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Divorce can be a very traumatic event, and fear about the future can paralyze you. Here are some strategies to cope with divorce fears.
For days, even weeks, I could barely function. I couldn’t concentrate and would barely eat. Falling asleep at night was the worst, as I would stare up into the darkness, my mind racing as feelings of panic and chaos taunted me.
Omigod. I have no idea what do to. Will I ever get through this?
I have no idea where I’m going to be in a month, much less a year. How can I plan for anything? How will I pay for anything? I’ve never felt so alone
Everything is crumbling around me and I’m terrified.
I remember trying to focus at work, unable to do so, because all I could think about was divorce divorce divorce. How on earth would I figure out the legal things? How could I budget when I no longer had my husband’s income? What if I was never the same again?
These thoughts are all too familiar for anybody experiencing separation and divorce. Next to death in the family, it’s usually said that that divorce is one of the most stressful life events that a person experiences. Divorce pushes onto us a sense of stress that is rooted in fear, because we don’t feel like we are in control and we feel like our sense of normalcy is crumbling around us.
Are we resigned to feeling paralyzed by fear during our split?
It came to a head one morning, when I struggled to drag myself out of bed, having probably only rested a few hours, the fear of the unknown stealing away my precious sleep. But I remember waking up that day, shuffling into the restroom to look at the disheveled hair and deep bags under my eyes, and something just clicked. It was some inner voice, completely exasperated, that said to me:
“What are you so afraid of, Martha? Why are you acting like this, worrying about everything and scared of everything but doing absolutely nothing to stop it?”
And that is where this fear-blasting exercise was born. When you feel like you’re going off the deep-end with fear of not knowing, do the following:
Do this wherever you want—in a journal, on your laptop, on your smart phone or iPad—it doesn’t matter, just someplace that you have easy access to.
Be completely honest with yourself! No fear or concern is ever irrational, stupid, or unreasonable. Some of my own fears included…
–I will have to move out of the marital home—the only one I’ve known for years.
–I won’t be able to afford a long and drawn out divorce.
–I will have to put the lawyer fees on my credit card.
-My savings will be wiped out and that I’ll have to cash out my 401k to pay for all of this.
-My family will judge me.
-My friends will shun me.
-I will be alone and don’t know what to do.
-I just know I am going to break down at work and everybody will look at me like I’m some sort of crazy person.
-I am afraid to start over.
-I am afraid that I am not worthy of love and that I’ll never have a healthy relationship again.
-I am afraid of never being happy again.
**Your fears may be similar, or you may have additional fears, such as:
-I won’t get to see my children.
-The kids are going to have a hard time adjusting and they will never recover from this.
-He/She will bleed me dry and I’ll lose everything.
-I won’t know how to handle all of this stress and I’m going to go off the deep end.
List everything that you are afraid of but don’t worry if you missed anything. You can always come back and add to your list. There is no limit here and the important thing to remember is nobody is judging you, you shouldn’t be judging yourself, and every sort of fear you have is something that you can meet head-on and beat.
Now comes the part that takes some work, but it’s the best part. Under each fear, write down a solution. This step shows you the truth—that you have the power to beat those fears and calm down that stress you feel. I’ve provided a few examples so you get the gist of it before you write your own solutions.
– I will have to move out of the marital home—the only one I’ve known for years.
If I want to stay here, I am going to speak with my attorney to see what my options are to remain. I will look at the budget to see if this is possible, but if it is not, I know I have plenty of options for other housing. I also know that I am the one who has the memories in my heart, and that I, along with my children, are still a home and can create our own memories, wherever we are.
– I won’t be able to afford a long and drawn out divorce.
I do not want to spend tens of thousands of dollars on a divorce. If my spouse and I are on speaking terms, I will examine options for using divorce mediation, which could help prevent long expensive court battles. I will also research my options and ask around to find a good divorce attorney that uses a conciliatory problem-solving approach, instead of a belligerent gladiator one. I may also speak with a financial advisor to help with the financial side, and I could talk to a divorce coach, who could possibly help with money-saving ideas.
If I am working with an attorney, I will possible payment plans. I may also seek pro-bono help or find divorce legal clinics that can help minimize costs. I will focus on the big picture. If I don’t want to wipe out my savings fighting in court, I will learn how to choose my battles so I can move on with my life.
-My family will judge me
I will be honest and ask for their support, but I do not have to surround myself with people who will make me feel worse about the situation. If I am afraid of this, I will work with a therapist, who can help me create boundaries with my family and help me grieve in a healthy way.
-I will be alone and don’t know what to do
I may feel alone because I’m no longer with my spouse, but I will find a great support system—there are support groups, online groups, friends who care about me. I will not be afraid to ask for help. I will be kind to myself, patient with myself, and realize I don’t have to do everything at once.
-I am afraid to start over
I recognize that there is a lot on my plate right now, and yes, the life that I had grown comfortable with has had a change of plans. Although it may not seem like it right now, I am actually getting a second chance with my life, which is a gift. Yes, I will have to do things on my own, and it will be weird to not think of myself as part of a couple. But starting this near chapter in my life is giving me the chance to be happy again and to live my life on my own terms.
As you can see, once you start doing this exercise for yourself, you will notice that neutralizing your fears goes beyond just giving yourself a pep-talk. This exercise can help you start taking action.
And when you take action against those fears, they no longer become the things that will keep you up at night —instead, they become the logical courses of action — merely things on a to-do list — that you will accomplish because despite your panic and fear right now, you are a hell of a lot stronger than you realize.
Facing and beating your divorce fears and learning how to counter them may not be fun or easy, but in the end learning those strategies will help diminish your stress so you can think clearly, move on with your life, and get back to being happy.
Published earlier here.
Image source: divorce fears by Shutterstock.
Martha Bodyfelt is a divorce coach whose website, Surviving Your Split, helps women navigate their
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