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The Divorce Roller Coaster - Staying Buckled and Keeping Your Head
The emotional impact of a divorce can be intense, and has lots of highs and lows - and upside down and sideways turns as well. Like a roller coaster ride that you didn’t buy a ticket for, the emotions that emerge during divorce can come and go unpredictably. These feelings can be a bit overwhelming. There are, however, some things you can do to ground yourself at these times. The following 8 practical suggestions are useful for persons dealing with a difficult divorce. Of course if problems persist, you need to consult a psychologist or other mental health professional for your specific situation.
1. Eat, Sleep, and Exercise
You need to keep yourself healthy and fit through all that happens. Your children need you to be well, and you need resources not deficits in dealing with the many challenges ahead. Problems with too much or too little food can signal an emerging clinical depression. The same is true for too much sleep or waking up too early in the AM.
2. Do Not Get Isolated
A common reaction to the early phases of separation and divorce is to keep to your self. This is not a problem over the short term. After all, it can be awkward talking to friends and family, especially when you haven’t sorted much out yet yourself. But you need support now more than ever so be sure, sooner rather than later, to seek out the friends and relatives whom you have found helpful in the past. Make a new friend or two while you are at it, especially if your spouse is trying to isolate you (this is common in abusive relationships).
3. Don’t Make Changes Too Quickly
Separation and Divorce create a lot of changes (changes in residence, changes in your relationship with the children, a more challenging budget, possible changes in school and work, dealing in new ways with family and friends, etc.). Do not overload yourself by taking on too much at once. Take "baby steps" at first. GET YOUR TEAM IN PLACE. In a contested divorce, you may need the help of many professionals. Take your time and assemble a team you can trust. It will include a lawyer, but the team may also include an accountant or financial adviser, and a therapist or personal coach.
4. Do Not Make Decisions You Will Later Regret
Anger, guilt and revenge motivations may all call for quick (and possibly stupid) decisions and actions. Since you should make as few changes as possible anyway (see #3 above), it’s a good idea to put off those "hot button" decisions and actions until a calmer moment.
5. Focus and Prioritize
There never was a better time to get organized. One thing you should consider buying is a file-o-fax ˙ or Palm Pilot ˙. Such gimmicks can help you get together an effective "to do" list. Sometimes it is easier to prioritize and focus when you bounce ideas off of someone else. A coach can be especially helpful at supporting you while you focus and prioritize.
6. Renew Yourself
If you have a relationship with God, the resources that come with that can be useful. Or maybe you could take up meditation, TAI CHI, or yoga.
7. Treat Yourself
Separation and divorce often brings unusual demands, more financial strain, and fewer opportunities to have fun. Be sure to give yourself a treat now and then. Things that can give you a smile or a moment of peace and quiet do not have to cost much in either money or time. Maybe a bubble bath is what you need, (or a walk in the park, or a good book).
8. Get the Support You Need
You are not a failure when you need help. It is actually sensible and maybe even a little brave to admit you can’t do it all yourself. Support groups may be the answer, either through your church or synagogue or through a local psychologist or social worker. If you are too busy or too shy for a group, you might consider a virtual group or virtual divorce workshop.
These are a few ideas to help you stay grounded. As the divorce progresses the challenges are different. Soon you begin to negotiate the different stages of grief and mourning, and eventually its time to move on. It can be good to remind yourself that this is a process that has a beginning, middle, and end. Eventually, you can get off the roller coaster.
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In the District of Columbia, legal separation, divorce a mensa et thoro ("from bed and board"), may be granted on the grounds of 1) adultery, 2) cruelty, 3) voluntary separation and 4) living separate and apart without cohabitation.
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