Jenny Kanevsky found a safe, confidential place for friendship and advice in an online divorce support group.
Getting divorced is no fun. But, it may be what’s best. For you, for your partner and for your children, if you have them. The first months for many, including me, can be a haze of emotional upheaval. In fact, divorce is second on the list of top stressors as defined in 1967 by researchers Holmes and Rahe. We all react differently to stress; Holmes-Rahe looked specifically at the potential for illness due to stress. Stress can make you sick. Stress can be debilitating or inspiring. Life changing events such as the death of a spouse (first on the list), and divorce, typically trigger a period of the stages of grief and loss, as outlined in a previous Good Men Project article, The Five Stages of Grief and Loss in Divorce.
As you go through these stages, an important milestone seems to be the six month mark. A friend told me, when I could barely function, to mark my calendar six months ahead and write “You made it!” And, I did. I hit that milestone. I’d never have imagined processing so much emotion, change, mourning, anger, relief, and finally, the beginning of acceptance, in six months. When in that early stage, life is day-by-day, sometimes hour-by-hour, and that’s OK. Know, if that’s where you are, it will pass.
Once you reach the six month mark and/or make significant changes such as moving out of the marital home, finalizing an agreement, or seeing your children adjust and thrive, a new normal may emerge. There is no deadline, if you are at month eight and you’re not there yet, that’s OK. It will happen.
But, you’re not out of the woods. You still face a major life change. Maybe your papers are signed, your decree is official; you have moved, sold your home and split assets. Depending on the length of your marriage, this process may be quick, or it may be drawn out. If children are involved there are additional issues to consider including custody, their emotional well-being, and their process. You’ll create a new normal with two households, school, and first holidays, birthdays, Father’s Day, etc., without the intact family. There are a lot of firsts and your opportunity is to find a new normal, not dwell on what’s lost, especially for your children. Therapy and support from friends and family help in this process.
It’s important to stay positive both for yourself and your children, and to heal so that you can learn from the experience. And just because you feel better now, doesn’t mean you won’t continue to mourn the loss, feel the impact of the change, and need to grieve, seek therapy, and address issues with your kids, in the years to follow. That said, you may be feeling even more alone. Your friends think you’re healing and moving on, your family has other issues to address. Find support elsewhere. For me, the most important thing in those early days was an online divorce support group. I am still and plan to continue to be active in the group for years to come. The group members are like my sisters. I recently met a few in person. I have never been hugged so tightly or felt so comforted by someone I’d never met, and only knew from a Facebook profile picture.
If you are feeling alone in any way, join (or form) a support group. You have much change to process, and not just in the first six months. While friends and family can be, and I hope are, supportive. They are not objective. They may disapprove of your life change. Your parents may project their disappointment or sense of failure on you and encouraged you to stay married. Some friends may have abandoned you, taken sides and chose your ex, or simply minimized your experience. None of this is real support. I’m not advocating cutting all ties from less than supportive family and friends, but remind yourself, even if you are functioning well and feeling hopeful, you are still in a raw state.
I have been fortunate, and am grateful. My family came to my aid, emotionally and financially. Friends, both in real life and online have lifted me up and held me throughout. Those friends who were less than supportive, I either let them go, or have put them on hold. Without looking back. I need all the support I can get. I was married 17 years and am now a single mom to two boys ages 13 and 10. I’m looking at a major life change. It will not take six months, or even a year, to move on.
A Facebook friend, when she heard of my separation, invited me to join a small, private support group of other separated or divorced women, most of whom are interconnected in some other way. We take our privacy seriously. There is no talk of the group outside the group. We are a confidential vault, a place to share stories, pain, successes, ask advice, and comfort and love each other, no matter what. We share feelings that others who have not been there would not understand. And, there is no judgment.
This group has been my emotional lifeline. It is a group of women only; our exes are not all men, but a women-only group works for us. If you are forming or joining a group, regardless of sexual orientation, I would encourage you to keep it small, and only include your gender. It also helps if there are interconnections in other areas of life.
Today, I go to my group if I need help, feel scared, need to vent, or want to share a success. There’s always someone online; we hail from all over the world. I am never alone. We are fiercely protective of one another; we know what it feels like to be in the thick of things. A well-meaning friend may say “Give it time. I bet he’s having a hard time too” or “You know, you should go on Match.com.” That’s not helpful. His hard time in not my concern. And dating is the farthest thing from my mind.
My support group friends have been or are where I am. Maybe your ex is love bombing, reminiscent of your early courtship days. Your ex may want you back or be confused, and is suddenly sending “where did our love go?” texts or calling, emailing, or visiting unannounced. These women have been there. Some exes use the kids to manipulate or hurt you. My support group has tips. And, if you are feeling lonely and tempted to call your ex, they will get you past that urge. Above all, you have a safe place for when you feel alone and need to share with someone who is in the trenches, right there with you. It’s invaluable.
If you need help or feel alone, even with the support of friends and family, I’d encourage you to find a local group and/or start one of your own, either online or in person. Helpful information can be found online, one resource is Divorce Source.com. You may have a range of people to cull from including online Facebook groups, social circles, places of worship, or work. Keep an ear out for those in your situation; you’ll find talking to others helps everyone. You are not alone.