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High Conflict Divorce Mediation

Surviving Your Divorce in One Piece With a Sense of Peace

Maxine B. Cohen, M.F.T.

Think this title is a bit of an over-statement? That may be but to the extent that you can incorporate most of the following 12 tips into your life, I assure you that you will make it through your divorce with less calamity and a greater sense of calm.

That being said, there's no way around it, divorce is horrendous. It's horrendous for the spouse who wanted it and for the spouse who didn't. Either way, taking apart your life is gut-wrenching and finding your way to building a new life is very hard work indeed. The pain runs deep. Your emotions are chaotic. You may feel angry, sad, hurt, intense grief, betrayed, victimized, taken advantage of, treated unfairly, guilty, hugely depressed, and unsure of yourself and your ability to do what it takes to rebuild your life. The feeling of ambivalence--should we get back together or should we continue to separate--predominates and is especially crazymaking.

You may feel like you're losing it, that the person you've always known yourself to be is not there anymore. I want to reassure you that this is normal. You are going through a very sad and very scary time and the way most people respond is to have difficulty concentrating, retrieving words, eating, sleeping through the night, and controlling their emotions. In fact, it usually feels like you're on an emotional roller coaster. This, too, is normal. I guarantee, that when you have come through this passage, you will return to the person you have always known yourself to be.

Unfortunately, there is no quick fix for any of this. The best you can hope for is strategies to manage the pain that provide momentary relief.

So here is a compilation of 12 proven strategies that will help you feel a little better for a little while. These are not a panacea. They are a way to provide comfort and interrupt the wallowing. They afford only temporary relief but that is better than none at all.

  1. Keep to a routine. If you work, all the better. (Don't worry about being less productive than usual.) If you don't work, even if you have nowhere you have to go and nothing that must be done, make up a sequence of activities for that day and do each one of them. It helps to keep busy.

  2. Exercise. Jog, power walk, do yoga, walk your dog, spin, ride your bike, lift weights, or do anything that gets you moving. Physical activity counteracts the lethargy of depression, releases endorphins, and interrupts the downward spiral of depression.

  3. Breathe. In deeply and out fully. With intention.

  4. Keep up your appearance. When you're feeling depressed, it doesn't help to look in the mirror and see a reflection that looks so bad that it reinforces how bad you feel. Wear decent-looking clothes, wash your face, fix your hair.

  5. Keep in contact with friends or family. Make plans so that you go out now and then. To be with other people gets you out of yourself, interrupts the wallowing, and helps you feel less isolated and alone. Especially on birthdays, holidays, and days with significance for you, be sure to make plans to be with others.

  6. Make sure you have at least one person that you can call when you're feeling especially sad and depressed. It needs to be someone with whom you don't have to "put a good face on it," don't have to pretend, can be just as you are and feel accepted and supported. Set it up ahead of time so it's in place when you need it.

  7. Do NOT listen to pop/rock/country music on the radio. The songs are full of love-gone-bad. It'll just make you feel worse. Tune into the classical stations instead, such as 105.1 FM or 91.5 FM.

  8. Be good to yourself. Do the things that please you, that distract you from the pain, even if only for a few minutes. Things like taking a bath, going for a walk, looking at the ocean, going to a movie, etc.

  9. Be around people without needing to interact with them. Sit on the beach; sit at a coffee house. It will make you feel less alone.

  10. As best you can, stop the mind games. "If only I had...." And "Does what I'm seeing mean that he/she can change" are only ways of torturing yourself and fueling the feelings of ambivalence. They serve no positive purpose.

  11. Do not self-medicate with alcohol or other drugs. They will only make you feel worse. Using alcohol, which is a depressant, at a time when you are already depressed, will make you feel more depressed.

  12. Connect with a sense of spirituality. By this I mean having the faith that you are connected to something greater than yourself. Whether it's a sense that there is order in the universe, a Higher Power, a center within yourself from which your strength springs, God as you know him, or Buddha. It doesn't matter. Spirituality provides a sense of comfort. You are not all alone.

Incorporating these strategies into your daily life will make you feel better and help you cope but it won't just happen. You need to make the effort to make it happen.

Go for it! You'll be glad you did!

Maxine Cohen | 949-644-6435 | maxinecohen@roadrunner.com
Maxine Cohen is a licensed marriage and family therapist who has worked with individuals, couples, and families since 1989. She is an expert on all aspects of the divorce transition-from how to tell the children in the best possible way, to riding the emotional roller coaster and grieving the loss, to dating and rebuilding a life that is satisfying and good. Maxine is also a writer, having contributed columns to Orange Coast Magazine and the local editions of the Orange County Register and the LA Times (Daily Pilot) for the past 10 years. She is in private practice in Newport Beach.


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