Who Can I Talk to About My Divorce?

divorce talk

I talked to everyone about my divorce.

No, really.

The abruptness and the shock of it all seemed to manifest itself in an overabundance of thoughts and an inability to keep them to myself.

The clerk at the gas station learned why I trembled with anxiety every time I ran my debit card (because I was still afraid that my ex would somehow manage to drain my personal account). My coworkers heard about the latest information I gleaned from my still-legal-husband’s other wife’s blog (the description of them showering with monkeys in Uganda was a crowd favorite; you can’t make this stuff up). And my poor parents and the friend I lived with were subjected to pretty much every thought that pinball through my spinning mind.

I don’t recommend that approach.

In my case, the fallout from the verbal explosion was minimal. The mutual friends either jettisoned my ex immediately or I decided that they were not worth the effort. There were no children to get caught up in the web of oversharing. I didn’t join Facebook until after I had learned to keep my mouth shut. And, thanks to the wise encouragement of those around me, I never revealed his identity to those that didn’t already know him.

Many people react like I did and talk about their divorces too often, too openly or with the wrong people. Others decide that it’s all too personal and elect to clam up and hold it all in.

The best response is one in between, where you deliberately choose who to talk to about your divorce so that you get the support you need without the risk of additional drama or negative consequences.

Talk About Your Divorce With Impunity

 

Your journal – The absolute safest place to share all of your thoughts about your divorce is in a private journal. This is the one place where you can say anything (even the darkest thoughts and fears) without worrying about facing judgment. Just make sure that your journal is password-protected or locked if there are others around.

Your counselor, clergy or physician – These people are all professionals whose job is to help you. They are trained to be non-judgmental and required to keep your information confidential. Keep in mind that you may have to hunt around a bit to find people that seem like a good fit for you. But once you find them, don’t hold back. The more they know, the more they can assist you.

Supportive friends and family – You may have to test the waters a little bit to see who can listen sympathetically, offer the necessary guidance and keep your conversations private. Once you find these confidants, talk openly. They’re your cheerleaders and often your motivators.

 

Talk About Your Divorce With Some Caveats

 

Intimate strangers – I know it seems like an oxymoron, but it’s not. These are those people that you connect with briefly but deeply. You may meet on a plane, at an out-of-town bar or sitting in adjacent seats in a waiting room. You never exchange names or identifying details, yet the anonymity allows for a certain reckless vulnerability. In these situations, share as much as you wish about the emotional impact but withhold the particulars. Throughout, be mindful of the other person’s reaction. If they are asking questions or sharing their own circumstances, they are receptive. If they seem uncomfortable with the exchange, it’s time to move on.

Blogs and internet support groups – These can be a lifesaver when you don’t have an in-person support group or you are looking for others who have experienced similar situations to your own. These are similar to the intimate strangers in that you get to know them very well in some ways and not at all in others. Again, refrain from sharing identifying details or names of others involved (it’s up to you if you want to share your real name). In addition, be mindful of the tone of any groups that you’re joining and strive to stay within their cultural norms.

More judgmental friends and family – These are the people that love you and want the best for you, but they don’t necessarily “get” you. They may respond to your cries with, “Everything happens for a reason” or “God won’t give you more than you can handle.” Your frustrations with your ex might be met with, “I never did like them. What did you expect?” They mean well, but their perspectives and responses can hurt more than help in the short term. Feel free to censor what you share with them to avoid unnecessary grief.

Attorneys – Obviously, when it comes to the legal aspects, tell your lawyer everything. But the emotional? It’s best to keep it to a minimum. Oh, they’ll listen. But you’ll end up paying. Literally.

 

Talk About Your Divorce With Caution

 

Social media – If it’s online, assume it can and will be read by everyone. If you’re still in the process of divorcing, err on the side of caution and say nothing. Social media excerpts are quite commonly used now in divorce and custody cases. After the legal proceedings are finalized, you can share some information. But be careful to avoid creating drama.

New dates – Once you’re dating, it’s natural to talk about what brought you to dating. If you can’t discuss your divorce or your ex without becoming emotional or going into the whole saga, it’s best to steer clear. If you do decide to talk about your divorce, focus more on what you’ve learned from it than on how much you despise your ex.

Children – Obviously, you will have to talk with your kids about your divorce. Repeatedly. As you do, remember that these conversations are for them, not for you. They need to hear that it’s not their fault, that both parents love them and that there will be some stability in their lives. Allow their questions to guide the conversation. It’s okay to let them know that you’re sad or scared, but you also need to show them how to move through those feelings.

Mutual friends – These poor folks are caught in the middle. If you want to keep them as friends, it’s best to keep the divorce talk to minimum.

 

Talk About Your Divorce With Abridgment

 

Professionals on the periphery – Your accountant, insurance adjuster and maybe even your child’s teacher will need to know something about your change in marital status. Share only what is necessary and only when necessary.

Coworkers – If you’re friends with any coworkers and trust their restraint, feel free to share more. Otherwise, it’s best to stick with an elevator-speech divorce announcement just to keep them in the know and to alert them that you may be having a harder time than usual at work.

Acquaintances and neighbors – Keep it short. Keep it simple. And keep any salacious details out of it. These are often the folks that like to create drama.

 

And When Not to Talk About Your Divorce

 

It’s okay to respond to questions that feel intrusive or that come at inopportune times with, “I’m not wanting to talk about that right now.” You are not required to tell anyone about what you’re going through and when and if you do share, you get to decide how much. However, be careful about being overly private and cautious. When we bottle too much up, the pressure has a tendency to build. When we share our stories, we also share the burden. Allow others to help lighten your load.

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Divorce: Expectations vs. Reality

Was your divorce anything like you would have expected divorce to be like?

I know mine wasn’t.

Not. Even. Close.

Movies, books, billboards, magazine articles and my own parent’s divorce created certain expectations in my mind about what I could anticipate from divorce.

But the reality?

Something entirely different.

Can you relate?

Here are the expectations many of us have before we experience divorce and the reality that we realize only once we’re living it. 

How to Survive “Transplant Shock” After Divorce

It was a gift, a full and beautiful French hydrangea, with it’s startling blue pom-poms of flowers perched above the simple white wrapping over the pot. I placed it on a counter, where it was out of the reach of the dogs, and for several weeks, I tended to it carefully with the enclosed fertilizer packet and a carefully metered watering schedule. In return, I was awarded with stunning and tenacious blooms for many days.

Then, so slowly that it was hard to notice at first, the plant began to languish. New buds were no longer forming and the ones that held tight were beginning to turn to parchment with age. The leaves, once a deep, leathery green, began to yellow, their pallor hinting at ill health.

At this point, I was a complete neophyte when it came to plant care. So, I turned to the wisdom held on the shelves of my public library combined with the practical advice delivered by a seasoned gardener who was volunteering at the library that day. I learned that the gifted shrub would only survive for a brief period in its small pot but that, luckily, it was suited to the climate found in Atlanta. I was instructed to purchase some planting soil, pick a suitable spot in my yard, and transfer the plant to its new home where, I was assured, it would thrive.

I followed the instructions as I understood them, holding visions of a huge hydrangea soon becoming the stunning focal point of my tired front yard.

Instead, I found myself pulling its skeletal remains from the earth a mere four weeks after planting. In my ignorance and haste, I had failed to adequately protect my charge against transplant shock, and it succumbed to the stress.

Years later, I again thought of that little plant. I, too, had gone from being in full-flower, content in my small world, to suddenly being ripped out and forced into a new – and harsher – environment. In the interim, I had become a competent gardener, successfully transplanting many plants. Now, it was necessary for me to apply that knowledge to myself so that I could survive the transplant shock after divorce.

 

Timing Matters

With plants, it’s best to move them during their more dormant season and when they will not face the additional stress of extreme weather conditions. When it comes to divorce, we may not have the option to make the move at a time when the rest of life is relatively inert, so we have to be mindful of the additional pressures the timing may entail. As much as possible, try to push the pause button on the non-essential demands for the short term, so that you can direct your energies to getting settled in your new space.

 

Be Mindful About Placement

One of the many mistakes I made with my first hydrangea was siting it where it received afternoon sun, a death sentence for this shrub in the south. I almost made a similar mistake with myself, placing myself in an environment – alone in a rental – where I would receive too little social connection. Instead, I resided with a dear friend, where I had the connection and sanctuary I needed. Don’t worry about what others say you’re “supposed” to do or the mental image you’ve held for this life stage, place yourself where you will thrive.

 

Add a Little Bit of the Old

When I moved my little shrub that day, I carefully brushed away as much of the old soil as I could, thinking that it was stale and barren and needed to be replaced with completely new earth. Except that new soil was a huge blow to the struggling roots, with nothing familiar to comfort them, they simply froze from the shock. We’re not that different. When everything is new, we have nothing to rely on as we begin our exploration. Keep some things constant as you move from your old life to the new.

 

Provide Plenty of Water

It turns out that stressed plants need more water. They’ve not yet acclimated to their site, so they’re not yet completely efficient and the growth of new roots requires plenty of moisture. We also have a tendency to need more of the things that sustain us during a period of translate shock. We require more attention, more sleep and more support.

 

Don’t Try to Grow Too Fast

I fell for the advertising. While purchasing the planting soil for my little shrub, I picked up a gardening magazine from the checkout line. A two-page advertisement showed a glorious hedge of hydrangeas with the tagline, “Brought to you by Miracle Grow.” So, of course, I added the fertilizer to my cart and liberally applied to over the next two weeks. It was a huge mistake. I was forcing the plant to put out new stems and leaves while the rootball beneath the soil was still too small to support the new growth. We can easily fall into the same trap after divorce. The deep work, the root work, that we need to do to thrive isn’t fun. It isn’t sexy or beautiful. It’s easy to try to spread out too far, too fast and ignore what anchors us. And, just like the plant, it cannot be supported long term.

 

Loosen the Barriers

I probably killed that plant in fifteen different ways. When I finally removed its remains, I saw evidence of some root growth. To a point. I had made the planting hole too small and the roots had stopped growing once they reached the barrier of the rock-hard Georgia red clay. Sometimes, after divorce, we can find ourselves in a pocket of compassion and intervention and then once the empathy and concern of others begins to fade, we feel as though we’re up against a rock wall of indifference. Strive to integrate those barriers so that support is slowly decreased as you gain your strength.

 

Patience

So many of my mistakes with my little shrub were made out of impatience. I wanted it to be fully grown. Like yesterday. But, as with anything, there are no shortcuts. Instead, it’s a process of trial and error, adaptation and setbacks, and learning from each mistake. Only then, and with time, will the blooms return in full.

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Forget the Casserole! What People in Crisis REALLY Need

When bad things happen to good people, the calvary arrives soon after with food and flowers. Level surfaces soon fill with cards expressing condolences and well wishes. Money is collected to help with both normal and unexpected expenses. Friends and family all want to help and being unable to change the circumstances, they respond with whatever loving gestures they can.

At first, the attention is overwhelming. The outpouring of affection comforting. But eventually, the letters stop arriving. The casseroles are consumed and their dishes returned. The dried flowers have been relegated to the bin. The calls to check in are fewer and further between and when they do occur, their is an undertone of impatience that the crisis wasn’t over once the initial offerings faded.

And yet the need is still there.

The loved ones still care, but they’re busy with their own lives. Consumed with their own problems. And perhaps most of all, they find it difficult and uncomfortable to sit for any extent of time with the harsh realities that life can bring. It’s easier to simply pretend it isn’t there.

Our culture is uncomfortable with grief. With pain. With anger that rises unprovoked. We’re expected to be gracious at the onslaught and then to suffer in silence so as to avoid the discomfort of those around us.

Speaking Out: Why Hiding Your Struggles Only Makes Them Worse

The initial outpouring of support is needed. It’s the transport when you cannot manage any movements unassisted. But it’s rarely enough.

Both because grieving does not speak calendar and because it’s a journey that often requires assistance.

Which is why I propose another way to support those going through crisis – a contribution to a well-being and mental health fund.

These monies would be earmarked towards services and modalities that help support mental health and healing – therapy, medications, retreats, specialized trauma care, mind-body practices  – whatever is deemed applicable and helpful by the recipient.

The benefits are multifold. First, it helps to normalize the idea that attention towards mental health is important and should carry no more stigma than care towards the physical body. It allows the professionals to pick up where the first responders left off, helping the person move through their grief and pain. Contributions to a fund signify that grief is a process, not an event. It allows that it will be ongoing for some time. And most practically, most insurance plans only address mental health needs at a minimum and the fund can help to make up the difference. A mental health fund is a gift that truly can keep on giving because it will help people regain their lives after crisis.

I’d love to see an app or website designed and marketed around this idea. More of a Please Comfort Me instead of a Please Fund Me. Any programming-minded takers?

 

Facing Divorce? How to Build the Support System You Need

We accept the people need help at the beginning and end of life.

Divorce is the end of one life and the beginning of another.

You will need help.

But how do you get it? Finding the support you need can be challenging, especially when you’re likely facing time and money constraints. Here are 7 ways that you can find and create the support you need until you can stand on your own again.