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Lesson 2: The Transition Process and What the 6 Milestones of Divorce Mean for You

The transition process in divorce described in the diagram above, helps us to understand the emotional rollercoaster you may be experiencing not only during the recovery phase, but from the beginning when you realize you are experience and Ending of your marriage and do not yet know what the New Beginning looks like.

The Leaver tends to be further along in the process than the Leavee. Where are you in the process?

A change happens – you are getting Divorced. The decision happens in an instant but the internal transition to this change takes much longer. How long is an individual experience – some move faster through the process than others.

Transition is the process of letting go of the way things used to be and taking hold of the way they subsequently become. Divorce certainly challenges the passage from the state of being married to the state of being unmarried or divorced.

In between the letting go and the taking hold is the potentially creative “neutral zone” when things aren’t the old way but aren’t really the new way yet either.  These are the three phases of the transition process: endings, new beginnings, and the neutral zone.

We may resist the letting go, we may resist the confusion of the in between; and we may resist the uncertainties and risk of the new beginning. We also resist transition because it takes longer than we think it should; leaves us in limbo in the neutral zone while a new reality – a new self if gradually being formed.

To be able to move from the end of your relationship to the next chapter and a new beginning, you can expect to pass each of these six milestones.  It is easy to get stuck at any one of these six milestones because of our resistance and not doing the work needed to move through the milestone. On the following pages is a compilation of the ways in which others going through the divorce process have navigated through these milestones.  Some they discovered on their own, others were ideas share from friends, divorce coaches, or other people they engaged to help them through the divorce process.

Six Milestones in the Divorce Process

MilestoneReal Stories for Moving Through the Milestones in the Process of Divorce Transition
Accept the reality of divorceRemind others that your spouse is still in your life but in a different role so important and that you don’t want to hear about the negatives, and you want to get them on board with your recovery. 
Determine what story you are going share with others and not sound like a victim. We set the tone for what the extended relationship looks like.  It is important not to get stuck in the story or in the role of victim.
Helping couples with children develop common language to talk to the kids about this.  What unifies the parents is committing to using common words in their response to the kids – it lends a sense of comfort to the kids that mom and dad are saying the same things. Your mom and I love you very much.
Blindsided – difficult to believe. Was able to accept the reality when I needed a walk by myself and I realized I could be single, and I didn’t need him.
I’m the one who filed, so a “practical” step I took before I did so. I took a day at a local retreat center and got the clarity I was seeking. My safety depended on my recognizing the reality of divorce. I looked for the emotional benefits of emotional peace and calm in my house.  I knew I was going to walk through the mud to get to the other side and I accepted that that was what I had to do. I had a picture in my mind of what the other side would look like. I looked at it with open eyes. Journaling was what really helped me.
Let Others Help YouAsk people how they feel about it so you can make the opening for others to express themselves:  Where do you stand? What do you think about this? This adjusted my expectations for them.  Reach out to everyone and eventually others will reach out to you.  I did it because I like people and want to be around them. Share with others how you want to be helped. I didn’t want people saying negative things about my former husband. 
Do you have a support system?  What do you want from people to help you move on? Got counseling both marriage and individual counseling.  I did the best I could and now I see the reality. This is hard for independent females – I invested in having a coach, it was hard to admit I couldn’t fix it and couldn’t figure it out – but others have said this.  Let others who are champions in this arena bring you back. I also started attending a support group. I still can’t ask for emotional help. For me, I ask for help only when it comes to logistics (driving kids, etc). I wish I had a Divorce Coach during my divorce. I relied on my lawyer and family/friends but their support was in a very specific way from where they were coming from. When my emotions got too stressful, I went to a therapist. Nowadays a lot of people turn to Facebook groups. I’ve been having good success with my Divorce Group. Marvis: I knew I wanted to change my thinking and emotions so I reached out for counseling. Again, having a specialty is key. I went to a therapist that focused on divorce. I sought out other single people to create a new life for myself. This helped create new experiences which added positivity to my new life. I did not find that I needed emotional support once I separated. I’m very independent and self reflective so by the time I left, I had already dealt with my emotions.
Let yourself feel the pain of divorceAllow yourself to feel sad when something reminds you of your former life and then to acknowledge it and be with it for as long as you need. I went to counseling and working out was my biggest outlet without self-medicating. Loneliness was the tough part – being alone when the kids are with the other parent. Trying to find a whole new set of friends.  I never thought I would be divorced – taking away the shame – it was embarrassing. I knew there would be a great life after divorce because I believe the best revenge for my divorce was living well afterwards. I’ll show them and then it became reality. This is where writing my book was able to work in a therapeutic way for me. To reflect on those feelings. Emotional Writing has much scientific evidence to back up its effectiveness at relieving pain, physical and emotional. I was sad that my marriage had to end, but I had to get out of the abuse. Once my daughters and I were safe, I rejoined my community, my friends and family. I re-read my journals from when I met my former husband, got engaged and married him. It was a catalyst for getting my grieving out over all the losses. I also read many books on the grief process. I processed it through writing, taking a deep dive into yoga (and became certified) meditating, praying, reading and practicing my faith. Journaling and vision board. I forgave myself so I could be more effective with others. I took a deep look at the things I was hanging onto and the role I played in moving as fast as I could in the process. Taking time to reflect on everything I had done and then accepting that I was human and wasn’t always thinking clearly in the process. It takes two people to get married and to get divorced. Think it, grieve it, let it sink in.  You have to feel it to heal it. Recognizing that we are out of sync with our spouse in the experience of the process of divorce. This is a process of two steps forward and one step back.
Change your relationship with your former spouseSet down some expectations about how to respect your privacy and how you will respect their privacy. Establish boundaries for yourself.  Make requests of the other person about what you can change, even if you are co-parents. When things change and other people come into your life, create new boundaries. Make sure you change your expectations about what they will provide for you. These agreements need to be reciprocal especially when a new partner or relationship comes into your life. Reinforce that they are still a parent of the children, but behavior needs to change with regard to housing. Once I was divorced, I felt I had the power to define boundaries. I should have done that during the divorce too. Depending on the age of the children, limit communication or set up some processes for communication that serve the needs of the children and you. Or have no communication if necessary. My relationship transitioned from one of contention to one of co-parenting. I ignore a lot of behavior that was an annoyance and not destructive.  Accepting this was a new reality and focusing on the important practicalities of parenting. Seeing how it affected my kids made me much more sensitive to the kids. Protecting them from unnecessary harm. Through therapy we uncovered we had a mother-son dynamic and when I saw that reality – that is not my job to worry about him. I gave myself permission to cut my husband off from me and realize it was not my job to take care of him. I read a lot of books to do my “inner work” in my attitude toward my former husband, especially books on forgiveness. I also attended a 12 step group to keep remembering I could not control my former spouse. We finalized the parenting agreement early. I changed the locks so I could feel safe with both myself and my daughter, after consulting with my attorney. Initially he was upset, but he eventually understood. I forgave him, but I almost forgot to forgive myself. We have a great co-parenting relationship. When I respond to my former spouse, I think about how I would respond very business like as if he were a colleague at work.
Develope new self-identityIf you don’t have a strong friend group after divorce, pour your energy into the kids and their activities and you will eventually have a new group of friends.  Even if you aren’t comfortable with some social things, go with your friends to places like bars and gyms where you might meet new people. Or activities that you like and find clubs for those interests to meet others with similar interests. Check out the Meet Ups in your area. Remembered what kind of charity and volunteer activities you like to support and make friends from that. Recall the things you used to like to do and turning back to those things that represented who you were when you were at your best. 
I got swallowed up in taking care of my family and forgot who I was. Finding new meaning of what it is like to be alone and thinking about how to use that time to explore something meaningful.  When couples separate, if it has been a long connection they have oriented to a specific role. Part of this new identity is that they have to play different roles in their new life. Ask yourself. “How can I be creative and take on the roles I want to take on and find other ways to handle the rest?” Make good friends with Youtube How-To Videos. 
I was a stay at home mom and was an enabler and my whole life was consumed by the other five people. As kids got older and I initiated divorce – I couldn’t even imagine what my life could look like.  I picked up a book, You are a Bad Ass by Jen Sincero – and I started looking for what was next – what I could get excited about.  (She has also written another book: You are a Bad Ass at Making Money.) I wrote a book about my own divorce experience as my way of moving forward. I went back to school to create a new identity separate from being a wife and mother. I forced myself to try new things and take classes on something I had never done before. Trying new things allows you to discover who you are and what you like. In the process, you also meet like-minded people. I developed a new self-identity by seeing a therapist. When I started with her, I had the sense that I was re-capturing the real me…the me I left at the altar so many years before. I really leaned in to some of the activities that I enjoyed doing that my husband was not that into and held myself back doing to accommodate him. Enjoying my sisters and family again, I start to platonically date which gave me time to build up my self confidence. So many people make the mistake of rushing back into a relationship before they become comfortable in their own skin. I had an older and wiser friend remind me that my identity has changed and will change over time, regardless of a divorce. Parent, daughter, empty nester, widow (in the future if I did not get divorced). In an effort to help my clients figure out what they’d like to do, I always ask them what they liked to do as a kid. Often we’re still interested in it, but we don’t remember it. I found myself forced to pick up where I had left off and finding out how self-sufficient and independent I had forgotten. Finding new meaning in being enough for yourself, without the attachment of the spouse.
Find new meaningRemembering who you are before marriage and what your passions were before marriage. Remembering what YOU cared about and what incentivizes us or pushes us to be better people. I am not my divorce and my divorce does not define me. Now I need to know who is this woman called me and what do I look forward to every day and what am I on this planet to do? My passion became helping others through the process of divorce. Search for meaning can seem like the great abyss. I broke it down into smaller activities to just try things out. I plugged into some things that were easy and not a huge commitment. I have a special needs son and got involved in things that served him. Every step of the journey IS the journey…Zen saying. Having a vision of your future helps a lot – it does always evolve and change as we age and go through different stages – but deciding what you want in your life, and what you don’t want to tolerate helps. Above all I find it all is about learning about yourself and being able to shift ones perspective. I find people want to hurry through and slowing down and taking their time really helps them heal. This is not something to beat yourself up about – don’t expect it to be clear to you immediately. This is a lifelong search and exploration. We are on this journey and we can embrace all of the opportunities to learn and grow from the challenging circumstances we encounter in this journey.

©Certified Divorce Coach Program-Divorce Coaching Inc.


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