Life after divorce

By Dr. Phil McGraw

Divorce is a major life change that can leave a person reeling. Suddenly being on your own to deal with issues such as money, children, career changes and downsizing the family home can seem overwhelming. Dr. Phil and Libby Gill, author of the book Traveling Hopefully: How to Lose Your Family Baggage and Jumpstart Your Life offer advice on how to begin to live life after divorce.

If you’re having trouble letting go:

  • There is life after this marriage
    As hard as it is to believe right now, one day this marriage will just be something you did once. You’ll go on and you’ll have what you create.
  • Get out of denial
    Ask yourself: Do you really want this marriage, or are you hanging onto it out of fear? If being alone is a scarier thought than staying in a broken marriage, you’re letting fear make your decisions. Are you mourning the loss of what your marriage was, or what you thought marriage would be?
  • Don’t burn daylight
    Grieving doesn’t have a time frame on it, but life does. Whether you realize it or not, life is marching on. There comes a time when you have to accept the fact and say, “I’ve got to get on with my life, I’ve got to get on with raising my children, I’ve got to get on with putting things together where I can be a happy, meaningful, productive member of society.” Find a way to put one foot in front of the other and move forward.
  • Take the catastrophic language out of your mind
    “My life is over,” “I’ve lost everything,” and “Things are horrible” are labels that can have a powerful impact on how you feel. Recognize that it’s factually not true. Your life isn’t over, it’s just a new beginning for you. Changing the negative tapes that run in your head can change how you physically feel.
  • Don’t waste time with regret
    At some point you have to say, “It is what it is.” You can’t do anything about what you did before; but you can do a lot about what you’re doing now.
  • Be an example for your children
    What kind of mom do you think your kids are experiencing when you’re sitting around and crying and looking over your shoulder at what was instead of what is?


You’ve accepted it. Now it’s time to jumpstart your life!


  • Define a new relationship with your ex for your children
    Your old relationship was husband and wife, your new relationship is as common allies of your children.
  • Talk to your kids
    Divorce can create emotional wounds in children. Talk to them about what’s going on, what they’re feeling, and how things will get better. Involve them. If they know there are things they can do to help this transition, it will give them a feeling of power.
  • Make a plan
    Assess your situation financially, look at your resources to see what your options are in terms of housing, job and finances.
  • Create a support squad
    Ask for help. People appreciate being asked for help. It’s a gift to them to allow them to be there for you. Create a support squad of your closest friends who won’t mind providing you with emotional support, professional guidance and ongoing inspiration. Realize that you’re not the first person to go through this.
  • Get your resources and assets around you
    Do everything you can to program yourself for success. Find out what your strengths and skills are and focus on them to help move you in a new and positive direction. Everybody has a personal truth — what you believe about yourself when nobody’s watching. Remember that you will create the results in life that you believe you deserve.
  • Make time for yourself
    Make a priority to be a little selfish and do something just for yourself. The most important gift you can give your children is to take care of their parents. Try a new class, start exercising, or reconnect with an old hobby you’ve forgotten about.
  • Make your dream home
    It’s not the end of the world if you have to change houses. Know that you and your kids are going to create memories there and that’s what makes it a dream home.
  • Find your authentic self
    Although you may no longer be one half of a couple, you are still 100 percent the person who you are. Find that person again.
  • Find your passion
    What is it that will make you excited to get out of bed every day? Make a list of what you can do to reach your goals.
  • Have some joy with your kids
    Choose to live with some fun in your new life. Create new memories with your children that will carry them into the future with self-esteem, confidence and happiness.
  • Protect yourself in the future
    It’s important to always look at a relationship and ask yourself, “What’s it costing me to be in this relationship?” If you totally lose yourself in it, then the cost is too high.



  1. Posted June 5, 2008 at 12:22 am | Permalink

    Great blog Jerry and very true. We often loose our individuality when we are married. If the marriage ends then regaining that individuality is vital. It is difficult but you can rediscover yourself and design a new life for yourself. Don’t just GO through divorce, Grow through it.

    Annie O’Neill

  2. Lynn Gordon
    Posted July 27, 2008 at 8:05 am | Permalink

    After 23 years of marriage I totaly lost my identity and spent my life supporting him and the children. now I feel like an empty shell with no direction or ideas of my own. I dont even know how I want to make money and spend the rest of my life.

  3. Posted May 3, 2010 at 9:39 pm | Permalink

    There really is life after divorce! Fantastic thoughts. Thank you so much for writing them down. I recently divorced my husband and sent him to jail. He was running a ponzi scheme to the tune of about 28MIL. I can tell you that you really can move on with your life. I have started writing my story on my own blog and i am truly amazed at how therapeutic it has been. If you ever need a guest blogger, let me know. I would love to. Your site is fantastic. Thank you for what you are doing!

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    […] to deal with issues such as money, children, career changes and downsizing the family home can see and Childrentapping into their strengths as a parent and a person. moving from feeling […]

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