First, please find people to confide in who will listen to you without telling you what to do. Or if everyone does tell you what to do, listen, but try to listen to your heart and Heavenly Father more. Ashley was a good, non-bossy listener:
Second, expect that this will be the worst time in your life. Just wallow in it. Give in to it. Get in your bed and cry. Stop thinking that somehow you are going to get around the misery and the heartache without actually working your way through it. If you are using other things as a distraction to avoid feeling the pain...stop it. Believe me, it will hit you at some point so you might as well deal with your feelings now. Along those same lines, your sadness will hit you at odd times. I remember standing at the Macy's counter returning a knife set Sam gave me for Christmas. The lady helping me said "Are you sure you want to return these knives, they are really a nice set." I started bawling. It felt like a symbol of me returning the life I had and loved.
Third, find a great Therapist/Counselor. My marriage counselor met with me by myself in addition to meeting with me and Sam together during the year that Sam and I were doing marriage counseling. The time I spent with her alone did so much more for me than the time I spent in there with Sam. She convinced me that my divorce wasn't about me and helped me to get over feelings of regret, guilt, and anger. Ask around for references. You would be surprised at how many people/couples have seen a counselor. Don't be embarrassed to ask friends if they have one they can recommend.
Fourth, spoil yourself. No one else is going to do it. I picked up good lunches for myself (because food is very important to me) and bought myself stuff that I wouldn't have normally splurged on. Take your happiness anywhere you can find it. I know, I know, stuff doesn't provide lasting happiness but it sure helps in the short term.
Fifth, exercise. Just do it. Every day. Even if you hate it. This was a life saver for me and for every single person I have talked to who has gone through a divorce. The endorphins help. Just getting out of the house every morning helps. I did Club Phat when I things were going downhill with Sam and it was so good for me to have something else to focus on other than my failing marriage. Training for a race or something along those lines would be great too. Here is a picture of my good friend Kristen and I doing the Des News 10k:
Sixth, look on the bright side. You won't believe this right now, but there are upsides to getting divorced. I can see those now. It isn't really kosher to say this but I love my time alone without my kids when Sam has them. I love the break and getting stuff done. My married friends are secretly jealous of my Saturdays "off." I don't feel bad and I don't allow myself to miss my kids because when I do have them, It is a full time job with no help. I also have learned how to manage my money and take care of all of my financial matters. My dad has helped me a lot in this area...see this post. But I feel empowered and secure now that I am on top of all of the grown up things.
Seventh, Try to get over the labels. You know what I am talking about..."divorcee" (my least favorite!), "single mom", "broken family", "part member family", etc. I remember being at church one day and having to walk out because we were having a lesson about missionary work where they kept talking about part member families. I decided that day, I hated the label. We were so much more than that. However, now, the labels don't bother me so much. Now I almost wear the "single mom" label like a badge of honor.
Eighth, try to get along with your ex...even if it is just for your kids. If you can get along during the getting out phase, you will probably always get along. People always tell me how great it is that Sam and I get along so well. I am very lucky because Sam pays me every month, he shows up, he helps. He isn't a jerk. But there are times when it is still awkward. We put our feelings aside and do our best to be kind to each other and accomodating because let's face it, we are in each other's lives forever because of our kids. We took this picture together recently so that my kids have something to bring to school when they have to bring a photo of their family. It was something we did just to help them have less stress when that situation arises:
Ninth, Rely on the Savior. No matter what religion you are, look to a higher power for help and direction and perspective. I found so much hope in the Gospel of Jesus Christ and healing in the Atonement. Reading my scriptures, praying and attending the temple saved me during that critical time. When Sam moved out, I felt very peaceful and calm and happy. Not because he left, but because I felt the Spirit telling me I was doing the right thing. That kind of peace cannot be found anywhere else.
Tenth, finally, know that this too shall pass. Someday, you will wake up and go an entire day without thinking about the fact that you are divorced. It will be your new normal. Your kids will be okay, even better than okay..they will be happy. I am only a year out from getting separated and I am happy. I am much happier than I was living in the no man's land of "should I stay or should I go."
Maybe my next post will be about re-entering the dating scene the second time around! Heaven help me.