Divorce is never easy on the heart or the mind. Whether the decision to divorce was mutual or not, it’s an emotionally-charged process that can make you feel as if you are spinning out of control. And adding the stress of immigration status to the mix only serves to further complicate the matter.
But, for immigrants and citizens alike, divorce is a common reality—nearly 50 percent of marriages end in divorce. As one of Cleveland’s most compassionate divorce attorneys, my job goes deeper than just guiding clients through the legal process of divorce. It’s also my job to help clients deal with the emotional stress that goes hand-in-hand with divorce.
Here are the top 10 pieces of advice that I give clients as they navigate the emotional chaos of divorce:
1. Find support. Recognizing and managing your emotional needs is a huge step in minimizing the stress that divorce can cause. Joining a sport group will enable you to enjoy the company of others who are going through exactly what you’re going through. Knowing that you’re not alone, and having an outlet to discuss unfamiliar and uncomfortable feelings, is one of the best therapies available!
2. Get active. There is no better reliever of stress than a good workout. Exercise is scientifically proven to promote the production of “feel good” hormones, such as serotonin and dopamine. Exercise will help you even out mood swings and release pent up tension or aggression. Going for a walk, taking up cycling, or even enrolling in a boxing class can do your body and mind a whole lot of good!
3. Accept the things you cannot change. I know, this is much easier said than done. But when it comes to divorce, there is only so much that you or I can control. When you dwell on things that you can’t do anything about, you’ll only serve to increase your stress and anxiety levels. Do your best to take a deep breath, and let go of what you can’t control…
4. Set realistic expectations. Expect the least and hope for the best—be prepared for the worst-case scenario. Yes, as a divorce attorney I work very hard to get my clients a best-case scenario outcome…but expecting a best-case scenario outcome will prevent you from being able to handle end results that are less than ideal.
5. Think before you act. During a divorce—especially one where immigration status is on the line—even the smallest decision can impact the outcome of your case. Yes, divorce is emotional. Yes, you want to get through this messy chapter of your life as quickly as possible. But please, talk to your divorce attorney or another trusted professional before making big decisions—or even small ones. You never know how that seemingly inconsequential action could derail your entire divorce case!
6. Feel your feelings. It’s normal to feel highs and lows as you go through the process of divorce. Try to accept and acknowledge your feelings—meet and greet them as friends, and then send them on their way. Don’t try to shut your emotions down by adding alcohol or other substances to the mix. Don’t run. What you’re feeling is normal, and you owe it to yourself to process your emotions now so they don’t creep back into your life and wreak havoc later.
7. Find a hobby. Distract yourself. Join a sports league or a book club, take a cooking class, volunteer. Throw yourself into something—anything—that will distract you from the stress of your divorce in a heathy, productive way.
8. Laugh. Laughter is, after all, the best medicine. Spend time with people who make you smile. See a funny movie. Avoid isolating, or sitting on the pity pot. Just get out and have fun and take your mind off of the grief or pain or stress you are feeling.
9. Allow yourself time and space to heal. It’s okay—and expected—that you will need some time to heal after you go through the process of divorce. Allow yourself to progress through the healing process at your own pace—patiently. Learn from the mistakes that led to your divorce, and resolve to make good judgements in future relationships…once you’re ready, of course!
10. Stay future-minded. You can’t move forward if you’re staring in the rearview mirror. Keep your focus on the future, with just quick glances in the rearview every once in a while, just to make sure the past isn’t creeping up on you. With the end of your marriage comes a whole new world of opportunity. Grab your life by the reigns and charge forward!
In my years of experience as a divorce attorney, I have seen first-hand how the stress of divorce can impact a person’s day-to-day life. I know it’s hard, but this too shall pass. If you follow these ten pieces of advice, you’ll skate through the divorce process much more seamlessly, and come out on top as a stronger, more well-rounded person.