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.
"I tell my kids, a locked door in the morning means Mom and Dad are having time together. And sometimes my husband and I schedule to take time off when the kids are at school just to share some special moments; then we really steam things up!" — A.L., 46, Columbus, NJ "When my son was young, he hated naps, so we'd let him play in his room while Mom and Dad 'took a nap.' He never knew what we really did." — J.Y., 53, Sodus, NY "My husband and I set our alarm early and make love before we go...
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.