Now that you’ve had some time to grieve, it’s time to start to move forward. I’m not suggesting that you are healed, but you’ve stopped the bleeding enough to attend to the business at hand. Divorce is a business transaction, and time is of the essence. If you stick your head under the covers and ignore legal matters, your future self will not thank you. So, let’s work on leaving the past in the past and start to shift your mindset forward.

Acknowledge the loss

No matter how awful your former spouse was, divorce is a loss. When you are married, you had a different picture in mind than what you are facing now. If nothing else, you’ve lost that dream. It’s normal to be sad at times, even if you made the decision to leave or felt relieved when your spouse finally left.

Acknowledge your feelings

How do you feel? Sad? Mad? Heartbroken? Relieved? It’s all OK. You may be mourning the dream of your family that did not come to fruition. Or if you’ve been in a bad marriage for as long as you can remember, you may be relieved you no longer feel trapped. It’s all leading towards your healing.

Acknowledge the fear

Divorce brings up a lot of fears. Fear of abandonment. Fear of messing up your kids. Fear of living on a park bench with your pet pigeons. Divorce can take the sand out from underneath your feet and it’s not surprising that you are worried about being tossed back onto shore without your bikini top.

Fears expand in the dark so bring them into the light by writing them down. You can capture them on the Divorce Worries Worksheet or in your journal. Write them all down no matter how small or how silly they seem. Identify your top three divorce worries. These are the first things you should tackle with your divorce team, as we’ll discuss in the next module.

Be mindful of complaining

A couple of years ago, I went in for laparoscopic surgery for endometriosis. Now, while I WebMD the heck out of most things in advance, once I’ve made up my mind to trust a doctor, I trust them and Google things no further. So, I had no idea what laparoscopic surgery entailed. When I came to after the operation, I noticed I had three incision points, but I thought nothing of it, since I knew they’d done more scar tissue removal than planned. Also, I was craving a Diet Coke.

So, I drank my Diet Coke and thought nothing more of it until I suddenly had a terrible pain in my shoulder like I’d been shot. And people, I’ve had shingles in my shoulder so I’m not even being dramatic. I was also short of breath. I started to Google things to see if I was having a stroke because, well, perhaps I’m a little dramatic.

I was not having a stroke. Shoulder pain is a common side effect of laparoscopic surgery since one of the three incisions was for a tube hooked up to a canister of carbon dioxide. They filled me up like a balloon at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade so they could see what they were doing. Apparently, after this kind of thing, you are NOT supposed to drink carbonated drinks. Somehow all of this carbon dioxide irritated something connected to the shoulder nerve to cause sharp shooting pains. Who knew?

The lesson is: when you are filled with carbon dioxide, adding more carbon dioxide is a mistake. The same goes for negative talk in divorce. Let’s face it, in divorce you are already a Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade balloon full of negativity and adding more to it will only increase your pain. So, beware getting stuck in your divorce story for too long.

I get it: divorce sucks. This is total BS and totally unfair and you should not have to go through this. I know you are a great person because you’ve picked up my book and you don’t deserve this at all.

But whether you’ve given your ex fifty minutes or fifty years of your life, I do not want you to waste one more minute on him.

Please do not be like the woman who kept a photo of her massive former home as her screen saver a decade after her divorce. The past is done. Your future life awaits. But you have to make it happen.

Certain people will encourage you to stay stuck in the story. They’ve heard the message that people should talk about their problems and, truly, they want to help. And, yes, by all means share and let your friends comfort you after an awful day. But it’s also OK to tell your besties that you do not want to talk about your divorce for a while. It’s OK to turn down their offers to do your ex grievous bodily harm. You can tell them you want to move forward and you are thrilled they are along for the ride.

Welcome to Holland

There is a story that makes its round in the parents of children with disabilities communities. It’s a beautiful essay by Emily Perl Kingsley called “Welcome to Holland.” The gist of the story is that you’ve been planning a trip to Italy. You’ve researched Italy. You’ve packed for Italy. And you’ve even learned some of the Italian language. You get on the airplane, all set to go to Italy and spend the flight dreaming of your destination.

When the plane lands, the flight attendant says, “Welcome to Holland.”

What? Holland? You were supposed to go to Italy! You were prepared for Italy. You were not prepared for Holland! You don’t know anyone in Holland! You want to turn the plane around.

This is divorce.

Divorce forces you to learn a new language and swap your Ferragamos for clogs. It’s natural to feel upset that your plans have suddenly been changed and you have no idea what’s going on. Some people get stuck in the pity party, like the woman with the photo on her phone. Others accept the change in destinations and get to enjoy the tulips and the art.

In divorce, Holland is a weekend to sleep in and read books and watch movies. It’s taking up painting or lacemaking or hip hop with no eye rolling from anyone. It’s walking around the house in a bathrobe or a ballgown and eating caviar or cereal for dinner if you wish. It’s buying yourself that painting you coveted because you love art and choosing to drive a cheaper car because what you drive doesn’t matter to you. It’s about giving money to the causes you care about, not what looks good at the office.

Holland can be amazing.