In the first days after leaving my marriage, I turned to Dr. Google and typed “coping strategies after separation” and I ended up reading about “white bears” and rolling my eyes at platitudes like “be kind with yourself”. Seriously? I needed slightly less abstract and much more detailed than that. I wanted an actionable step that would bring me instant comfort like, “Make a voodoo doll of your ex and stick 1000 pins in it…..hard.” But noooooo, the internet in all its infinite wisdom offered up, “Think Positively”.
I am not dismissing the merits of positive thinking, but when your brain is exploding with stress, pain, and overwhelm, what you really need is a way to keep your head above water. The first 90 days after separation are about survival mode and your head is definitely not clear, so you need to hunker down to let the pain wash through you, while finding ways to keep your path moving forward.
While your very first step should be to get a therapist, really, even before you get a lawyer, there are a few other things that will help make the first 90 days more bearable. I can’t offer you pro-psychological tips but I can offer up some of my survival tips. Some of them may be slightly immature but whatever gets you through is my philosophy.
Coping Strategies After Separation to Help Keep You Sane
Circle the Wagons
The first thing you need to do is call your friends and make them pick a side, right here and right now. Hahahaha. I’m kidding. You’ll know in your heart of hearts which friends you’re getting in the divorce and those are the ones you reach out to. Now make them call you. Yes, you make them. Give Sue Monday and Karen Wednesday, and so on and make them check in on you like it’s their job.
If all you can offer up is a grunt as you scarf a tub of Ben & Jerry’s, then at least they know you haven’t drowned in a puddle of your own tears. If you don’t answer then they can rush over with wine and a shoulder to cry on.
Reach out to the Divorcees Stat
Women who have been in the trenches are your army right now. It doesn’t matter if the only thing you’ve ever exchanged with this person is a thumbs up on Facebook, once your marriage is kaput, you are automatically inducted into a sacred sisterhood that has your back.
In the days following my separation I methodically went through my Facebook list scouring for the divorcees and I reached out to them. I vented, I cried, I asked questions, and honestly, it brought me comfort to talk to others who had come out the other side.
Wait! Come back. I am not even suggesting you say I love you into the mirror three times a day. I told you I was all about real actionable steps. I’m talking about actual self-love, as in get yourself a toy. The reality is if you’re just separated you likely haven’t had some lovin’ for a while, and nothing can help put you to sleep faster than an orgasm….or two.
Frankly, practice self-love as often and as long as you need. No shame girl. This is much safer than hopping into the arms of some random stranger. That’s a post 90 days step we’ll get to later, after you’ve stocked up on condoms.
Get on the Self-Care Bandwagon
Forget expensive trips to the spa, because while you probably don’t know it yet, your budget it officially limited. Self-care doesn’t have to be expensive, it’s about taking a good hard look at yourself and deciding where you had maybe let things go in your marriage.
I had gained an unhealthy 25 pounds over the course of my marriage. In the first 90 days post-divorce I walked six kilometres a day every day, rain or shine. At the time I was walking to just get my brain focused on something else, and to address that extra weight. Looking back I realize that it was a powerful metaphor to just keep putting one foot in front of the other.
Self-care for you might be finally focusing on your skin care, or picking up a sport you always wanted to try, or establishing better sleep habits without a snorer beside you. Whatever it is, as long as it’s only purpose is the betterment of you, then do it.
Start a Playlist
Music is powerful. For me, starting a playlist I could put on repeat was one of the most empowering things I did, and it wasn’t even my idea. My 15 year old daughter started a “divorce mood” playlist on my Spotify account as a joke and added the very angry, “I Don’t F*ck With You” by Big Sean as the first song and from there is snowballed. I didn’t want sad, sappy songs on my playlist. I was looking for angry (F*ck You by CeeLo Green), empowering (I Will Survive – Gloria Gaynor), and motivational (Sorry Not Sorry by Demi Lovato).
It’s been a year of adding songs as I go, and it’s my morning walk playlist that never fails to lift my spirits. Anything by Lizzo is my current jam! You are welcome to follow my playlist here, but this is about you so if mine doesn’t work create a playlist based on what you need. There was no way I wanted sad songs, but maybe that’s what you need. Believe me sister, if there’s one thing I’ve learned this last year, is that every path is wildly different.
Create a Tinder Account
This is probably not what you’d expect to see, because it’s not wise to actually take any one up on a date in the first 90 days BUT there is value in knowing what’s out there. If you’ve been married for awhile, you’ve likely forgotten what the dating scene is like.
Creating a Tinder (Match, Bumble, Hinge) account is a great way to remind yourself that yes indeed, there are still fish in the sea and you’re not going to die an old spinster. It’s also a good way to solidify what you don’t want in a future mate, and trust me, you will see everything. Just remember you’re currently window shopping, because purchases made in the first 90 days can be detrimental to your mental health. (When you’re ready to sample the merch, read this take on Tinder first. Spoiler alert: Dumpster fire.)
This is legitimately the hardest step of all, and you’ll have to dig deep to a) make plans and b) commit to them. I never felt uglier, on the inside and out, then in the first few months after leaving my marriage. Taking that person out in public – puffy eyed, embarrassed, and with zero self-confidence – was one of the hardest things I ever did, but ultimately rewarding.
I instinctively knew that the world would keep spinning with or without me. Even if I was just a shell at the time, I was showing up. Don’t ever underestimate the power that can have on your psyche. So schedule a tennis game with a friend, make a coffee date, find a yoga class to sign up for, and don’t cancel plans you already had in place, just show up. Trust, that the rest will fall in place.
Want to know what to expect in the first year after separation? You can read my honest take here.