Loneliness After Divorce?


Episode #6 Loneliness After Divorce?

Are you experiencing loneliness after divorce? It's not uncommon. You can also feel unpredictable emotions once your divorce is finalized. In this episode we talk about the unique feeling of loneliness after divorce, restoring happiness after experiencing loneliness after divorce, how grief post-divorce can feel different, and ways to restore happiness.

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[00:10] Erin Birt: Thanks for joining us today at the Restorative Divorce podcast through Birt Law. Today we wanted to talk about loneliness post divorce and how you can restore your happiness. I think it's something that people don't talk about a lot in the divorce industry is: “what happens after divorce?”

[00:32] Tyler Birt: We see clients during the process, but not a lot of law firms and people in the field discuss what happens afterwards because ‘we have other clients that we handle', but for our clients, it's a very big deal.

[00:56] Erin Birt: Yeah, I think definitely mental health professionals, they focus on before, during, and after. But not too many lawyers, not too many divorce attorneys focus on the before, during, and after.

The Unique Feeling of Loneliness After Divorce

So today we wanted to talk about that unique feeling of loneliness, or perhaps grief, that you might experience after divorce.

When I followed up with my clients, and I try to follow up with all of them after divorce if they want to, we have usually a follow up meeting by phone or by zoom and I can answer any questions about “what to do afterwards” and “Once you have your judgment for dissolution of marriage entered and signed by a judge, what do you do next?” A lot of times they will focus on going to the bank to separate bank accounts or trying to change their last name. And they have tasks that they want to accomplish. A lot of times they don't realize they can talk to me also about emotionally what they're going through. I try to keep a list of people that help post divorce, whether that's a counselor, whether that's a coach, a life coach, whether that is any professional that could help you transition from the legal process of divorce to what life looks like after divorce.

So in that wrap up meeting with my clients, I want to know more about how you're doing instead of always focusing on those tasks. The tasks are important. We can guide you through that. But the number one issue is how are you doing and how are you feeling? And a lot of people feel loneliness after their divorce. Why do you think that is?

Finality of Divorce Ending Can Cause Unexpected Emotions

[02:56] Tyler Birt: Well, it's a life changing event, and I think people, as they're contemplating divorce, going through the divorce, there's obviously breakdowns in relationships for whatever reasons along the way. But the final divorce decree when it's all over, that is a finality that I don't think people can really come to terms with until it actually happens.

They think about it, but once their life changes, that can bring on all different kinds of emotions. You're losing a partner, you're losing a friend, you are losing family members, depending on the relationships you've built with your significant other's family and depending on how long the marriage was. These are relationships that have lasted a lifetime in some instances. So it's a big change.

[04:10] Erin Birt: It definitely is. And there's a lot of feelings, perhaps, of insecurity, there's feelings of loneliness, and I think sometimes there are underlying feelings of grief or depression. We've always said it before, divorce is one of the top stressful things that you've ever gone through. And while you might initiate the divorce and think you're going to be extremely happy as soon as that process is done, to your point earlier, there's a finality to it. People feel a lot different when they either receive court orders, court judgments, or sign a marital settlement agreement. And that is a significant and big shift in life, and you see it (the emotions).

[04:59] Tyler Birt: (You see it)A lot at Prove Ups. Right?. Prove Ups are the last bit of dealings with the court in these situations, whether they're settlement or litigated.

[05:14] Erin Birt: Right. There's always that last court hearing because the judge needs to review your case. They need to review if you have a settlement agreement to make sure that it's binding and enforceable, not against public policy, that it's fair and equitable to both parties, and if you have children, that it's in the best interest of the children. So even in the most amicable of divorces, there's that final hearing date (a Prove Up). And you're right, it is a time of unexpected emotions. People are nervous. People might realize they've held it together this long because they needed to be strong for their children, be strong for others, be strong at work. And that final hearing or just the finality of the divorce process can hit you in many different ways.

Grief After Divorce is Unique

And so today we were going to talk a little bit about that loneliness and what you can do to help restore happiness in your life post divorce. Grief after a divorce is unique. You can experience grief when somebody has passed away or died, and your support system might circle around you and remind you of happy memories of that person. You might feel some grief or loss if you lose a job, but your support system might say there are opportunities out there for your skills or what you would be good at and they can be uplifting. But grief after divorce is unique. You haven't physically lost somebody to death. You might be on the verge of changing jobs because for the first time in a long time, you're supporting yourself and your household. But usually your support system is not coming around and reminding you of good times during your marriage.

[07:09] Tyler Birt: Sure.

[07:09] Erin Birt: So grief after divorce or loneliness after divorce is very unique in that you need to be forward thinking and future focused during a time that you might not want to be thinking that way.

[07:25] Tyler Birt: Yeah, I think your support system in divorce, and we can look at it in breakups in general. they tend to support you or the person by reminding them of how bad the other person was at the end and why it was good to go through the process. They don't typically talk about how good that person was or what good memories like you said, because that doesn't really lead to the support that they think is needed right?

[08:04] Erin Birt: And sometimes you might experience disappointment with your support group of friends or family because they might be minimizing the challenges you faced, thinking that they are helping you by minimizing what you went through. But you really went through a very difficult time. And here are some tips that could help you focus on rebuilding yourself, restoring happiness, and not perhaps relying on somebody else in your informal support system to do that.

Tips for Restoring Happiness After Divorce

Some options that are out there can be companionship. You might not be thinking about that at the end of your divorce, but companionship can really see you through the grief process and it can see you through that difficult transition. Companionship can be friends, it can be people in your town that you volunteer with. It can also be adopting a pet, right? Pets take up a lot of your time and they will show you happiness that you didn't know. So sometimes companionship can be adopting a pet after your divorce, starting something new, a new relationship.

But if you have children, starting something new can be really difficult because you're so focused on your kids and how are they doing. Sometimes that idea of companionship or being able to go out in your community and do different things isn't there. If you're a parent, sure, you might not have that time available to you to go do those things, so what do you think could be some things that parents can do to try to restore happiness for themselves and their children?

[10:01] Tyler Birt: Well, I think one thing that parents can do is start new traditions in the new schedule. The family unit has now changed and there's going to be back and forth between the parents. It can be hard to stick to traditions that have been there for a long time, so now is a good opportunity to create new ones. And those can be any sorts of ways, but is should be something that you could do with your kids to make them happy and give them memories of going forward and give yourself a new outlook and something for you to look forward to while involving your kids and not looking in the past.

[11:04] Erin Birt: Yeah, and I think maybe some tangibles from that are: new traditions. For holidays, you can take a look at your parenting plan and you might not be allocated that particular holiday, but maybe you get a bonus holiday where you celebrate before or after. And your children could be excited about having two celebrations or two things to look forward to. Also with their birthdays, you might not be allocated a child's birthday, but you could celebrate again before or after. And the child will then have memories with both families celebrating.

And another new tradition I think is important for newly single parents, something you probably haven't done through the divorce or maybe you didn't do when your marriage wasn't going well, but a new tradition is focusing on your own time. Time when you don't have the kids. What can you do to enrich your own life during that time? Because that can be a very lonely time when the kids leave and you don't have these bonus holidays to focus on and celebrate. You've got a couple of months there where there are no special occasions, so start focusing on me time and getting back to doing something that you can do within your budget, within your time constraints. And maybe when the children aren't around, that can be a new tradition for you, whether that's joining a class, joining a gym, painting, doing things that you can do to look forward to, so that you aren't so focused on the loneliness that you might experience at the start when you're starting a parenting schedule.

[12:50] Tyler Birt: Yeah, I think when you have the life change, it's hard to not focus, specifically if you have kids, it is hard not to focus on the kids and miss the kids and always want to be with the kids, because that's how it's always been. I think people can take comfort in the fact that in those times, and even when times were good, there was always times when you need me time. Mom and dad need time. Right. It's one of those things. So now in your new life, whether you want it or not, that time is afforded to you. And it's a great opportunity to, one, know the kids are safe, the kids are probably with the other parent, and they're doing what they're supposed to do. And now you can really focus on you by doing some of those things. And there's a whole different --  you can have a whole different outlook just by focusing on yourself and learning new things, trying new things, not having to worry about the kids. I don't need to be home, I don't need to pick anybody up. It's really me time.

[14:08] Erin Birt: Right? And it's not to say that this is easy to do, it's very easy for us to say, “here are some tips to get through this process”. It could take people time. It's not something that you can just immediately implement. But if you're listening today, maybe jot down some notes, maybe it takes a couple of months before you are in a position to think about new activities, new traditions, new companionship, a new schedule for the kids. And that's okay.

Resources to Address Loneliness After Divorce

If it takes longer than three to six months to adapt, perhaps at that point it is time to talk to somebody in a professional capacity that can help you adjust to the loneliness that you can experience post divorce. Because sometimes finding new companionship, doing new activities, it's easy to say to do that stuff, but sometimes it might not restore your happiness. And if that's the case, it's okay to have a trusted professional to talk to, to perhaps give you specific ideas of what you might be able to do or to give you perhaps the treatment you might need post divorce.

Some of those resources are support groups. You can find online divorce support groups or post divorce support groups, or single mom support groups, single dad support groups. It's a good starting point. For professionals: there's one on one therapy that can also help and there are support groups on social media such as Facebook or groups within your local churches. And all of those things can be used, I think, in addition to those self-motivated tips that we provided earlier.

If you have a feeling that your loneliness is not going away after implementing some of those self motivated tips, and it's not going away with a support group that you might have joined, perhaps then a professional talk to your doctor, talk to a therapist and they can really help you and give you the tools that you need to be the best person you can be, to be the best parent that you can be.

A lot of clients that I work with will work with a counselor through the divorce process, and they might not realize that it's good to continue or to have that relationship after the divorce process as well, because that's really the first time that you're standing on your own, that you are not having the high stress obligations or distractions that a divorce can provide. And what do you do after that? I think a professional that can help you restore your happiness, restore a sense of self sufficiency, really will set you up for success post divorce, something that either you are hopeful for or something that you're now striving to accomplish.

If you want any more information about restorative divorce, restorative practices so that you can restore happiness post divorce, please feel free to look at the resources on our website www.birtlaw.com.  We cover a lot of these topics on our blog, and we also have a lot of trusted divorce professionals that we can refer you to. So if you are not comfortable reaching out to family or friends, please give us a call. We can provide you with a list of people in your area that can help you. Thanks for joining us this week. We will have more topics about Restorative divorce next time.

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    Since 2003, Erin N. Birt, J.D., CADC has focused her practice on pa...

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