’ll pass.
It’s been 3 months and a year since I left my husband.
Reflecting on the past time, I don’t think I went too crazy.
I can’t believe how many dinners I’ve gotten to go to or how many times I’ve gone out dancing…even how many times I’ve got picked up in the air! My ex husband has NEVER picked me up in the air!
But your right about squaring up. It’s time to get more serious about work, show more love to my babies.
Did you lose it during your divorce? Thoroughly embarrass yourself? Go on … share in the comments!
Emma Johnson is a veteran money journalist, noted blogger, bestselling author and an host of the award-winning podcast, Like a Mother with Emma Johnson. A former Associated Press Financial Wire reporter and MSN Money columnist, Emma has written for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Glamour, Oprah.com, U.S. News, Parenting, USA Today and others. Her #1 bestseller, The Kickass Single Mom (Penguin), was named to the New York Post's ‘Must Read” list.
Emma regularly comments on issues of modern families, gender equality, divorce, sex and motherhood for outlets like CNN, Headline News, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Fox & Friends, CNBC, NPR, TIME, MONEY, O, The Oprah Magazine and The Doctors. She was named Parents magazine’s “Best of the Web,” “Top 15 Personal Finance Podcasts” by U.S. News, and a “Most Eligible New Yorker” by New York Observer.
A popular speaker, Emma presented at the United Nations Summit for Gender Equality. Read more about Emma here.