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:
- Practice introducing yourself as a divorced person
- Learn how to co-parent with your ex
- Adjust to living alone again
- Consider post-divorce therapy
- Join a support group for divorced women
- Unfollow your ex on social media
- Allow yourself time to grieve your divorce
- Embrace change
- Set some goals
Follow these steps, and I promise you’ll come out a better version of yourself.
Recovering from divorce: What should I do the first year after divorce?
The first year after divorce is a period of transition and discovering who you are as a single person. This is my advice to help you get through it:
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
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. Find a certified mental health professional through BetterHelp.com. Read our review.
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 get through a divorce: Facing your one-year divorce anniversary
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.
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 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. Get a refi quote from Auto Credit Express in 30 seconds >>
- 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.
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:
- 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.
And check out our list of top movies and TV shows about single parents.
Recovering from divorce FAQs
How long does it take to emotionally recover from a divorce?
Every person recovers on their own timeline, says Dr. Elizabeth Campbell, a licensed psychologist and marriage and family therapist, who owns Life Directions Counseling, LLC in Spokane, Wash.
“The emotional recovery from a divorce varies greatly for each individual and depends on multiple factors such as the length of the marriage, the level of conflict, and the support network available,” says Campbell, who notes it can take anywhere from several months to several years to fully heal.
Campbell suggests patience, self-care, and professional help to navigate the stages of life after divorce, which may include grief, self-reflection, and rebuilding a new identity.
Rebecca Kangwa, a licensed mental health counselor in New York City and owner of Kangwa Psychotherapy, works with people going through divorce and navigating post-divorce recovery. She agrees with Campbell that every situation is different.
“Regardless, two people are experiencing loss,” Kangwa says. “When children are involved, it adds more layers to the situation.”
Children also navigate emotional challenges since a divorce impacts1:
- Time spent with each parent
- Economic and emotional security
- Level of social and psychological maturity
- How they view sex
- Outlook on faith and religion
- Performance in school
- Overall health and well-being
Do you ever fully recover from a divorce?
To answer this question, Kangwa suggests defining what recovery looks like to you.
These are some questions she asks her clients to consider:
- Does being recovered mean you don't love your partner anymore?
- Does it mean you are no longer crying about the situation?
- Does it mean you can emotionally and romantically move on into another relationship?
- Are you content with being single?
“By having people define their own growth and recovery, it can take away the pressure of expectations and empower them on their healing journey,” Kangwa says.
Research found that divorcing couples under 50 years old often experience a period of crisis that lasts about two years post-divorce.
For some, this period of mental and emotional strain can last indefinitely — people just learn to live with the feelings2.
Does the pain of divorce ever go away?
“Pain can go away, but it can also come back,” says Kangwa, who suggests couples often navigate the five stages of grief, also known as the Kubler-Ross model:
“You will not always move through grief in this order, and it can reappear at any time in your life,” Kangwa says. “It's less about moving on and more about moving with the emotions.”
Campbell says that while the pain of divorce may not ever disappear, it can diminish over time and with healing.
“Healing involves processing emotions, developing resilience, and creating a new life,” Campbell says. “With support from a therapist, you can learn effective coping strategies, gain insight into your experience, and find new sources of happiness and fulfillment.”
Bottom line: Recovering from divorce is not linear
The good news: there is life after divorce.
Campbell says that while it is not a linear process, you can expect to experience a range of emotions, including sadness, anger, and confusion.
“However, as time goes on, these emotions gradually give way to acceptance, healing, and the possibility of new beginnings,” Campbell says. “By embracing self-care, seeking support, and staying open to new possibilities, you can create a fulfilling and joyful life beyond 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.
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!
- “The impact of family structure on the health of children: Effects of divorce” The Linacre Quarterly, November 2014. National Library of Medicine https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4240051/
- “Depressive Symptoms Following Later-life Marital Dissolution and Subsequent Repartnering” Journal of Health and Social Behavior, June 2019. National Library of Medicine https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6565490/