Getting to the Other Side of Divorce

“It gets better.”

“There’s life after divorce.”

These were things said to me in the early-going of the divorce process. I only sort of believed them, and only from the people who had already been there. But I also believed somehow, someday, these words could turn out to be true.

But how it would actually happen? I had no clue. I still don’t have a clue a lot of times. But I’ve journaled and taken notes over the past year -the good, the bad, the all of it. And while everyone has a different way of getting to this unknown, other, better side of divorce, this is what I’ve experienced so far.

The first year of divorce is similar to the first year of raising a child.

That first year of being a new mom transformed me into the next version of myself, whether I wanted it to or not. Same thing with divorce. Both, at least for me, included a lot of sleepless nights, a lot of crying, a lot of days blurring together, days trying to remember if I even took a shower, a lot of relying on drive-thru for meals and for expensive coffee to make me feel luxurious in a time of being a hot mess. 

But while in this year of survival mode, both in the transitioning of being a mom and now being a divorced mom, somewhere along the way I started to find a routine, and some structure for both myself and my son. A new way of life has started to emerge. We’re finding a groove, even during the messy bumps in the road.

Know the grieving process. 

Understanding the grief process of divorce has been one of the most important things guiding me towards the other side. Grief can do weird things to the brain. Some say not to make any big decisions during grief. But I get why so many of us do that sometimes, because a big decision helps cover up the big emotions that come with grief. The worst feeling and best thing I’ve done for myself this past year is sit with grief instead of pretending it doesn’t exist. 

Clarity helps to see what is different now, and what is still good.

When the grief fog lifts, clarity starts settling in. The reality of being a single parent sets in. It means scheduling things differently than what I was used to before. It means letting go of what I thought life would be. It means redefining my own previous definition of what it means to be a family, and having to be okay with that. 

Single parenting means missing out on certain events sometimes. It means having to be okay with missing out on time with my son. It also means fully appreciating the time I do have with my son. It means still getting to see my sleeping kid snuggling on the bed with two sleeping dogs while I sneak into the kitchen for a cup of coffee in the morning. These are some of the best moments of my day I still get to have.

Laughter helps.

Sometimes, after putting my kid to bed and feeling nothing but exhaustion, all I have left in me is to look at parenting memes or watch TikTok videos for comic relief. It really does help. There have been times in the past year that I will watch a funny video, and I will laugh so hard that I cry. And then, the tears of laughter open up a valve somewhere, and tears of pain and loss will come flooding out. It’s the kind of crying that I didn’t realize I needed until I just needed a laugh.

Learning new things, including independence.

I am learning more and more how to be independent and take care of more things on my own– not that I was a hopeless cause before. Adulting can be hard, though. I’ve learned to finally cut the grass at the age of 40. I discovered that it’s not hard, it just consumes a lot of time that I don’t have. So at the age of 41, I learned how to find a lawn service to take care of mowing for me. Adulting can also mean asking others for help.

I’m also learning that while I can be pretty self-sufficient, I’m maybe also a recovering codependent. I realized this one weird day while shopping at Kohl’s.

A true story:

There I was, whisked into the store by the urgency of expiring Kohl’s Cash. Usually when this happens, I end up buying clothing for my kid. So I made my way to the kid’s clothing section first. But my son didn’t need clothes that day. So I found myself aimless on where to go next. I headed towards the men’s clothing section to shop for…the spouse I didn’t have anymore. Huh. I then headed over to the women’s section to shop for myself, aware of the order of operations in putting myself last on that list of who to shop for. It was an eye-opening moment in these post-divorce times, realizing certain shopping habits still existed and don’t have to anymore.

Saying yes to new things…but not Tinder.

I’ve been trying to say yes to more social outings, which is new for me. Putting myself “out there” and meeting people in new settings is my introverted self’s worst nightmare. I kind of hate being in crowds, unless it’s watching a basketball game at Carver. I will totally stand in a crowded line and make small talk while waiting for a Carver Cone. But in other social situations? It’s a skill I have to actively work on. And I am more than okay with that at this point in my life. I’m hoping it also sets a good example for my kid.

What I am not okay with is how dating seems to work in 2023. To age myself, dating apps did not exist the last time I was single. That is because smartphones didn’t really exist yet, either. If you wanted to check out a dating profile, which was still kind of taboo at the time, you had to log in to a computer or laptop.

I recently tried out Tinder, “just to see” what the popular app is all about, and I wish I could just un-see it now. I’ve tried other apps as well. I do see some of the benefit: it’s a fast way to meet other people. It’s also a fast way to feeling rejected and hopeless, which hits different and a little worse after going through divorce. (This could also just be me.) For now, I just want to swipe left on the dating world, which probably means I’m not ready for it yet. All it does currently is make me want to create a thesis on the psychology of dating apps. So maybe I don’t need a boyfriend. Maybe I just need grad school.

So that’s it so far – my attempt at putting a horrible time in life into an organized format. I’m not sure if my life after divorce has officially begun, or if there’s still more mess to work through. But I look back at where I was then and where I am now, and I can see the end of the last chapter winding down as a new chapter starts to form. And so far, it looks to be a pretty good life.


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