Thursday, 16 August 2018

What 3 divorced moms want you to know about co-parenting after a breakup

Great advice about how to put your children first despite the pain and challenges of being divorced.

Although we try to avoid divorce at all costs, if it does happen, it doesn’t necessarily have to lead to the complete breakup of the family. In the past, we worked under the assumption that ex-partners were considered adversaries, with any contact being antagonistic and hostile: “The dissolution of a couple was synonymous with the dissolution of the family,” explains Helena Afonso, author of the French book Two Households, One family: the relationship between parents after a conjugal separation. Yet, with experience and time, couples have become more aware that in any separation, the role of the parent should never change.

Psychologist GĂ©rard Poussin, a professor in clinical psychology and author of The Children of Divorce, a French-language title, introduces the notion of co-parenting. He speaks of a relationship “based on mutual support and cooperation.” He encourages parents to discuss school grades and warn each other about medical appointments, and especially support each other in difficult situations. “Children need a certain level of consistency to grow up normally. Imagine that a 5-year-old goes to bed at 8 p.m. when he’s with mom, but at dad’s he’s allowed to stay up until 10 p.m. watching TV,” explains Poussin. The divorce process doesn’t always make this easy. Over time, the separating couple needs to establish what level and type of contact is necessary to maintain effective co-parenting.

The longer good quality co-parenting continues, the better it is for everyone; it will have a more positive impact on the whole family, in particular the children. Key to its success is the relationship between the ex-spouses: the degree to which the parents have managed to get over feelings of resentment and anger towards each other, “but also their ability to separate the problems and conflicts of their ex-couple status from the questions linked to the education of their children,” points out Afonso. Ex-spouses, especially fathers, have a habit of getting more involved in their parental role if they receive approval and support from their ex.

So how do you set the right limits in this new relationship? “Have brief but regular contact, pick conversation topics that relate to the kids or that don’t interfere too much with parenting skills, avoid subjects that could lead to conflict, and don’t constantly bring up contentious issues, such as vacations,” emphasizes Afonso. It is not necessary to be good friends to be a good parental couple. All it takes is a bit of cordiality and respect.

We spoke to three divorced moms to learn from their experiences on how to continue being successful parents through separation.

Julie, a journalist, aged 41, divorced for 8 years, with an 11-year-old child

Her best advice: Make peace

“My ex-husband and I didn’t actually speak to each other for a year. As soon as the phone started ringing we would jump on it and hang up straight away. He hadn’t taken our break-up very well. The only viable way we could communicate with each other about our 3-year-old son was through text messages. ‘What time are you picking him up?’; ‘He’s sick so make sure he takes his medicine’; ‘Check his hair for lice’… I found it very annoying; he didn’t know how to cope with himself, let alone our son. He began to torment me with little threats, such as: ‘If you arrive 5 minutes late, I’ll keep your son.’ This reached the point that one day he threatened me with legal proceedings to gain custody over our son. Supposedly I worked too much and didn’t look after him enough. I got scared. I brought up the subject with my lawyer, who reassured me I had a solid case. She opened my eyes to the fact that my husband’s reaction was that of someone who’d been hurt; in this story, I had gained everything, and he — on top of being unemployed —had lost his wife and son. She showed me that we needed to stop our war for the good of our son.

“Supported by prayer, I decided to put my pride to one side and make peace, even if I felt I was facing a brick wall. I gave in to everything. Concerning finances, I wrote off the idea of receiving any alimony, and custody arrangements, well, I became more flexible. My ex preferred to get our son on Friday night, rather than Saturday morning; it wasn’t a problem. One day, he said to me, ‘We made the most beautiful thing together: Max.’ This one phrase really touched me, and still does today. Little by little, I felt he was taking on his role of father once more, becoming more responsible — someone I could rely on. I got him involved once more in the education of our son. Two years ago, I accepted equal joint custody. I remember our first post-divorce dinner together, all three of us, at a restaurant in a neutral location. Max was so proud! That’s when I realized the importance for him that we remain, above all, his parents.

“Today, we are truly forming one unit: we go to piano auditions together, school trips, school meetings … We make any schooling decisions together, consulting each other all the time, and I’ve even found myself saying to my son: ‘You’re behaving badly, I’ll call your dad.’ Last week, he had his first tween party, and his dad called me to give me the lowdown. We’ve even managed to dine together, all three of us, at his home. I was pleasantly surprised to see my son clear the table and get himself off to bed. For the first time I stayed to chat with my ex, putting the world to rights. I realized that we were complementary. He’s a father who emphasizes self-management, whereas I’m a mother hen, watching over homework, teeth brushing … I’m delighted he’s the father of my son.”

Corinne, a 44-year-old photographer, divorced for 7 years, two children ages 10 and 14

Her best advice: Don’t stir up the past

“During the first year, I forced myself to accept many things for the good of my kids: equal joint custody, parents’ evenings where I remained ramrod straight, his permanent reflections like: ‘The children are badly dressed,’ ‘You’re not making them work hard enough,’ ‘They sleep too late when they’re with you’ … Yet he was the one who left me! I let it go because I knew his aggression was just a reaction based on his guilt. I think he also realized what it meant to be a father, a role he hadn’t really invested in before. The work I went through with a spiritual counselor over a long period of time really helped me to receive his criticisms without reacting. Then, it became impossible to speak with my ex; we communicated through the nanny, who went from one house to another.

“One day, I cracked. I wrote to him saying that I couldn’t cope with any more of his criticisms, I didn’t want to stir up the past, I didn’t regret our history, and that he would remain the father of my children, and that I would always tell them he is a good father. After he received the letter he just said: ‘I don’t have any words in response to what you’ve said, just thank you.’ Our relationship then became calmer. Today, we manage to coordinate with each other. We telephone each other once or twice a week. When we hand over the kids, we give a summary of the week. Sometimes we meet up, always outside for a coffee, to speak of more specific issues. Most recently, we spoke about our eldest, who is going to high school. What school should we choose? How will he get there? What options should he consider? We speak purely of our children, never about us. I avoid all contentious issues — especially anything to do with his new partner. My children can’t bear her at all, to the point that my eldest wanted to live full-time with me last year. I encouraged him to change his mind, for his benefit. He needs his father as much as me. Starting this summer, our relationship has developed into a parental friendship. We send each other photos of our kids on vacation, we go to Mass together, we’ve even gotten into fits of laughter, as was the case at our last teacher-parent meeting. I’d almost forgotten that we’d separated! I’ve turned the page, and the pain has passed. We remain parents for the rest of our lives.”

Agathe, stay-at-home mom, aged 40, divorced for two years, three children ages 8, 11 and 12

Her best advice: Be united parents

“Since our separation four years ago, our children have been our main concern. We were a separated couple, but still parents united in the love of God. To communicate as smoothly as possible, and update whoever was picking up the kids, we followed the advice of a child psychiatrist who suggested a correspondence notebook. This was warmer and less impersonal than an email, and it could assure some continuity from one week to the next: ‘John’s math grades need watching,’ ‘Lucas needs more confidence,’ and ‘Mason needs to feel valued,’ etc. At the end of a trimester, I ended up using email as it was just quicker to write. As our divorce progressed, the emails got shorter. I wanted to get straight to the point, as if our relationship had ended.

“Today we use text messages to remind each other of the essentials: ‘Don’t forget the dentist appointment,’ ‘Have you paid for the soccer lessons?’… I remain courteous, even when I’m annoyed. I always say ‘hello’ and ‘goodbye.’ Even for more crucial issues we start an exchange by text and swap to email if more detail is necessary. Lately he wrote: ‘Cris is unbearable, I want to send her to boarding school’ to which I replied ‘no’ by text. I would like to see him at the end of each year, just to summarize what the children have been up to, their behavior, their extra-curricular activities … but he avoids any contact; he thinks the way we are doing things is fine. No doubt, he worries that I’ll end up on more sensitive issues, such as the alimony, which the judge has not yet determined. I think that our relationship will become more serene once our divorce has been settled. But overall, the assessment is pretty positive: we have managed to stay united as parents for our children. They haven’t had to take one side over another. We make sure we communicate what is necessary concerning the children, we set boundaries, and we reassure them; all three are flourishing.”


Wednesday, 15 August 2018

To The Moms In The Middle Of Divorce Chaos

First let me say, I am sorry you are here. So sorry.

Please know, you will get through the chaos. And, in the midst of the awful, know that you are not alone. You will survive this. And there is a rich life for you at the end of the tunnel.

Divorce is extremely disorienting. You have built your life around your family. The markers of safety and normalcy in your life have likely been associated with being part of your family unit, even if your marriage was not actually a safe place to be. Suddenly, in divorce you are sort of spiraling in space. It is like being on a lake at night, where you knew your way around during the day time and how to get there, and then suddenly it is dark and you have no idea where you are or how to make it back to shore.

All the markers you recognize are indiscernible. You have to discover new ones to be able to find your way. There will be times when you feel extreme anxiety and find yourself in a fetal position alone on your couch. This is a normal and necessary process. Fear, grief, regret, and anxiety are normal human emotions. They are not signs of weakness. They are signs of life.

Try to consciously avoid falling into the traps of escape. Human beings, like most living creatures, fear pain, run from it, try to insulate themselves from it. But the pain of divorce cannot be escaped if you are going to live and rebuild yourself and your life authentically and honestly. You will be tempted to find an escape, because pain is pain. You may reach for another drink, for your credit card, for dating apps, for tons of exercise, whatever your drug of choice may be.

But ultimately you have to sit in your aloneness and really feel it and acknowledge that you are no longer in a partnership, and that is new and frightening. You cannot create real new growth without first cutting through the wreckage.

That said, in this period, it is extremely important to give yourself grace. Regardless of how intentionally you commit to do it all exactly the right way, you will fall flat on your face more than a few times. You will make bad choices. You will embarrass yourself. You will do things you never imagined yourself doing just as many others have done before you. You are in a life crisis. Treat yourself kindly, stop ruminating over your mistakes, and be proud of yourself for the progress you are making. Sleep, get your nails done, go for a walk. You need to love and care for yourself better than you ever have in your life.

Treat the others in your life with grace too. Friends and family may have difficulty accepting your divorce. You have likely accepted it long before it happened. You were on the inside of it. Those on the outside likely did not see. They may be shocked. They may have their own grief. They may have lots of advice you do not want to hear. They may be flat out wrong. But now is not the time in your life to wage war on your support system. No one is going to get it exactly right. They are people too. No one is perfect, including you. You still need them. Try your very best not to alienate yourself from the people who have always loved and cared for you. You need them now more than ever.

Recognize that some relationships will need to end. Some of your friends will feel the need to take a side, and it will not necessarily be yours. Some people in your life might totally oppose what you are doing and be unwilling to support you. Other friendships may just be too painful for you to return to because they are associated fully in your mind with your marriage and being around those people causes you to feel sadness over the loss of your old life with your old friends, and when you are around them it is too much to bear.
A sad reality of divorce is that it not only ends the marriage relationship. It ends other relationships in your life as well, including sometimes in-laws you loved like your own family. You will need time to grieve these losses too.

Now is also a good time in your life to remove all the negative influences that you can. Divorce is emotionally draining. If there are other things or people in your life who are also emotionally draining you, now, in your time of reinvention, is a good time to cut those things or people out of your life.

With the loss of so many relationships, now is also a time to try to cultivate deeper connections with those who remain in your life and to seek out new friends. People need people, especially in a time of crisis. Figure out which friendships you have that have potential to deepen, and pursue them. Figure out if you know any other single moms. You will have a different schedule now than many of your married mom friends. You need single friends now too.

If you are the one who filed for divorce, there is a tendency to feel guilty for feeling sad about getting divorced. There may be a voice in your head that says, “I don’t get to feel sad because I’m the one doing this.” Ignore that voice. You are entitled to grieve. You likely did not choose the circumstances that led you to make the final choice to end the marriage and this is likely not what you dreamed for your life. This is a loss for you, too. It is a loss of a dream of what you wanted out of life. It is a loss of the family unit. It is the loss of the idealized family. You are entitled to feel however you feel.

If your spouse is the one who filed for divorce, there is a tendency to feel inadequate. Try your best to ignore that voice. Believe in your own worth and goodness. Your spouse’s feelings about you do not define you. You are who you are, a worthy human being, with or without them. You are a person, and like all other people, you are not perfect. But you are valuable and worthy and there is good within you. You deserve to be loved. You do not deserve to be hurt or rejected. Do not believe the lies in your head about your worth.

Find new or old things that you love and bring them back into your life. You now get to make a whole new you and a whole new life. Grow flowers. Read books. Get back to knitting. Do something you have always wanted to do and never done. You now have your life back. You get to decide who you want to be and how you want to live. It is like being given a second chance at life. Take it.

Know that all of the immediate chaos and crisis associated with the newness of divorce will end. You will suddenly look up and realize you have made a life for yourself that you love. The chaos and the terrible things that kept you up at night will be over. Life will just be life again. Hold on to this hope in the midst of the awful.

Form a tangible goal in your mind that you will achieve when your life settles down again and hold onto that image. Maybe it is a trip, a new outfit, etc. For me it was something really simple. It was a flamingo light cover that I had picked out and knew I would put in the new kids’ bathroom that I planned on making when everything settled down. In the worst moments, I would think, one day I will have a peaceful home, with a kids’ bathroom that has a flamingo light cover.

I have it now. It brings me joy. You will get your flamingo in time.


Tuesday, 14 August 2018

How to Know When Divorce Is The Right Choice

Getting divorced is a deeply personal decision, and you shouldn't make it in haste. If you are contemplating ending your marriage, you may be struggling to face up to the potential consequences of your actions. You may be wondering if it would be easier to stay married than to deal with the emotional turmoil and financial pressures of divorce. If you have children, you may want to stay together for their sake. Every situation is different, and ultimately, you are the only person who can decide whether divorce is the right choice.

Step 1

Ask yourself what would be your reasons for staying married. If you have an objective in mind that you could achieve if you were able to work through the problems in the marriage, your relationship is more likely to last, says Susan Pease Gadoua, author of "Contemplating Divorce." You could set a positive goal to maintain a secure, two-parent family for your children or to work through your trust issues to improve your relationship and your self-esteem. If your main reason for staying married stems from an avoidance of difficult emotions, the marriage is less likely to survive, says Gadoua. Staying married because you are scared of being alone or you can't bear the thought of spending time apart from your children is not likely to lead to long-term happiness.

Step 2

Make sure you have done everything possible to improve the relationship. If both parties are committed to working through issues to create a healthier relationship, the marriage may be salvageable, says Gadoua. If you both want the marriage to last, consider marital therapy to help you identify the problems and develop the skills required to solve them.

Step 3

Accept when the relationship is over. A healthy, fulfilling marriage should have honesty, trust, commitment, fidelity, care, respect and common goals. If any of these are absent, it may be better for you to go your separate ways.

Step 4

Put your own needs before those of your spouse, children, and anybody else who may be affected by a divorce. Children will be happier being the product of a broken home than living in one, says psychologist Dr. Phil McGraw. Don't stay together for your children's sake if that means living with stress and unhappiness. Look deep within yourself to find the answer. There is a part of you that will know whether divorce is the right option, says Judith Johnson, an interfaith minister who holds a doctorate in social psychology.


Monday, 13 August 2018

5 Steps to Being More of an Optimist

Life is easier and generally more enjoyable if you're an optimist. Research shows that optimists enjoy many health and lifestyle benefits, including greater achievement, greater health, a sense of persistence toward goals, greater emotional health, increased longevity, and lower reactivity to stress. Because of this, optimists tend to be happier overall. 
Optimism is measured by your explanatory style, or how you define events. You're halfway there if you can learn to define positive events in the following three ways:

  1. Positive events occurred because of something you did.
  2. Positive events are a sign of more good things to come.
  3. Positive events are evidence that good things will happen in other areas of your life.

You're all the way there if you can also think of negative events as:

  1. not your fault
  2. isolated occurrences that have no bearing on future events or other areas of your life
If you find yourself expecting the worst and selling yourself short a little too much of the time, you can always increase your tendency toward optimism. The following steps can get you there.

Analyze Your Thoughts, Giving Yourself Credit
When something positive happens in your life, stop to analyze your thought process for a moment. Are you giving yourself due credit for making it happen? Think of all the strengths you possess and ways you contributed, both directly and indirectly, to make this event occur. For example, if you aced a test, don’t just think of how great it is that you were prepared, but also think of how your intelligence and dedication played a role.

Think of How Your Strengths Can Bring Other Good Things
Think of other areas of your life that could be affected by this good event. Also, think of how the strengths you possess that caused this good thing to happen can also cause other positive events in your life. For example, what other good things can come from your intelligence, dedication, and ability to effectively prepare for tasks?

Think of Future Events That Can Also Happen

Imagine what future possibilities could be in store. Because you hold the key to your success, shouldn’t you expect to do well on future tests? Isn’t a successful career a natural result?

Minimize the Negative, When It's Realistic to Do So
When negative events occur, think of the extenuating circumstances that could have contributed to this happening. If you do poorly on an exam, for example, were you especially busy in the preceding week? Were you somewhat sleep deprived? What outside circumstances contributed to your failure? Keep in mind that this isn’t necessarily a reflection of personal weakness.

This doesn't mean that you should never recognize when you may need to change your behavior in the future or deny responsibility for mistakes — that's how we learn! It does mean, however, to focus more on the positive and don't let negative events kill your self-confidence.

Remember: Tomorrow Is Another Day
Also, remember that you’ll have endless opportunities to do better in the future. Think of your next potential success or other areas where you can excel.

Tips to Remember:

  1. The key to optimism is to maximize your successes and minimize your failures.
  2. It’s beneficial to look honestly at your shortcomings, so you can work on them, but focusing on your strengths can never hurt.
  3. Keep in mind that the more you practice challenging your thought patterns, the more automatic it'll become. Don't expect major changes in thinking right away, but do expect them to become ingrained over time.
  4. Always remember that virtually any failure can be a learning experience, and an important step toward your next success!
  5. Practice positive affirmations. They really work!

Sunday, 12 August 2018

Psychological Effects of Divorce on Women

Understanding the psychological effects of divorce can help one move forward after the end of a marriage. Many of the feelings after a divorce are perfectly natural as one may experience confusion and uncertainty about the future. Similarly, learning how these feelings may affect one's ability to connect with other family members, such as children, is important, as well.

Feeling Guilty

The psychological effects of divorce on women are far-reaching, but one of the most basic emotions is guilt. This can be true if the woman initiated the divorce or not. Women in both situations may feel at fault for not working hard enough to make the marriage work, explains life coach Cindy Holbrook on her website for divorced women. If the woman initiated divorce, she may feel a sense of guilt for the demise of the marriage. This is especially true if there are children involved as women may feel as though they are responsible for breaking up a family and causing emotional trauma.

Experiencing Depression

The end of a marriage is devastating to both parties. Women, especially, may feel saddened by the sudden loss of their marriage. Their dreams for the future may be wrapped up in their marriage, and now that hope for the future appears to be gone. Increased responsibility combined with the realization that the life they envisioned no longer exists correlates with the fact that women are more likely to suffer from depression three years after a divorce, suggests Rocky Mountain Family Council.

Feeling Anxious

After a divorce, one may experience a great deal of anxiety. The future is uncertain and therefore, so is one's security. Women may experience more stress as they may have solely or mostly relied on their husbands for financial support. Trying to figure out how to support themselves, and often times a family, may prove to be difficult. Despite this, there are many things one can do to lessen anxiety including eating healthy, meditating and exercising.

Positive Effects

Some of the effects of divorce can affect women's lives positively. There are many factors that influence this, but many women report feeling a sense of relief especially if the relationship was particularly stressful towards the end. Mediator Kathleen O'Connell Corcoran explains that women may have a greater support system than men. Because of this, when they experience setbacks, they are likely to turn to them for comfort and guidance and move through the issues. Finally, women may be more likely to expand their personal and professional roles, suggests Corcoran. In the past, they may have limited themselves by focusing solely on their duties as wives and mothers. Now, they may seek out new careers, volunteer opportunities and social networking that will increase their esteem.


Saturday, 11 August 2018

The Truth About Divorce Statistics

“The truth about marriage is that divorce is getting less common,” New York Times writer Tara Parker-Pope says in her newly released book, “For Better: The Science of a Good Marriage” (Dutton, 2010). For a variety of reasons, “divorce rates have dropped sharply since peaking in the late 1970s,” she observes.

Parker-Pope frequently reports on current marriage research in the Times. Her book says that in recent years she has “interviewed dozens of the world’s top marriage and relationship researchers, and pored over hundreds of published research studies,” exploring “what science has taught us about lasting relationships and the complexities of courtship, love and marriage.”

Inflated divorce statistics can be harmful, Parker-Pope suggests. She is concerned that misleading statistics have “trained a generation to be ambivalent about marriage and divorce.” People are left asking, “If half of all married couples are getting divorced, what’s the big deal?”

Parker-Pope cautions that incorrectly understanding current divorce statistics may result in many people believing that “marriage is more fragile than it really is.” Believing that more people are destined to divorce than is the case could lead some couples simply to give up when problems occur in their marriages, she fears.

The “grim statistic” that 50 percent of marriages are destined to end in divorce has been repeated for years, “but that bleak prognosis doesn’t apply to most couples getting married today or even most of those who married in the last few decades,” according to Parker-Pope. The problem, she adds, lies at least partly in how divorce rates tend to be calculated.
Her book holds that “because so many variables in the marriage-and-divorce equation are changing, a simple calculation comparing marriages and divorces in a given year ends up distorting the result and suggesting that the divorce rate is higher than it really is.”

One factor in the overall divorce-rate picture is that couples today tend to marry at an older age than was the case in 1970, for example. Studies indicate that the “risk for divorce drops significantly when couples wait to wed until after the age of twenty-five,” Parker-Pope writes. She says an added benefit of marrying at a later age may be that “many of the weakest relationships are ending before a couple ever heads to the altar.”

It is true that couples married in the 1970s divorce at high rates, according to Parker-Pope. Then couples typically married “in their late teens and early twenties,” she states; statistics show that the 30-year divorce rate among these couples “is about 47 percent.”

But Parker-Pope finds that “people married in the 1980s and 1990s are getting divorced at lower rates than their counterparts married in the 1970s.” In fact, she says it appears that marital stability is “improving each decade.”

So, for Parker-Pope, today “the good news” is that “far more people are succeeding at marriage than failing.” She says research suggests that “far more than half of married couples today stay married.”

Nonetheless, she points out that “a sizable minority of marriages will eventually fail.” She notes, as well, that fewer people today marry at all.

The writer cautions that current statistics on divorce do not mean that marriage has become easy. Actually, Parker-Pope finds that contemporary couples “have far higher expectations of marriage than did earlier generations.” Social shifts have “raised the bar” for marriage in terms of the emotional fulfillment that is sought, the partnership and fairness that is desired, and the strong sense many spouses have that they ought to remain soul mates.


Friday, 10 August 2018

Life After Divorce: 3 Survival Strategies

How ex-spouses and their kids can cope after divorce and move beyond the pain.

Sixteen years and three children into her marriage, Nancy Michaels' husband dealt her the blow of a lifetime. Out of the blue, he told her he wanted a divorce -- but he wouldn't tell her or their kids why he was leaving. Months later, a sudden and unexpected medical problem found Michaels close to death.

Unable to take care of her children while she was hospitalized, she risked losing custody of them permanently.

Now, less than four years later, with her health back, Michaels has risen from the depths of emotional despair brought on by the blow of an unexpected divorce, regained primary custody of her children, bought a house of her own, and begun a web site exclusively for women over 40 going through divorce.

Without question, coping with divorce can be one of the most difficult challenges a person faces in a lifetime. Mental health experts say the pain it causes rivals grieving the death of a loved one. But as Michaels' story illustrates, surviving divorce is possible.

WebMD spoke with the pros -- adults who have been through a divorce, as well as counselors who help people survive the effects of divorce -- to learn what coping strategies work to help people through this trying time.

1. Seek Out a Support Network

No single strategy will ease the pain and loss that divorce brings. But time and time again, when asked how best to weather the effects of divorce, respondents say this: lean on a support network.

"Recognize your support network. If it's not strong enough, build it up," says Jennifer Coleman, EdS, NCC, a life transition coach who works with divorce clients of the Rosen Law Firm in North Carolina.

For Michaels, her support network while surviving divorce initially consisted of one good friend. "She has a great sense of humor," Michaels tells WebMD, recalling how she went from crying alone in a movie theater as she watched a romantic love story to laughing out loud afterward when her friend insisted they go to dinner together.

At the suggestion of the judge who oversaw her divorce case, Michaels then expanded her circle of support to include the group Women with Controlling Partners. She's glad she took him up on it. "When you get divorced, most of your old friends run. They're no longer thrilled to have you in their house; there's a dynamic that shifts considerably," she tells WebMD. That hasn't been the case with women in the support group. "We have Friday night pizza with our kids. We'll give each other a ride to the airport if we need it. It really has saved my sanity," Michaels says.

Finding support is not just for women. While women tend to seek and find support rather easily while coping with divorce, men are more likely to hesitate to reach out to others, despite having equally strong emotional needs. Consider David Wood, a handyman who recently went through a bitter divorce. "I was embarrassed, even ashamed. I thought people would think less of me," he says.

It wasn't until a neighbor started sharing his own story about a difficult divorce that Wood felt comfortable enough reciprocating with his own woes -- and finding it incredibly cathartic. "You've got to open up," he says.

While emotional support helps people navigate the initially painful hurdles of divorce, the importance of shoring up assistance for practical purposes post-divorce cannot be overstated. Even before the clouds of her divorce lifted, Susan Perrotta knew she had to be a strong presence for her children, who were barely school age at the time. She made immense sacrifices to be there for them, sometimes pulling all-nighters to complete art projects for clients, then seeing her children off to school in the morning.

A single mother with no family in town, Perrotta essentially raised her children on her own. But she strategically sought and took advantage of support resources available to her. "I made friends with teachers and administrators at my kids' schools. They were fantastic," she tells WebMD.

She also chose to move to a close-knit neighborhood where she could call on neighbors for help in a pinch. She used her pediatrician as a sounding board, recalling him as "a wonderful pediatrician who knew the kids well." And she looked beyond differences with her ex-husband to get him involved. "I pulled him in when I needed his help. I made him work with me," she says.

2. Redefine Yourself

Going through a divorce means no longer being part of a couple, a reality that can come as a relief or a frightening prospect. "For the person who sees him or herself as multifaceted, it's generally a lot easier. But if someone has been nothing but a spouse and saw that as the most important role, it can be pretty crushing," Coleman tells WebMD.

Looking at this time as a period of self-exploration is one way to overcome feelings of isolation and fear. "Take up new hobbies, activities, interests -- expand yourself. Stay busy in a constructive way," suggests Patricia Covalt, PhD, a Denver-based licensed marriage therapist.

Exploring untapped interests can be both a place to positively let go of the grief brought on by divorce and a way to redefine yourself. Wood, devastated by not seeing his children on a daily basis, threw himself into starting and cultivating a community garden. "It was a big help. I'd physically exhaust myself working there. It kept my mind from wandering," he says. Taking ownership of the garden also served as a productive hobby, in which Wood grew not only seasonal vegetables and fruits but also stronger friendships with other community members.

3. Minimize the Impact on Kids

While coping with divorce, pain is inevitable -- but soon-to-be ex-spouses have the power to minimize the pain their children feel by keeping things as amicable as possible.
"You're dealing with a lot of grief and personal feelings. But always avoid criticizing the other parent in front of the children," says Jennipher Cole, LPC-S, a marriage and family therapist with the DePelchin Children's Center in Houston.

She has seen the poor outcomes of clients who ignore this advice: in younger children, regressive behavior like bed-wetting; in older children and teenagers, low self-esteem and risky behaviour.

Cole also warns against pulling children into any conflict with an ex-spouse, a scenario that provokes "taking sides."

Others echo her sentiments. "If you put your kids in the middle, it's a short gain with a long loss. I'm much more interested in maintaining a long-term relationship with my kids," Michaels says.