The first few minutes, hours, and days will envelop you like a fog, whether you’re the leaver or the left. Trust me. I stood there before the bench and heard the judge ask my spouse, “Is your marriage irretrievably broken?” and I heard this response: “Yes.” And in my head (after eighteen hard years of marriage and prayers for both healing and release and fifteen months of reconciliation attempts and a legal separation filing on my part), and I inwardly and silently screamed, “It is?!? Since when?!?” This is called shock. And it’s completely normal.
So here are a few things I would suggest you do during your first year of being divorced.
For the day of:
Make a plan. Will you go to the courthouse alone or do you want a friend there for support? Will you go straight home and into bed? Or will you go shopping? Or get a massage? Or meet a friend or two for tea or prayer? Do not just go get divorced. You will walk out of that courtroom having no earthly idea what to do with yourself if you don’t have a plan for your day.
Within the first couple weeks:
Don’t do anything drastic. Don’t cut all your hair off. Don’t get a tattoo of something big and scary and I-am-woman-hear-me-roar on your neck. Don’t buy a sports car. And don’t marry that guy you’ve been inappropriately texting throughout your separation. You’re a mess right now, even though you don’t think you are…big decisions can and should wait.
Within the first six months:
Read my book. But that’s kinda a given.
Get some coaching. And don’t wrap up until you’ve figured out the answers to at least these three questions: why did I marry him?, why did my marriage fail?, and what was my part in the demise of my marriage? Seriously. Keep digging until you know.
Community. If you’re not attending a Bible-believing church, this is the time to find one that’s all your own. And if you’re attending a church but not yet in a small group, get in one. Divorce can be isolating. We must make sure we’re leaving the house and talking to other humans. Oh, but don’t serve just yet. Just soak in.
Go through Heartbreak to Hope. This is my three-month comprehensive guide to ALL THINGS DIVORCE HEALING. You WILL feel better, stronger, softer and steadier as you move through each lesson, I promise. (A new session is starting super soon, like super super soon!)
Within the first year:
Do not date. For the love. I will come to your house and ring your neck if you do. You will think you are ready. You will not be. Listen, I’m not trying to be all bossy. Okay, yes I am. But it’s because I’m trying to save you from making super poor decisions too soon.
Rest. Give yourself a lot of opportunities to soak in moments of rest, whatever that looks like for you: a walk along a quiet path, reading a book in a coffee shop, lying on the couch watching a favorite movie, just sitting outside with a cup of tea watching the sunset. You have been through hell. Your body, mind and spirit need to recuperate. Allow this for yourself.
Grace. Show yourself tons and tons of grace. Grieving a marriage and healing from a divorce takes loads of time, more than you think it will. You will be driving down the road and see a car that looks like your ex’s and be hit with flashbacks. Or you’ll be in Target and “your song” comes on the overhead speaker and you’re toast, crying like a baby in the vitamin aisle (hypothetically…whatever).
I’m not going to lie: this will be a painful year. And it will be a weird year. You will feel about a million things, all sometimes on the same day. It’s all normal. And I promise you…I seriously promise you…you are going to be okay. Just hang on.
Join me for one of my free webinars: (click on the date below to nab your spot!)
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Wednesday, 8/26 at 12pm CST OR Thursday, 8/27 at 7pm CST
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Wednesday, 8/26 at 7pm CST OR Thursday, 8/27 at 12pm CST
Your advice is spot on! It’s not been a year quite yet for me. Sometimes I think I’m doing great. But I still have times when the future looks bleak and I can barely do what I have to do to keep me and my kids alive. Your blog and Facebook group have been all sorts of lifesavers for me. Love you!
Thank you, Jenny! Keep going, girl!
Such wise advice. Only 4 months for me and I know I would not have made it through with the attitude of grace that God has blessed me with if it were not for honest words from hearts such as yours. I find it totally ironic that you started your private FB group on August 19, 2012, for that’s the day my husband left me. I wish I had known you then, and been able to glean from your wisdom then, but God planned the exact moment “we would meet,” for I am grateful to Him for His perfect timing. Bless you as you continue to bless others.
Thanks so much for spreading the word about DivorceCare. I attended 3 -13 week sessions and then became a leader 5 years ago.
It does get better. God has redeemed so much of the brokenness I experienced during my marriage. I met a wonderful godly man and married him last October.
Praying for you!!
Thank you for sharing. I was married 23 years – I filed for the divorce because things were not changing and to continue to allow sin inside the relationship isn’t okay, after counseling and couples retreats. It was the hardest decision I made in my life. I had adult children – they knew I believed in marriage. It was the correct decision I made – but it’s hard to see the fall out in my children. I went to DivorceCare a couple of times…each time God taught me something and I believe it was to encourage others.
Life isn’t easy, but I do believe that God has a plan for each of us. I continue to enjoy my family and grandchildren. God is faithful.
You are right on!!! I am currently going through a divorce and it is one of the most painful experiences and I feel like I’m floating. Our song does come on, and I do see his car. Thank you for being so candid and honest.
“Show yourself tons and tons of grace. Grieving a marriage and healing from a divorce takes loads of time, more than you think it will.” This is so true. Post-divorce is much harder than I thought it would be. I wish I were better at the grace part.
Great advice Elisabeth. I did all these except the first one. I had no plan for the actual day. Which meant I ended up going out to dinner with my LAWYER! Yes, she was a nice lady, but it would have been great to have a friend there for me. My ex ended up getting a lot of things and custody I never thought he possibly could, and I was miserable. I ended up crying till 4 am the next day. How wonderful if I would have had a friend with me.
Such great advice! I wish I’d had this info when I was going through my divorce and immediately after. I did have 2 friends meet me at the courthouse and one took me out to lunch afterwards.
Like you said, I did not realize what a ‘mess’ I was. I thought I was ok I thought I was ready to meet the ‘real Mr. Right’.
5 years later, I have learned and grown so much more than I ever thought possible or than I ever even knew that I needed! I have my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ to thank for that and secondly a great Christian counselor.