After a divorce or separation, a lot of changes happen that affect your life and your emotions in a way you never thought possible. In the early stages, navigating through the end of your marriage might feel a bit like a war zone, where you are battling over your assets, your children, your home, and finances, while watching the life you had slowly crumble around you.
Admittedly, there are a lot of obvious transitions that you and your family will face, from custody arrangements to living situations and different family dynamics, but there’s another change that occurs following a split that no one talks about: the identity crisis.
It’s an uneasy feeling of emptiness immediately after a divorce, like you’re wandering aimlessly with no ties or obligations to another human and wondering who you are supposed to be now that you’re no longer somebody’s wife and partner.
You’re no longer one half of a partnership, but you still feel like you’re a half of something that doesn’t exist anymore and initially you’re not exactly sure how to make yourself whole again.
This might be particularly challenging if you have been married for a long time, have children together, or if you were a stay at home parent who handled the household duties and were the primary caregiver of your children.
Such as in my situation, where I spent a total of 5 of my 11 years in my marriage as a stay -at-home mom, looking after children, running a small business in the process and handling the bulk of the mental load of the household as my husband worked to provide for our family.
Among other things, my life was preoccupied with to-do lists, appointments, school events, coordinating schedules, craft shows, running my business, grocery shopping, meal planning, gift-buying and managing finances. My brain was always so busy with the next event or task, that there wasn’t much time for myself or a social life outside of child rearing and marriage. But I was comfortable in that role and enjoyed taking care of my family and pursuing my passions.
Additionally, not only did my role as a wife end when my marriage ended, but my job as a stay at home mom came to a halt at the same time when my twins went to school in September. And that made things even more difficult.
I wasn’t entirely sure who I was as an individual and a single person anymore, because I hadn’t been that person in 11 years, and it felt like the former version of myself was long gone. I had to refocus, rebuild, reframe my mind and figure out who I was outside of being a wife and stay at home mom, since my identity was tied to those roles for so long.
Following my separation, I returned to school to update my skills because it had been a long time since I had worked outside of the home, and everything I had done in the past felt irrelevant now. I had changed so much from the person I was in my 20’s, and I felt like I had buried most of that person when I became a mom.
But I wondered if I was supposed to build a new identity or revive parts of myself from the past. I knew on a personal level that I had abandoned parts of myself that I did want back- such as my carefree zest for life and having fun. I wanted to go out to events and concerts, meet people, try new things and eat at different restaurants. I wanted to socialize and experience life again, since I had been holding myself captive in my home for so long while taking care of the needs of others.
In addition, the fear of finding a new career was nagging at me, since I had been pursuing my creative and entrepreneurial goals for the past 5 years when it was financially plausible to do so during my marriage. As a single mother, I knew I would have to find a job that was more stable, and that was an intimidating change for someone who thrived at self-employment and had a passion for entrepreneurship.
It has been almost 6 months since my separation, and I’m still struggling with the changes to my life and my identity. It’s been daunting, overwhelming and scary, especially in the thick of all of the other changes that my family is facing at the same time.
But it’s also an opportunity to start over, to get in tune with myself, and to find out who I am and re-discover my passions. It’s a chance to clear the slate and become a newer, better version of myself by prioritizing my wellness and focusing on my own goals and self-worth. It’s a temporary setback and I’m ready for the comeback. I got this. And if you’re currently in a similar situation and feeling doubts and fears about the future, you got this too, boo.