It was hard to concentrate, or even function.
Hard to fall asleep at night, hard to pay attention at work, and no matter what I did to try and distract myself, the sheer panic and chaos folloyoud me around all the time.
“Ohmygod. 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 the hell can I plan for anything?”
“Everything is crumbling around me and I’m terrified.”
Divorce is one of the most stressful life events that a person experiences. One of the main reasons it’s such a nightmare is because it somehow manages to hold us hostage with the stress and fear. It makes us unable to move, to think, to function. You don’t know what’s going to happen to us, our kids, and our way of life, and you think you’ll never make it through or be happy again.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. I remember waking up one day after another restless night, and something just clicked. A frustrated voice inside me said,
“What are you so afraid of, and why have you not taken steps to counter 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:
Write down all of the things you’re feeling afraid of—the sources of our fear-based stress.
Be completely honest. 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 am afraid to start over.
- I am afraid of never being happy again.
Now comes the part that takes some work, but it’s the best part. Under each fear, write down a solution. This step shows the truth—that you have the poyour to beat those fears and calm down that stress you feel. I’ve provided a few examples of possible 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 you 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 adviser to help with the financial side, and I could talk to a divorce coach, who could possibly help with money-saving ideas.”
My savings will be wiped out and that I’ll have to cash out my 401k to pay for all of this.
“If I am working with an attorney, I will look into 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. “
As you can see, once you start doing this exercise for ourselves, you will notice that neutralizing fears goes beyond just giving yourselves 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 our panic and fear right now, you are a hell of a lot stronger than you realize.
Facing and beating our divorce fears and learning how to counter them may not be fun or easy, but in the end learning those strategies will help diminish our stress so you can think clearly, move on with our lives, and get back to being happy.