scroll top

9 tips for recovering from divorce in the first year

We earn commissions for transactions made through links in this post. Here's more on how we make money.

After 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. Sleep with a bunch of people. Let the house go, let the dishes pile up in the sink.

It’s all part of the emotional recovery process from which you’ll emerge, mind-blowingly successful and stronger than ever.

If you or someone you know is recovering from divorce, here are some tips to move forward:

  1. Practice introducing yourself as a divorced person
  2. Learn how to co-parent with your ex
  3. Adjust to living alone again
  4. Consider post-divorce therapy
  5. Join a support group for divorced women
  6. Unfollow your ex on social media
  7. Allow yourself time to grieve your divorce
  8. Embrace change
  9. Set some goals

Follow these steps, and I promise you’ll come out a better version of yourself.

1. Practice introducing yourself as a divorced person

First, practice introducing yourself as a divorced person. Do not submit to the temptation to, when meeting a new person, say, another mom on the playground, to unload a 400-word soliloquy about how-he-cheated-and-is-an-alcoholic-narcissist-and-left-you-with-a-baby.

Instead, should the matter come up at all, just say: “I’m divorced.” The rest really is none of their business. Or, you could say, “I’m not married.” It is true, plain, appropriate and mysterious all at the same time.

Meet new people and friends through the best friend apps that we researched.

2. Learn how to coparent with your ex

You might not reach Gwyneth Paltrow-level co-parenting (vacation with your ex is not for everyone, after all), but you can aim to be civil, fair, positive about him when speaking to the kids (and others — otherwise you start to sound bitter. Not a good look). 

Merriam Saunders, a licensed marriage and family therapist (LMFT) and certified custody divorce mediator, counsels clients during and after divorce.

She says taking a proactive approach when you’re setting up a parenting can help with co-parenting down the road.

“The more you consider upfront and create a shared language around how you want to deal with those situations, the less conflict is likely to happen later,” Saunders says.

After divorce, she advises the following tips to successfully co-parent:

  • Think of your kids’ needs first — Children need access to both parents. It allows them to grow into well-adjusted, fully-functioning adults. Never withhold your child from their other parent (as long as there isn’t a legitimate concern for their safety or wellbeing) or use your child as a pawn to get back at your ex.
  • Shield them from parental conflict — Be careful how you talk about the other parent in front of your children and avoid fighting in their presence.
  • Have an open mind about your relationship — You don’t have to be in a romantic relationship with your ex anymore, but recognize the value in being in a partnership. Think of them as a business partner with a common goal of taking care of your children.
  • Keep your emotions in check — Work on letting go of what went wrong and focus on how to communicate respectfully. If you can’t talk in a civil way, use text messages and email. Ask a trusted friend to look over a message before you send it to make sure the tone is business like and straightforward.
  • Be sensitive to transitions — Especially with younger children, going back and forth between homes can be stressful. Give your child a chance to adjust as they process emotions just like you.

As you navigate co-parenting, you may not always agree, but it’s important not to get caught up in who is right or wrong.

“You can be right or you can be a good co-parent, “ Saunders says. “You can’t have both. And being right isn’t going to help your child.”

A co-parenting app like Our Family Wizard can help, with features like:

  •  Shared calendar
  • Closed messaging 
  • Financial record keeping
  • Information vault to keep track of contacts and medical and school information
  • Ability download and submit records to courts

The list of best and free co-parenting apps for 2023

More tips and advice on how to co-parent with even the most toxic and narcissistic of exes.

3. Adjust to living alone after divorce

Many women have an intense reaction to living alone for the first time after divorce. On one hand, it can feel amazing to have your very own space, no one’ mess to clean up, decorate as you like, and otherwise be at peace in your own home.

On the other hand, it can feel lonely and even scary to be home alone without another adult there. All these feelings are normal and healthy!

This may be an opportunity to invest in a home security system, create a closer community with your neighbors, or otherwise start socializing and entertaining in your home.

4. Consider post-divorce therapy

If you’re struggling with your emotions after divorce, there’s no shame in getting professional help. 

Saunders says therapy itself is like an accountability partner, especially in the beginning of the post-divorce lifestyle.

“It sets you both on track and makes sure you’re parenting with intentionality,” she says. “It also relieves you of the burden of holding the other person accountable — you don’t have to parent their parenting. Somebody else can keep them in check.” 

If you are considering therapy, but wondering how you will keep the in-person appointments, keep in mind that you don’t even need to see a therapist IRL anymore, thanks to the plethora of self-care apps out there. Online therapy sites connect you with a licensed professional right from home.

On the flipside, Saunders says, if you’re not struggling, don’t feel pressured to go to therapy. 

If you had an amicable breakup, are adjusting to life after divorce well, and successfully co-parenting, it may not be necessary to seek therapy. However, if your emotions are running high and you are constantly facing conflict with your ex, post-divorce therapy can help you sort things out.

5. Join a divorce support group for women

Support groups for divorce can be powerful. I had an incredible experience with group therapy around the time of my own divorce, and connecting with other women going through a similar situation, as well as those who are both ahead of you, and following you in their divorce journeys, can be informative, healing and humbling.

The benefits of group therapy include feeling normal, getting feedback from your peers, accountability and seeing your own growth — or need for growth — through your peers in the therapy group.

I run a Millionaire Single Moms support group for women on Facebook, where women share about all the joys, traumas and realities of parenting solo.

How to comfort a friend going through divorce or breakup

6. Unfollow your ex on social media

Unfollowing your ex on social media can help you stay focused on your own life. It may be triggering to see your ex going on dates, traveling, and enjoying life — especially if they are engaging in activities you used to do or wanted to do together.

“First, check-in with your gut,” Saunders says. “When you see the posts, how do they make you feel? Do you get a twinge? Do you feel hatred? Do you feel jealousy?”

Saunders says there is enough to deal with after divorce, so if you are having a hard time seeing your ex’s new life play out on social media, let it go. There is no need to add to what you are already feeling.

And keep in mind, most people only post the good stuff, so what you see is never the full story.

“This is your opportunity to start moving on,” Saunders says. “Not following them might make moving on easier.”

7. Allow yourself time to grieve

When you divorce, you are experiencing the death of a relationship as you knew it. Any relationship you have with your ex going forward (especially if you are still raising children) will be different.

“The first year is the hardest,” Saunders says. “There's so much change, so really be gentle with yourself.”

There is no set time frame for grieving after a divorce. Everyone is different. Some people may need a few months to recover from a split, while others may need a year or more.

The point is to give yourself time. Your feelings are valid. And if you feel like you failed, Saunders offers encouragement:

“I personally think that there is no failure in relationships, only failure in not trying,” Saunders says. “This was something that you tried and it didn’t work out, and you were brave enough to recognize when it was time to move on.”

To give you perspective, psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross created a model that outlines five stages of grief:

  • Denial
  • Anger
  • Bargaining
  • Depression
  • Acceptance

While you may not go through every stage, it may help to have this as a reference as you filter your emotions.

If you are having trouble coping with the divorce, it’s a good idea to speak to a divorce therapist who can help you work through your feelings.

8. Embrace change

Change can be difficult, but you can embrace it by taking things one step at a time. You’ll risk being overwhelmed if you take on too much at once. 

Saunders suggests positive visualization as a tool to help you embrace a new vision for your life and carry you through the overwhelming feelings of divorce.

If you have children at home, your days and nights will look different, as demands for your time will change in a single parent household. However, you also get an opportunity to shape your life the way you want.

You can start by focusing on what you need most and forming a plan to fulfill those needs. By accepting change, instead of fighting it, you open yourself to a better future. 

9. Set some goals 

To stay focused, set some goals to accomplish and then make a plan to meet them. 

Whether you want to improve your health or learn a new job skill to increase your income, make a list of your goals and place them in an area where you will see them daily.

Saunders asks her clients to visualize where they want to be in five years. Then, one year. Then, she narrows it down to three things the person can do right now to move toward their main goal.

For example, if you want to buy a home but feel discouraged because of your financial situation after divorce, you can start building a path to home ownership with small steps, like:

  • Developing a budget
  • Saving 10% of your take-home pay to fund a down payment
  • Researching the best areas to live, based on your family’s needs

“Get excited about that goal,” Saunders says. “Really spend time visualizing yourself in that ultimate place, knowing it’s possible and seeing yourself happy that you achieved it.”

Moving forward: 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. Hit the reset button with these four tips:

1. Focus on self-care

Drinking a glass of wine at the end of a long day isn’t self-care. A proper self-care routine includes activities you do daily to invest in your mental and physical health. Try these self-care ideas:

  • Take care of yourself physically. When people talk about self-care, they usually only address the emotional aspect of it, but it’s just as important to care for your body. Exercise, eat healthy foods, take a warm bath to relax your muscles, treat yourself to a massage (if you can afford it — debt is not self care!), and get 8+ hours of sleep each night.
  • Put your phone away. Endlessly scrolling through Facebook and Instagram can be detrimental to your mental health. Take regular breaks from your phone and set guidelines on social media use. Try an app that limits screen time, like Space
  • Try or continue therapy. Therapy can help you continue to rebuild, achieve a healthy outlook, and help you remain accountable to moving forward.

Life after divorce: 11 tips for moving forward

2. Practice yoga and meditation

Science shows yoga and meditation are incredible stress-relievers and mood-boosters. Here’s how to add yoga or meditation to your routine:

  • Start your day with a morning meditation. Take advantage of the quiet you have before the bustle of the day begins. Even just five minutes of meditation in the A.M. can make a difference in your mood. 
  • Download a meditation app. There are lots of free meditation apps out there. Some of the best include Headspace, Calm, and The Mindfulness App
  • Read meditation books. Yep, pick up a good ol’ fashioned paper book to learn the ins and outs of meditation. A break from devices is an added bonus.  Meditation Made Easy, Practicing Mindfulness, and Mindfulness Made Simple offer easy-to-understand meditation tips to help you master your practice. 
  • Follow yoga videos. Can’t make it to a studio? No problem. You can still get your Ohm on by taking an online yoga class. Tune into Yoga With Adriene for straightforward yoga classes with none of the woo-woo. 

3. Get your financial act together 

Financial wellbeing plays a huge role in how well you feel physically and mentally. Follow this advice for getting your finances in order: 

  • Make a financial plan. Use a tool like the ones offered by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission to get focused on your goals. This site offers info on investing, financial calculators, tips to protect your investments, and more.
  • Improve your credit. This will allow you to apply for a mortgage, get a business or student loan, and more. Start by applying for a balance transfer credit card. You can also boost your credit score immediately by an average of 13 points by using Experian Boost, a free tool that also gives you a credit score and FICO report (all free!). 
  • Investigate refinancing your debt at a lower rate. See if you can refi your auto loan >>
  • Set up a budget. Once you budget your money, slash your spending. See what monthly memberships you can cancel or scale back on to save dough: cable, that fancy gym you belong to, all those random subscriptions to services you don’t use.

Here are even more tips for getting your financial act together this year.

4. Sell your engagement ring and wedding ring

Selling the items that remind you of our spouse and former life can help in your healing journey. For example, you might want to sell your wedding jewelry.

I wrote about why I decided to sell my engagement ring, and how to do it safely. The bottom line is that I sold an engagement ring that I didn’t use, no longer wanted, and kept me holding on to a relationship that I was no longer in.

That post also gives step-by-step instructions on how to sell a diamond ring.

Top reasons to sell your engagement ring, wedding ring, and other sentimental jewelry include:

  1. You don’t use it, so get rid of it.
  2. Your engagement ring or other jewelry likely has bad memories and energy attached to it, so best to set that free — open your life up to new and better experiences.
  3. The money you earn from selling your jewelry can be invested in positive things, like retirement, buying a home or car, a vacation, or starting that home-based business you’ve been thinking about.

CashforGoldUSA and sister site DiamondsUSA are my recommendation, as they pay within 24 hours, have a BBB rating of A+ and guarantee the highest price.

And check out our list of top movies and TV shows about single parents.

Bottom line: Recovering from divorce is not linear

The good news: there is life after divorce.

Recovery after divorce takes time. There will be ups and downs and lots of emotions. Use the tips in this post to cope and move forward.

The Kickass Single Mom: Be Financially Independent, Discover Your Sexiest Self, and Raise Fabulous, Happy Children
Crazy Time: Surviving Divorce and Creating a New Life
Didn't See That Coming: Putting Life Back Together When Your World Falls Apart
You Are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life
Whole Again: Healing Your Heart and Rediscovering Your True Self After Toxic Relationships and Emotional Abuse

Looking for like-minded women focused on building their careers and finances? Join the Millionaire Single Moms group on Facebook.

Did you lose it during your divorce? Thoroughly embarrass yourself? Go on … share in the comments! founder Emma Johnson is an award-winning business journalist, activist, author and expert. A former Associated Press reporter and MSN Money columnist, Emma has appeared on CNBC, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, NPR, TIME, The Doctors, Elle, O, The Oprah Magazine. Winner of Parents magazine’s “Best of the Web” and a New York Observer “Most Eligible New Yorker," her #1 bestseller, The Kickass Single Mom (Penguin), was a New York Post Must Read. As an expert on divorce and gender, Emma presented at the United Nations Summit for Gender Equality and multiple state legislature hearings. More about Emma's credentials.


Maybe I am a freaky weirdo, but I feel like I’m doing amazing. I asked for the divorce, it was a long time coming. But I feel like I’ve regained who I lost over the years of being a mom and a wife, and being treated as such. I kind of lost myself after my first son was born 10.5 years ago. I had to take all my body jewelry out for my surgery, and I just never put any of it back in. After he moved out, I put what jewelry I could, back in, which accounted for 13 piercings. This was in December. Since then I’ve added 16 piercings and 4 tattoos. To many people who know me, have only known me for that last 6 years or less, so it looks like i’ve lost my mind in dealing with my divorce, but really, this is who I am. It’s who I’ve always been, its who he squashed. I’m working on regaining my voice, I am dating again. But I am also making sure I have fun, i do drink to much sometimes, i do make bad decisions, and maybe that’s the trauma speaking, but I feel happier now, I feel healthier now, than I have in a lot of years.

Today was a hot mess day. I’m heading into month 3, and despite getting a job and setting up my new dwelling, I am not feeling very successful. Thanks for writing about what I’ve been feeling!

That wasnt me. I am still working on getting money fot my divorce. Me and my ex have been seperated for almost 3 years with an order of protection. It was hard to become a single mom but i have managed to keep a roof over our heads and other things we need.

I was never married to him but I felt like I was, I felt like I put years of my life on pause for him. Now that he’s out I’m finally able to start it and I just feel so free. Of course now I have my two kids along with me and that’s okay because we will learn to grow together.
But sometimes it feels like there’s never an easy day.

Well that wasn’t me. At least the first 8 months. I guess I was in total denial. Survival mode. It s starting to hit me now and it’s scary.

As much as i wish i could have, i was unable to. I had separated from my husband and then spent a year taking on the care of 3 of my sisters kids which left me with 7 kids on my own. Had to keep my head straight for them.

Not me! I got divorced, moved out, and got my shit together. My apartment is bright & clean! And decorated cute af. HE, on the other hand, is a mess. Giant. Mess. Sometimes I help clean up when I visit. I feel bad for him but wish he would at least clean more, for our kids sake. If I let myself be a hot mess, I would spiral into a deep depression. For me though, divorce has been so nice! I got out! I have my own place, my own space.

After me and my ex-husband deside to divorce i ended up “dating” this guy for a few weeks. Till i found out i was pregnant. Mind you i was living in my RV in my friends driveway still waiting on divorce paperwork so i could buy a house! And now i have another tiny human im gonna have to take care of! I had also just bought a motorcycle, was enjoying my new found freedom. Needless to say, i became really depressed and stayed that way till i had my baby. But everything is working out really well. I have my own home, and great job, and started college. Not to mention i have one of the bast babies in the world. Never cries, and sleeps all night. Lets mommy do ger homework, and clean the house.

Year one was tough! The breakup was mercifully violent and irrational that I didn’t feel the need to ask my partner to change their mind and take me back – but not seeing our kids or knowing where they were taken to live was hell….a hell that went for 2 years and 10 months before finding and holding them again. I regrouped, found work, found a lawyer, took stock and did all I could to keep the communication channels open with the ex so as to speak to our two kids on the phone. The court process is rolling into its second year and the only solid thing I know for sure is that our children are healthy, love each other and their parents and that to have them and lose them is better than to not have had them at all. I have been blessed….twice.

It’s only been 9months and I must say it’s tuff but I know i’ll get through this.I thank God I found out about you Emma and your books, you’ve made this journey easier.God bless you.

My marriage is probably not going to last much longer. We’ve only been married a couple of years, and have no children. My wife wants to separate temporarily and work toward getting back together.

I agree with Wendy. I think it’s unhealthy to shave and wax pubic hair; it increases chances of STDs and ingrown hair. I didn’t appreciate the image being associated with a woman’s responsibility / mental health.

Some people can’t help focusing on minutia and completely miss the big picture message, which wasn’t about pubic hair, it was about friendship. Get past it.

If you actually CARE about someone, you notice when they aren’t acting like themselves. The only one being judgemental here is you.

I did everything you described Emma! Definitely a very hard year to get through. 3 years in and I’m loving life and feel happy again. It’s so good to let every woman know that it’s 100% normal but that you do need to set a time limit on how long you can let it all go.

Yes. This resonated so deeply. I just hit the official year-since-he-moved-out mark in June and a year since I filed on the 26th of September. I was such a mess. My daughter ate a lot of canned soup while I lived on Triscuits and Mozzerella. I was so numb to my own emotional health that I took a stress test to see how I was feeling. I’m liberated now, my life is my own and I am working with my ex to coparent. We’re not perfect, but we’re much happier apart and after dating several of the very wrong guys, I’m finding out that I’m pretty damn happy by myself! Of course the second I decided that I met someone outstanding. I didn’t realize that I could be this emotionally healthy after what a mess I was last year.

Yes I was letting the kids have extra sweets when I normally wouldn’t. And I wasn’t even eating. And when I did I was taste testing food I had made for the kids. I think my love off of food for the most part was bagged popcorn.

I was a hot mess that first year. I dated like a little hurricane but was NOT taking care of myself. I was an emotional wreck, consuming more calories in wine than anything else. I lost a ton of weight and was weak in all ways; couldn’t eat, emaciated, couldn’t be alone, couldn’t put down the wine glass. I finally got sick of myself and knew I needed to change. I sat down and picked three areas to change, found one thing to do in each area to make the improvement, and set to work. It’s been 3 years now and I’m doing awesome! It’s a tough road but so worth every painful step.

The first paragraph made me laugh. Oh man I remember my first year. What a mess. I remember serving macaroni and cheese to my son right on the dining room table because there wasn’t a clean bowl or plate or even Tupperware lid in the house. I also spent my last $100 on a clearanced cashmere sweater one month instead of paying my phone bill. No room to judge here.

I loved this article. I was admittedly one of those people that needed the time to feel. It was bad…lol but I think it was needed. The one thing that was mentioned that I learned too late was how to introduce myself, the new me. I felt like I had to tell the story of why I had two kids and was alone. Now, after therapy, I don’t care enough to rehash it. I’m so much more than a divorced mom. I like to focus on that.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *