Divorce and Separation: How to Handle The Reactions of Family and Friends

“I’ve been separated for a few months now and am still feeling pretty shell-shocked. How do I handle my friends and family? Everyone is telling me what to do, how I should feel, asking all sorts of questions I don’t feel like answering. I feel like shutting down.


The transition from going from married to separated can be pretty rocky. It sounds like your emotional stamina has been really tested, which is to be expected. Your family and friends and all of their advice and questions are well-intentioned, but it sounds like they aren’t really helping. So how do you ask for what you need?

Don’t be afraid to tell your supporters that you appreciate their help but right now the best way they could help you is simply to offer you love and to listen to you. Listening deeply to another without an agenda to “fix” them or solve their problem is such an important gift. Too often people listen more to what they want to say next, instead of ….

just listening and letting someone pour their heart out. Tell them the barrage of advice and “Here’s what I would do” are adding to your sense of overwhelm instead of helping you get your feet back on the ground.

Realize that your friends and family are likely going through their own emotional upset as well. People don’t get training manuals on divorce etiquette, so they are doing the best they can and may simply be feeling uncomfortable themselves. They may have strong feelings about your ex-partner, or are concerned about your well-being, or both. It could be bringing up their own feelings of insecurity or doubt about their own relationship. Regardless, it’s totally acceptable to let them know what you need. If the conversation starts to go down a road you don’t want to travel, simply tell them “You know, I’d rather not get into that right now. Let’s change the subject.” They will follow your cues.

It is important, however, that you do find some forum to express and explore your feelings. Divorce isn’t easy, but it’s an opportunity to discover new wisdom and strength within yourself, if you’re willing to look. So I wouldn’t recommend simply “shutting down” permanently. The risk there is that you could simply repeat past mistakes because the lessons that are in this separation for you haven’t been fully excavated and digested.

The Divorce Resource Kit offers many tools, such as the THRIVE Principles ™ and strategies to help you get your sense of center and confidence back. You may also want to work with a divorce coach or find a local support group where you can connect with others going through divorce. You don’t need to travel the divorce journey alone.

Ask your question, in confidence, by clicking here or you may email us at askthrive@thriveafterdivorce.com. We’ll answer your question in upcoming issues!

Divorce and the Holiday Season

Q. “The holiday season is coming up and I’m recently separated. I have two school-age boys. My stomach feels like a knot thinking how different the holidays are going to be now for them. Is there some way to make it easier?”

A. Family holidays are supposed to be relaxing and stress-free, but often they aren’t. Planning family holidays is a particular challenge for the millions of divorced families out there. In fact, one out of three Americans is part of a blended family (and I suspect the statistics are similar for Canadians).

Divorced families face an even bigger challenge with holiday planning with children shuttling back and forth between mom’s house and dad’s house. There are all those logistical questions. Whose turn is it to have the children for Christmas morning? What if both parents are having a turkey dinner on the same day? How do you handle summer break? What do you do if you end up solo on a major family celebration day?

The key for separated families, like yours, is to doing some advance planning and preparation. Without that, holidays can end up being a time for stress and re-opening of old wounds instead of a time to relax and unwind, both for divorced parents and their children. There are some tips I can offer to make it a bit easier. First of all, instead of planning your holidays one at a time, … Continue reading

Divorce and Separation: Stopping the Negative Mental Loops


How can you stop the negative loops recalling what went wrong (and what was so right)? How do you stop trying to ‘fix’ it in your own mind?”


Divorce, heartache, grief and rebuilding your life – it’s all part of the healing journey everyone must travel when your relationship ends. The mind is a beautiful problem-solving tool. But when it comes to matters of the heart and relationship, our brain is often not well-equipped to help us heal.

Having those cyclical thoughts and questions of “What if….?” or questioning what might have turned out differently if you’d made different choices in the past is quite natural. It is simply the brain sifting, sorting and trying to find patterns and solutions from past experiences it has stored to find a way out of the situation you find yourself in. Sometimes you know your relationship is on the rocks, and sometimes you don’t. So our powerful brain is literally scanning its memory banks to find pieces of data that might help you to create a solution and get to the other side of your heartache.

But your power and choices lie in each present moment. The problem with unchecked cyclical thoughts is that they keep you replaying the past or projecting yourself into a fantasy future that is sheer speculation. The key to making empowering choices for yourself and navigating through your divorce is when you stay present, moment-to-moment.

If you find yourself caught in a mental spin cycle, a great way to break out of it is to write it all down. Use a journal to capture your thoughts and questions. This will assure your brain you’re doing something productive with all of its gyrations and help loosen the grip of these negative loops on your mind.

You can also set some boundaries around this kind of thinking. Give yourself a time limit of some kind to fully review the good, bad and ugly about your situation and how you got there and then once your timer goes off, stop. Break your physical and mental state by putting on some great tunes and dancing, or do some jumping jacks, and then undertake another kind of activity.

It’s also important to ask great questions. Setting your brain to the task of “How could I “fix” things?” assumes that something is broken that you are responsible for fixing. Redirect your powerful mind to answering the question “If this experience is part of my soul curriculum, what are the gifts in it for me and my personal evolution?” or “What can I learn from this that will serve me in all future relationships?”

Have a question about divorce you’d like to see answered? Submit yours to Thrive after Divorce by sending an email to askthrive@ThriveAfterDivorce.com.


Divorce in a Small Town


“I live in a small community. My biggest challenge is I am always seeing my ex and the woman he had an affair with and married on a weekly basis because of the children’s activities. I feel like I can’t “get over” my divorce because I am kept inflamed constantly in the present.”


Living in a small community where “everybody knows your name” can pose an additional challenge to those trying to rebuild their life after divorce, particularly when your ex and his partner seem to be omnipresent. Nonetheless, the basic principles of thriving after divorce … Continue reading

Divorce Relief: What to Do When You Can’t Stop Thinking About Your Ex

Q. “I am challenged by wondering all the time about what my soon-to- be ex-spouse is thinking or doing, and most agonizingly sad, who is is with?

A. Separation and divorce is a bumpy road and it takes some time, dedicated effort and great tools to help get through to the other side. You are not alone is having part of your mind get on a frustrating hamster wheel of wondering about your ex. Our brain can get like a dog on a bone, chewing endlessly (often in the middle of the night) with a litany of questions like:

Is he as sad as I’m feeling?

Is he regretting his choices?

Is he healing faster than I am and what is wrong with me that I still feel grief?

Has he moved on in love, and who is he with? What is she like? How do I compare to her?

Divorce, even if you’re the one who initiated, is still a shock to your emotional system. The brain wants to make sense of it all, so it starts to seek and scan for answers. Our egos want to compare and judge – who is “winning the race” for getting through the pain and over the divorce first. It’s simply a natural way our sense of self-identity gets constructed.

It is important to realize excessive speculating and wondering is actually a distraction from your own healing journey. Here are some ways you can break the pattern and stop fixating on your ex….

Keep a journal and write out all the questions you have running around in your head. Like taking the lid off a boiling pot of water releases the pressure, journaling your worry thoughts will help them to dissipate more quickly. You get to see your questions from a more objective perspective.

Sometimes we let our attention wander and get ourselves stuck in the past is because we don’t have a clear vision for our future after divorce. Do some work to help create your road map through your divorce. The award-winning Divorce Resource Kit to has questions, exercises and guided meditations that can help you chart your course for your future.

It’s also important to keep your focus on what you actually have control and influence over, such as your own thoughts, words and actions. Diverting your energy to anyone else instead of your own process of understanding the deeper spiritual lessons that are available through your divorce is a distraction. Take responsibility for what you can change and learn, and let the rest go.

© 2012 Carolyn B. Ellis


Divorce and Separation: Letting Go of Your Past Married Life

Q. “How I let go my life for the past 23 years?”

A. Finding the energy and will to move forward into uncharted territories after divorce can be a really tough challenge. It’s uncomfortable standing at that turning point of ending a relationship and facing an unknown future.

But staying stuck in a place of looking back at the past with regret, sadness and longing is problematic because you do need to step into a life after divorce. Imagine trying to drive a car, but you’re only ever looking in the rearview mirror. It’s tricky to get to where you want to go unless you shift your gaze to your life ahead.

Here are just a few tips to help you get the courage to move ahead. First, harvest the wisdom that you’ve gained in those 23 years. How have you grown? What strength and insight do you have now that you didn’t before? Our partners are often our greatest teachers, so even though the relationship is ending there are gifts you’ve received from your union. This simple exercise will help you realize that amidst the pain and sadness, there are absolute life jewels you’ve received from this process.

Second, use what didn’t work in your relationship to get clear on what you DO want to have in your life going ahead. In divorce most of us have a laundry list of all the things that we didn’t like about our ex-partner. So why not use that to your advantage to get clear on what your values and priorities for future relationships are? For example, if your husband didn’t share some important interests in you, or was dishonest, now you know that finding a partner who shares your passions and values honesty as much as you do is important for you to have.

If you’d like more strategies to help map your life after divorce, I’d recommend you check out my award-winning Divorce Resource Kit. It will guide you in simple yet powerful ways to getting your emotional feet back on the ground, and how to find the courage and energy to step boldly into your new life.

Stressed out? 5 Self-care Survival Strategies

Are you feeling stressed out? Isn’t this time of year when families and friends come together to celebrate special holidays and connect supposed to be a time of joy and peace? Then why are so many people out there feeling stressed out, short-tempered and run down?

A key ingredient for success is to make an unwavering commitment to your own self-care. Practicing meaningful self-care can be a hard challenge, especially for those of us who get so much joy and passion from offering our services and wisdom in a desire to make a difference in the world somehow.

I remember learning the lesson of taking self-care seriously when I was going through my divorce years ago. I realized that ignoring my needs and pushing myself to my limits wasn’t helping me make clear decisions for my future and for being the mom I wanted to be for my three children. In my award-winning book, The 7 Pitfalls of Single Parenting: What to Avoid to Help Your Children Thrive after Divorce, I coined this phenomenon “going for the martyr medal.” You get so preoccupied and consumed with making sure everyone else is taken care of first, that your own needs fall by the wayside.

If you are trying to capture a medal for being a self-sacrificing martyr, I have some news for you. There are no medals for martyrs. The International Olympic Committee is not adding it to their event list anytime soon. Nobody, particularly your children, will come to you at some point in the future and say, “I appreciate how much you sacrificed your own health and well-being for us – and how you let us know about it all along the way!”

Your commitment to self-care is one of the most important gifts you can give yourself – and your children. Here are some strategies to get you started.

1. Give Yourself Five Minutes a Day
Self-care doesn’t have to be big, fancy, expensive or time-consuming. Carve out at least 5 minutes a day to breathe, become still, let yourself daydream or sing along to your favorite tune. Imagine that each breath you take is refueling and grounding you.

2. Find Emotional Support
It’s always great to ensure you have the support of like-minded and like-spirited friends. If you hit a bump in the road, draw upon your support network. If the challenge you face is particularly tough, like going through a divorce, a downsizing or health issue, tap into people who have specialized experience in that area. Getting strong emotional support structures in place upfront will save you time and heartache in your healing journey.

3. Delegate as Much as Possible
When you’re feeling stress, stop and assess everything you have piled on your plate. Are there any responsibilities you have now that you can delegate or defer to someone else so you can give yourself some time off? Bulk up your babysitters and repair person lists. Make progress, not perfection, your goal.

4. Appreciate Yourself
A big reason people become self-sacrificing martyrs is because they are really seeking acknowledgement and appreciation. There is a much more reliable way to get that 24/7 which is by acknowledging yourself. Celebrate each and every accomplishment, new insight and decision you make. Writing them down in a self-appreciation journal will help make your progress more tangible and clear.

5. Be a Role Model for Your Children
Parents under stress often make the mistake of trying to keep a stiff upper lip around their children. Yet parents are powerful role models for their children. Children experience stress too. Remember, they will do what you do, not what you say.

Help build some healthy habits by teaching your children how to manage their own stress. You can start by naming the feelings you’re having. Share that “Mommy is feeling overloaded right now.” Next, ask yourself what you need to do in that moment to take care of yourself. Demonstrate this with your children by saying “Daddy needs to take a five minute break to collect my thoughts.” Taking responsibility for your feelings and your self-care is a powerful legacy to leave your children.

© 2010 Carolyn B. Ellis

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Success Strategist, coach and best-selling author, Carolyn B. Ellis, is the founder of ThrivePrinciples.com, empowering you to thrive no matter what your outside circumstances are. To get free tips on turning adversity into opportunity in order to improve your relationships, increase your self-confidence and reach your highest potential, visit www.ThrivePrinciples.com.

Divorce and Separation: How to Handle Criticism from Your Ex

“How do I handle my anxiety? My ex-husband says negative things to me constantly.”

Thank you for a great question about how to learn to manage your emotional state so it doesn’t go completely topsy-turvy when your ex-spouse fires off a nasty comment or jibe. So many people can relate to this situation, and there are indeed some strategies that can help you to not spin out emotionally.

In divorce there are lots of strong emotions that run rampant, often for months on end. This makes it hard to keep your emotional balance. Ex-spouses seem particularly gifted at knowing how to push those hot buttons that can send you into fear, anxiety, anger or depression. But it’s important to realize that we may never be able to get them to stop pushing the button BUT we can learn how to unplug that button so it doesn’t take you out of your power. To do this properly requires far more than can be offered in this article, but here are some strategies to get you started.

First, realize that what your ex thinks of you is actually none of your business. As I explain in my award-winning Divorce Resource Kit, the degree to which you continue to allow your energy and time to be sucked into drama about why your ex said something derogatory is the degree to which you help contribute to your ongoing suffering. Recognize that your ex is upset and acting out in a particular way because of their emotional reality, but that is your ex’s responsibility to sort out. Your primary responsibility has to be to your own healing journey. Don’t let your ex’s emotional state become a distraction to your own healing.

Second, go beyond the content of the negativity and get curious about what the dynamic is underneath it that bothers you so. If you’re having a strong emotional reaction, there is some gold here to mine for you.

For example, perhaps your ex mouthing off about you makes you feel totally disrespected. But look at that button of “I feel disrespected” closely. Are there some ways you might be disrespecting yourself? If so, what steps could you take to better honor and respect yourself. Often when you dig more deeply into the issue you will find some area where you need to uplevel and support yourself. When you address that, you’ll invariably find that particular barb from your ex will have far less ability to upset you because you have started to defuse the button altogether.

Ask your question, in confidence, by clicking here or you may email us at askthrive@thriveafterdivorce.com. We’ll answer your question in upcoming issues!

Divorce and Separation: Crying in Front of the Children

Q. “How can I stop crying so that I can function in my life and my job, and is it ok for my kids to see me crying?”

A. Crying, grieving and feeling the loss of your relationship and the loss of your dreams of “living happily ever after” with one person is normal. It’s important to feel all of your emotions fully instead of trying to stuff them down or ignore them. Tears are not a sign of weakness. It’s been said that tears are simply the ice around our hearts melting.

We are important role models for our children about how to be responsible for our own emotional well-being. If you find yourself in tears in front of the children, let them know you’re feeling sad and that it’s normal to cry if you’re feeling sad. This normalizes their experience and gives them permission to fully feel and express their emotions as well.

Explain to your children that feelings simply move through us. It is healthy for us to give them an outlet so we don’t get… Continue reading

Transitions: 3 Strategies to Make Transitions Smoother and Easier

Are you on the threshold of a transition in your life somewhere? As we move from where we are to where we want to go, we go through different kinds of transitions and changes along the way. Perhaps you’re leaving an old job to start your own business. Or the nest is emptying as your children start independent lives outside the family home. Anyone who has experienced the end of a love relationship, knows that transition state of from being part of a couple to being a single person.

Transitions are a tough stage for most people. Whether by choice or by circumstance, transitions thrust us out of our comfort zone into the unknown and that feels really uncomfortable. It takes courage and commitment to keep moving ahead. Our fears and self-doubts kick into overdrive. Transition and change are inevitable realities, yet I believe there are strategies we can use so we can navigate these important choice points with more grace, confidence and ease.

Here are 3 strategies to use when you find yourself in a place of life transition.

1. Remember There Is A Greater Purpose

A great role model in nature of the power and beauty of transition is the butterfly. As Buckminster Fuller said “There is nothing in a caterpillar that tells you it’s going to be a butterfly.” Times of transitions can be mysterious, but they are important times when we can learn… Continue reading