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Image of a woman on the phone and the text "What to Expect After Divorce: 6 Tips to Navigate the "Firsts"

What to Expect After Divorce

[Plus 6 Tips on How to Deal With All The "Firsts"]

Divorce is not an emotionless process—obviously.

It's a legal process and there are plenty of practical steps you need to take to get divorced, but it's not without significant emotional impacts. Many women find all the "firsts" after divorce to be the most challenging to deal with.

You know, the firsts. The first time you sleep by yourself. The first time you leave the house without your wedding ring. The first time, well, doing almost anything after your split.

Knowing what to expect after a divorce helps you prepare better. It doesn't remove those emotions, but it helps you approach them in a more healthy way. You can prepare for firsts and give yourself the time and space to process them.

Here we discuss some of the common firsts you'll experience after divorce, the emotions that may accompany them, and six practical steps in dealing with it all.

Life After Divorce: Common "Firsts" You Need to Know About

Knowing what to expect after a divorce helps you prepare better. It removes some of the shock and unexpectedness so you're in a better position to care for your triggers and emotions. And while each person's experience with divorce is different, there is a lot of common ground and common experiences to learn from.

Further, no one comes through a divorce without some emotional baggage to attend to. Even if you were the one to initiate the divorce, you'll experience emotions and triggers. You may expect some, you may not expect others. There's no right or wrong, shoulds or shouldn'ts when it comes to divorce—all emotions are allowed and valid.

The key is to prepare for it and attend to your emotions in a healthy way. Knowledge removes fear and lets you move forward with more confidence.

Here are six post-divorce "firsts" to prepare for.

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1. First Time Sleeping Alone

Although many couples going through a divorce stop sharing a bed before it's official or one party has moved out, this is still a big trigger where you can expect some emotions.

Your first night alone, whether in the bed or the house, might bring up feelings of sadness, stress, fear, or more. You may revel in all the space to yourself but still feel scared that there's no one else to respond to the creepy noises at night.

2. First Time Eating Alone

Maybe it's eating with just your kids or completely alone for the first time—it's going to bring up some emotions. Eating is one of those routine things you do every day, and it feels weird and different to eat by yourself, especially if you're used to family meals together at the dinner table. One way to plan for this is by thinking about something special to make for yourself.

3. First Night Alone Without Your Kids

This is a big one—your first night at home without your kids. Or, back up a few hours—the first hand-off with your ex. It can feel weird and unnatural and bring up many emotions, all while you're trying to stay positive for your kids and supportive of their relationship with their other parent.

4. First Time Making a Big Decision

Financial or other big decisions that relate to your child(ren) are difficult to navigate post-divorce. While one spouse might be managing the day-to-day household or feel like they know what's best, the other spouse also has both natural and legal rights to weigh in on big decisions, too.

Try to think ahead to some of these big decisions so you can anticipate how you want to handle them. Remember that you can only focus on yourself and how you communicate with your ex, and approach the situation with as much positivity as you're able.

5. First Anniversary

Your first wedding anniversary day post-divorce is, likely, going to be weird. It may bring up emotions like sadness, anger, frustration, or even panic. Dates can be very important to us and bring up a lot of emotions.

Sometimes your body also shows you how you're feeling—you might break down and cry or shut down and go for a nap. You might need to let out some of those feelings by moving your body, going for a run, or punching something (safely). You may need to talk about it or journal about it, too.

In addition to these firsts, there's another important date to prepare for:

6. Signing Divorce Papers

The milestone of signing divorce papers can trigger emotions because of its finality. You may feel excited and liberated, or you may feel regret and doubt. All of it is allowed! Signing your papers is a legal step and, while it doesn't mean everything is over, it is a sense of finality that carries a lot of weight.

Make sure you build some space into this day to make room for unexpected feelings. Care for yourself and don't expect yourself to act a specific way... you might surprise yourself.

What to Expect After Divorce

6 Tips to Navigate Emotional Triggers After Divorce

Sometimes just thinking ahead to upcoming "firsts" is a great way to prepare. You've brought it to your awareness and expect to be emotionally triggered. You can make space and attend to those feelings.

However, sometimes you don't know what will trigger you and can't always prepare for it. In that case, it's important to take practical steps that set you up for success post-divorce.

Here are six practical ways to navigate emotional triggers after divorce, whether expected or not.

1. Prioritize Safety

If you're feeling afraid or uncomfortable in your home alone, do what you need to increase a sense of safety and security. This could include:

  • Sleeping with your door open.
  • Installing alarms and cameras.
  • Turning off your sound machine so you can hear better.
  • Double-checking all locks and windows.

Whatever you need to do, do it. This way you're taking things into your own hands and building confidence in your own abilities. After a time, those fears will likely subside and you'll be accustomed to being on your own.

2. Revamp Your Space

The post-divorce home makeover is real. Instead of being continually triggered by your ex's things or lack of things, take some time to revamp key rooms of your house. Transform it into your space—a place you love and feel comfortable in. Here are some ideas:

  • Get some new decor and artwork you love
  • Change the purpose of the room (i.e., office to workout room)
  • Change the bed or bedding (here's the one I bought & love).
  • Spread your things out in your closet and re-organize it

Whether it's small changes to personalize your space or a full redesign or renovation, changing your physical space can help avoid and manage emotional triggers post-divorce.

3. Re-Think Your Routines

Most families have regular routines and habits they follow. For example, there may be "defined" places to sit at the dining table. And now that things are different, that empty seat may feel glaring. Why not purposefully change the seating arrangement so it doesn't feel so weird?

By intentionally changing old habits and patterns, you're showing yourself and your family that you can move forward and make new ones.

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4. Practice Self-Care

When you think ahead to some of the "firsts," how can you prepare? One key thing is to line up some self-care activities. For example, it's the first night you're home alone after dropping your child off at their dad's house. You know it's going to feel weird heading back home, so you've planned ahead to do one of these activities:

  • Watching your favorite movie
  • Taking a bubble bath and heading to bed early
  • Calling a friend on the phone to chat

On the phone-call note, one gal I interviewed for the Divorced & Determined AF podcast shared that a friend of hers set an alarm on her phone every Thursday at 4:00 p.m. to call and check in on her (just after co-parenting exchange) because she was upset. They still continue their weekly session now five years later! Get yourself a buddy that can support you if you're having a hard time.

Self-care activities help you deal with the big emotions that come up during this time, but they also help you reconnect with yourself and your own desires and identity. You can cultivate some of your own hobbies and interests aside from your partner or children.

5. Find Your Support Group

Despite what you may feel, you're not alone. You're not alone in your divorce! There are both personal and professional support networks and systems that you can, and should, tap into.

Besides the obvious—family, friends—here are a few people to include on your Divorce Team:

  • Licensed therapist or counselor: Support from a qualified mental health professional who can create a safe space for your emotions.
  • Certified Divorce Coach (CDC®): Someone to walk you through all the practical steps of your divorce and develop an action plan.
  • Realtor® who is also a Certified Divorce Specialist (CDS®): Deciding to sell or not to sell is a big decision, so work with an agent who knows the ins and outs of real estate and divorce.

You can find out more about who you need on your team over at the P.E.A.C.E. of Mind Initiative, which offers resources and tools to navigate your divorce and a list of vetted professionals to connect with.

6. Control What You Can Control

Ultimately, you can only control you. You cannot control your ex, their actions, their impact on your children, or anything else. So instead of trying to control them or dwelling on what is out of your control, focus inward.

You show up for your children the way you want to. You make the best decisions about your life after divorce that you can. You empower yourself with knowledge and support to move forward. And you let go of what you cannot control.

Life after divorce is unchartered territory—you've never been here before. And with that comes emotions to navigate and new situations to manage. But by preparing for some of the "firsts" and thinking of ways to give yourself space and self-compassion, you're able to handle what comes more easily. Dive deeper into this topic on episode 60 of The Divorced and Determined AF podcast.

What to expect after divorce doesn't have to be a complete secret. There's a whole community of women accessing valuable resources and information to navigate their divorce with more confidence and alignment. Join us at the P.E.A.C.E. of Mind Initiative and see what it's all about.

To facing the firsts,

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How are you feeling about the process? Have you experienced any unexpected feelings since separation? I'd love to hear from you:

**Disclosure** This post may contain affiliate links and they are at no additional cost to you, though I may earn a small commission. Don't worry, I only recommend products or services that I have tried or believe would be of great value to you! All opinions expressed are those of my own!

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