It's over. You've signed the divorce papers, and the relationship you entered with so much hope is officially dissolved.
Everyone's divorce story is different. Maybe you had been married for decades, maybe just a year or so. Maybe you have children, maybe you don't. Maybe the divorce was your idea and maybe it was your partner's, or maybe you both agreed that separation was best. Maybe you're relieved, maybe you're heartbroken -- or a bit of both.
By Kimberly Goad
As Amanda Clark, 33, a caterer from Boston, walked down the aisle toward her fiancé, wearing a $15,000 gown and a 7-carat ring, she felt nothing but dread. I don't want to go through with this, she thought, with each step toward the altar.
Just two hours before the ceremony, Clark had gone for a dip in the ocean with her two sisters. When it was time to get ready, Clark wouldn't budge. "I couldn't get out of the water," she says. "It was like knowing you have a work meeting...
But however you got here, the question now is where do you go from here? And how do you figure out who you are and what you want as a newly single person? What is your new life going to look like, and how do you start moving in that direction?
Here are eight of the first steps:
1. Let yourself mourn.
Nobody gets married thinking, "I sure hope we can get divorced someday!" Even if, by the time you split, the divorce was something you wanted, a divorce still represents a loss.
"Whatever your marriage and divorce experience has been, there will be emotions that have to do with grief," says psychotherapist Florence Falk, PhD, MSW, author of On My Own: The Art of Being a Woman Alone.
"You may feel remorse for what you did or didn't do, or wonder what you did wrong. Don't dwell on those feelings, but make room for them," Falk says. "Loss is loss. There is an empty space where something once filled it up, even if that something may not have been desirable."
2. Work through your feelings.
Don't tote that heavy baggage from your previous relationship into your new life. Find a way to work through the lingering emotions from the demise of your marriage, advises psychologist Robert Alberti, PhD, co-author of Rebuilding: When Your Relationship Ends.
That may mean talking out your feelings with a therapist or focusing your energy in a healthy activity you enjoy. "It's common to sweep these emotions under the table, but you have to work through them or they'll pollute your life going forward," Alberti says.
If you find yourself resisting the idea of therapy, you might want to keep in mind that therapy doesn't mean you have a problem or that you're in crisis. It can be a way to work toward a better life, with someone who has no agenda but YOU.
3. Learn to like yourself.
That may sound cheesy and New Age-y. But the fact is that many people feel a lot of self-rejection after a divorce.
"You might think that there must be something wrong with you if you couldn't make this relationship work," Alberti says. "You have to work on getting confidence and faith in yourself and ability to believe in your own worth."
This is also something you could pursue in therapy, or through Tip No. 4: