How to Emotionally Survive Divorce

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Those of us who marry intend to be married forever, or we'd never walk down the aisle in the first place. But statistically, 41 percent of first marriages end in divorce. While marriage dissolution laws vary from state to state, there are rules of thumb to surviving the breakup of a marriage that hold across the board.

Prepare for the worst. It's going to be one of the most stressful events you've ever lived through--catastrophic emotionally, financially and socially. On the Life Stress Score table used by mental health professionals, divorce ranks second, right behind the death of that special someone you swore you were going to love forever. "During the divorce process you need to stay focused and look toward the future in a positive manner," says Erika A. Appenzeller, Esquire, a family law attorney with the Leonard Law Group in Atlantic City, New Jersey. "You will survive as long as you don't emotionally shut down and think only negative thoughts."

Talk to someone. You're going to need to move through a certain grief process because something dear to you--a lifetime commitment that you attempted--has died. The more you vent while you adjust, the easier that adjustment becomes. "The emotions you'll experience are natural, but you can't let them consume you," says Appenzeller. Even if your medical insurance doesn't cover counseling, try to treat yourself to someone whose job it is to listen.

Pamper yourself. There was something you used to love to do when you were single that you stopped doing because your spouse didn't like it. Make it a point to remember what it was, then start doing it again. It can be as simple as an extended bubble bath with a glass of wine or as complex as the safari trip to Africa you always dreamed of taking. Do it now, because there's nothing to stop you anymore. Not only will it offer you a bright spot in what has temporarily become a stressful existence; it will help restore your soul to what and who you were before you married. "You will survive as long as you find something positive to do every day," says Appenzeller.

Share your kids with your ex-spouse. Do it graciously, no matter how much it kills you. The law is firm in every state that children deserve the companionship of both parents. And sharing gets easier as time goes by because no matter how much you love your children, it is very difficult to be a 24/7 single parent. "You will eventually reach the point where you find yourself looking forward to the night or nights your children spend with your ex-spouse," says Appenzeller. "You're going to need some downtime, when another adult is responsible for all the details and the decisions."