When people think about divorce, they tend to focus on the event itself. The legal battle, the decision to bring it up, dividing up assets — those are the things that come to mind.
But what is often overlooked is starting over after divorce: After the lawyers have been paid, the papers have been signed, and you are on your own once again. It’s a part of divorce that many people never worry about until they find themselves in the middle of it. Then, being blindsided can make it so much worse.
What comes after the divorce can be just as difficult to navigate as the divorce itself. Finding guidance or a bit of helpful advice can be exactly what you need to get through this trying time and make things a little better.
Allow Yourself Time to Grieve
This is a big misconception for those who have never experienced a divorce. The divorce is over and the fighting is (hopefully) coming to an end, so you should be ready to experience the rest of your life. All of the grieving and mourning should be over with!
Not only is this false, but hearing this from people can make us feel even worse. Is there something wrong with us if we’re still processing everything afterwards?
There is nothing wrong with you. A huge portion of your life has come to an end. A part of your life that, when you began it, you thought would last forever. That’s a harsh thing to process, and you deserve time to grieve.
So, before you consider the big things and what you need to get done, give yourself time. The whole process of grieving and becoming whole can take months to years, depending on the person. You don’t need to put off your life for that long — in fact, you shouldn’t. But you do need to dedicate a bit of time to grieving. Let everything out.
If you’ve been considering connecting with a therapist or coach, now is the perfect time. Remember, there is no shame in this. These are professionals whose job it is to help you through this process of starting over after divorce.
Many divorcees are unable to mourn at all during the actual divorce. They are so focused on just getting through it that there’s no time to reflect or process the event. Between their normal responsibilities, working with lawyers, dividing up assets, and the thousand and one other things that occur, there simply isn’t time to grieve.
But now you have time: to feel sorry for what you’ve had to go through, to mourn what you’ve lost, to weep, and, eventually, to imagine how life will be now.
As you get through the grief, it’s time to start looking at the technical things that need to be done. You got through the worst already and wrapped up a majority of the legalese in the divorce proceedings. Now it’s time to dot a few T’s and cross a few I’s so that you can begin your new life.
Notify Your HR Department
Human Resources prefers to keep things up to date, so it’s important to notify your H.R. department about your change in marital status as soon as you can. This will ensure your employee benefits information (including health and life insurance) is accurate.
Change the Beneficiary Where Needed
If your ex-spouse is listed anywhere as the beneficiary or primary contact, now is the time to change it. Common places a beneficiary is listed are life insurance policies, ToD (Transfer on Death) accounts, and emergency contact listings.
If Needed, Get Health Insurance
A divorce counts as a qualifying event for health insurance purposes. That means, if you previously received health insurance through your spouse, you don’t need to worry about not being covered. That said, deadlines are strict, so you’ll want to check how soon you have to get coverage before you’ll be forced to go the remainder of the year without.
Set Up a Calendar for You and Your Ex (If Desired)
Sometimes, communication will be required. If you have kids, or another reason to meet regularly, it may be easiest to set up a calendar the two of you can edit. This will make meetings or custody arrangements easy to manage and stay on top of.
Find an Apartment to Rent and Furnish
Find a place to rent if you’re in need. Don’t worry about trying to furnish it with brand new pieces. You can get perfectly good couches, tables, chairs, and more from Craigslist, a local FB group, the Salvation Army, or Goodwill. With a bit of digging, you should be able to find anything from reliable older pieces to almost new items for a great price.
What Did Your Spouse Used to Do?
This is a question that, by proactively answering, allows you to nip a number of problems in the bud before they start. When you’re married, the other person often takes up certain responsibilities that you no longer have to worry about. This is especially true in households with a sole provider.
Make a list of the things that you know your ex-spouse used to handle, or that you haven’t done since you were single. This will likely be a varied list. Things might include:
- Changing the oil
- Balancing a checkbook
- Mowing the lawn or other yardwork
- Scheduling appointments
- Grocery shopping
- Getting the kids ready
Even if you don’t intend to take on everything your ex-spouse did, it’s good to have an idea of what they handled. For example, you may prefer to simply hire someone to handle your yardwork, but it’s best to have that planned out before you’re dealing with an overgrown lawn.
All of this may seem a bit excessive, but this is actually a good opportunity to improve yourself. So many people stagnate during this time, but you have the opportunity to become more self-reliant. That type of independence becomes a lot rarer as we get older, and having that trait can be a very attractive thing if you decide to begin dating again!
Deciding Who You Want to Be When You Are Starting Over After Divorce
Starting over after a divorce can be a rough time, but that doesn’t mean it’s only full of downsides. You are no longer part of a “we,” where every action, hobby, or decision needs to (at least partially) be approved by both parties.
Once again, you are now an individual. Think back to before you were married: who did you used to be?
Because now it’s time to remember that.
Did you used to love hiking, golfing, cooking, or traveling, but lost that passion over the years? You now have the full freedom to rekindle that flame.
Or perhaps you don’t want to be who you used to be. You would like to be someone new. You have the power and freedom to make that decision. Were there hobbies you wanted to take up or opportunities you wanted to pursue but were forbidden to do so?
So consider what you would like your new life to be full of. You can garden, travel the world, start a business, visit that tiny dive bar, reserve a seat at those crazy restaurants, or anything else.
Your life is your own now. It comes with some new challenges, and it will have its difficulties, but you can pursue what truly matters to you.
Reconnect with Friends and Family
What happened to the friends you used to spend time with? Not just the married friends that were convenient to have dinner dates or meet up with, but all of your friends.
The ones that you used to talk to all the time but found yourself drifting apart from.
Where are they now?
Are they within driving distance?
Do you have their numbers or social media profiles?
Why not reach out to them? See if they want to have dinner, meet for a drink, or just talk. You would be surprised by how receptive people are when contacted by an old friend they’ve drifted apart from.
Don’t be worried that you haven’t spoken in so long. Imagine the joy you would feel if an old friend called you to talk.
What If I Don’t Have Those Friends?
Sometimes, a divorce gets really nasty and we find ourselves isolated. Your ex-spouse stole all of your friends, or you were in a relationship where they were the only person allowed to be your friend.
If you find yourself alone, that’s okay. Because we’re never too old to make new friends.
If you’re unsure of where to look to make those new connections, here are a few ideas:
- Local meetup groups
- Your church
- Groups for divorcees
- Yoga or group exercise sessions
- Ask an acquaintance to grab a cup of coffee or a drink
- Invite someone to start exercising with you
- Social clubs
When married, we often run into the issue of depending on our spouse to meet all of our social needs. That becomes a problem after a divorce. We can find ourselves alone. Humans are social creatures, and not having that interaction can affect us in a number of negative ways. It’s important to ensure we’re interacting with others, even if it’s as simple as chatting over coffee or during church.
Starting over after a divorce is the next step in building a new life, one you can be happier in and that allows you the freedom to pursue the things that fulfill you. It can be difficult, but with a bit of preparation beforehand, you can navigate it and come out better than before.