DON’T panic. While it may feel like this is the worst time of your life, it will get better. It is okay to cry, scream, or yell. It’s okay to feel your feelings.
DO understand that all of your feelings are completely natural. Divorce is a loss much like death; you will experience all of the stages of grieving. Eventually, you will move on, but it will take time.
DO get yourself some emotional support. It may be your best friend, therapist, priest, or mom. Find someone who will listen to you without criticism. Save your questions about financial and legal matters for experts in those fields who can give you information based on your circumstances.
DO assess your safety. Do you have concerns about domestic violence? You may want to contact your local domestic violence program for information and support your security and well-being. If you are concerned that your partner is abusing drugs or alcohol or about your own use, contact Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous for 12-step programs in your area.
DO take care of yourself. Even though you may not be hungry, try to eat regular meals. When you are stressed, your body needs to be well-fueled and rested. Talk to your physician about temporary sleeping aids if you can’t sleep. Try to get exercise, even if it’s just going for a walk around the block.
DO assess what is happening. If you were served with divorce papers, there are legal responses you must make by specific deadlines. You can contact your local county government’s self-help center, family law facilitator’s office, or family court services for information and assistance.
DO assess your finances. Do you and your partner rent or own your home? Do you have savings or investments? Do you have debts? How many checking accounts and credit cards do you have? How much money do you need to live on each month?
DO educate yourself about divorce. Even if you decide to “do it yourself,” it is always good to consult with an attorney experienced in family law first. The attorney will listen to and assess your situation and inform you about your rights and obligations. She may suggest alternatives to going to courts, such as mediation or collaborative divorce. Both models may involve the use of experts, such as divorce coaches and financial advisors, to help you and your spouse reach an equitable settlement.
DO consider editing your Facebook or Myspace account. It may seem silly, but it’s an issue. Personal information and pictures on those sites are public information. All of your words (including texts and emails) can be brought into court and used against you. Don’t make any disparaging remarks about your ex online.
DON’T blame yourself. We all make mistakes, and in the heat of the moment, we all say and do things we wish we hadn’t. We are all human. Divorce is hard. Don’t beat yourself up for the past. You must heal before you can move on.
Please Note: These tips are based on information gathered during Nancy’s years of experience as a psychotherapist working with divorcing couples. They are in no way intended to be construed as legal advice.