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.
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.
- Life after divorce: What happens to a woman in the first year after divorce
- Recovering from divorce: How to get through the first year of divorce
- Divorce anniversary: What about the one-year anniversary after divorce?
- Starting a new life after divorce: How to start over FAQs
- Real moms on restarting life after divorce
Life after divorce: What happens to a woman in the first year after divorce
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. You will likely have to consider selling your home or refinancing a house. Downsizing your property and possessions can be cathartic.
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.
Recovering from divorce: 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.
1. “I am divorced.”
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.
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).
A co-parenting app like Our Family Wizard can help with features like a shared calendar, closed messaging and text, financial record keeping, an information vault for keeping track of contacts and medical and school information, as well as a way to download and submit records to courts.
3. 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. 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.
All these feels are normal and healthy!
4. Divorce counseling: Why you should consider post-divorce therapy
There’s no shame in getting professional help. You don’t even need to see a therapist IRL anymore, thanks to the plethora of self-care apps out there. Online therapy apps connect you with a licensed professional right from home.
Divorce anniversary: 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 three tips:
1. Practice 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. So 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. (Add this lavender bath tea to your tub to calm your mind while you soak.) If you need to lose weight, people swear by noom, the weightloss app that promises to change the way you think and feel about food.
- 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.
2. Practice yoga and meditation
- 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 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 Betterment to get focused on your goals. This investment platform helps you create a free financial plan, with access to human advisors for an additional fee.
- Work on improving 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!).
- Create 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.
4. Sell your engagement ring and wedding ring
I wrote about why I decided to sell my diamond ring, and how to do it safely. That post also gives step-by-step instructions on how to sell a diamond ring.
Why I sold my engagement ring
Top reasons to sell your engagement ring, wedding ring, and other sentimental jewelry include:
- You don’t use it, so get rid of it.
- 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.
- 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.
For most jewelry, CashforGoldUSA is my recommendation, as they pay within 24 hours, have a BBB rating of A+ and guarantee the highest price.
For jewelry that will sell for more than $1,000, Worthy.com is also an excellent choice with its online auction platform and insurance up to $100,000.
I have personally used both online jewelry buyers.
Educate yourself about your diamond’s value.
Why sell your engagement ring?
I am a huge fan of selling your engagement ring in the event that your relationship ends, and I did so myself about five years ago.
I only received a fraction of what my now ex-husband and I paid for it, but I felt I got a fair price and used the proceeds to fund a trip my kids took to Europe with their dad to visit family — which, again, I felt good about.
The real value in selling bridal jewelry, or other jewelry you don’t wear, is that it frees up all that negative energy attached to the item, stewing indefinitely in your jewelry box.
Even if you loved the ring, loved your ex, loved being married (yes, yes, yes for me), it is time to move on and free the mental energy attached to the ring — not to mention the money!
Time to stop fretting about what to do with it, sell it, and move on already!
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.
Plus, I got some cash that I needed at the time.
I don’t think it was insignificant that same month I started my first significant relationship in two years.
I also think that selling those diamond and gold rings has something to do with the fact that my ex and I have been getting along better than since before our split.
In ways I don’t fully understand, I was freed.
Starting a new life after divorce: How to start over FAQs
Is life over after divorce?
Oh god, no. Women and men thrive after their marriages end — build communities, careers and find love, and raise great kids. For more, check out my bestselling book The Kickass Single Mom (Penguin), which the New York Post called a “Smart, must-read.”
How hard is life after divorce? How bad is it?
The answer to this question is entirely personal, and can be measured by many factors, including emotional pain, financial stress, romantic loneliness and of course the stress and pain of your kids. A few factors that help women thrive after divorce:
- Aim for a low-conflict, uncontested divorce. This will set you up for a healthy co-parenting arrangement and create fewer things for you to be pissed about long-term.
- Aim to be financially independent of him. Say no to alimony and child support and find a fair way to split out-of-pocket expenses for the kids (insurance, child care, sports, school supplies).
- Insist on 50/50 time-sharing. Moms who don’t end up resentful, and poorer, according to my survey of 2,279 moms.
Does therapy help with divorce? Do I need counseling?
Therapy has been proven to help people struggling with all kinds of life transitions, and divorce definitely qualifies as a big-ass, major life transition! Therapy can help you understand why your marriage didn’t work out, process any grief, anger and loneliness, and help navigate co-parenting, and caring for your kids during their own difficult time.
Online therapy site BetterHelp take quality, PhD or Masters degree level therapists, and makes them accessible by video or phone sessions, for fees starting at $65/week, including unlimited messaging and weekly live sessions. Financial assistance available. A+ Better Business Bureau rating. I credit my experience with my BetterHelp counselor for saving my relationship with my boyfriend during pandemic (!). Use this link to get 10% off and get connected with a therapist immediately >>
Real moms 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!