Whilst this may be a time where you feel like doing nothing more than shutting yourself away from the rest of the world, you will need the support of others in both a formal and informal way to get through this. The challenge is choosing who can support you, and in what way? Despite their love for you, even a best friend who has been through divorce herself is often unequipped to help you work out a divorce strategy that will be right for you. Equally, your lawyer, however competent, is not the person to go to for emotional support.
Here I run through the different ways of support and understanding that different people can give you as you move through the divorce process.
You're hurting and it's natural to turn to your friends for emotional support, to share those elaborate fantasies of revenge and analyse where it all went wrong. Friends can be a godsend for everything from practical help (minding the kids while you visit your lawyer) to an emotional lifeline. Do beware however of becoming the latest soap opera in your friends' lives. Watch out for friends that encourage you, however well meaning they may be, to dwell on your darkest feelings. Instead make a point to gravitate towards the ones that pull you towards the light and your new future. Don't feel that every conversation needs to revolve around your life and worries; indeed mates that you can enjoy light and fun activities with may, at times, be more of a help.
A recent survey that I carried out amongst divorced and divorcing people found that over 50% choose their lawyer by recommendation and I suggest that this is where you should start. However, just because your cousin used and recommended one particular solicitor does not mean that you should automatically do so too. Look for a lawyer who explains the process in a way that suits you, is happy to provide extra material or links to sites where you can do more reading if you wish, and who listens to what you want to get out of your divorce, and what type of divorce you would like to have.
A mediator will try to get you and your partner to come to a decision that is the best for you and the children. They won't be trying to get you back together, and you may find that time with mediator saves you on your legal bills in the end. An experienced mediator will guide you through the realms of emotion and blame, and keep you on track to try to come to an acceptable solution. Look for a mediator that is a member of Resolution or the Family Mediators Association, and again a personal referral may be invaluable.
Divorce Coach or Mentor
A good divorce coach or divorce mentor will help you both emotionally and practically. They will be there to guide you through the feelings that the divorce process will inevitably throw up, but do so in a way that helps you move forward in a positive manner. I often end up offering practical support to my own clients, helping them work through the tangle of legal, administrative and financial documents that can seem so overwhelming at this time of stress. For people who are not used to dealing with their own financial affairs as they have left this to the spouse, this can often be a paralysing and scary time. A divorce coach or mentor will help you step back and think about your life long-term: how you want it to be after the divorce and how you can start to plan for that now.
A Counsellor or Therapist
If you find that feelings of guilt, anger, sadness or depression are always with you and starting to encroach on your day to day life, it may be worth seeing a counsellor or therapist to help you move past this. Choose one that is a member of one of the BACP, Gestalt centre, or UK Council for Psychotherapy. It is acceptable to have a trial session with your therapist to see if you are a good fit. Don't be afraid to go elsewhere if you are not.
You cannot expect your HR department to hold your hand through this emotional time. However, getting them on side will help ease your time at work if you have to take time off to attend legal meetings or find that you now start needing to do things like pick up children from school etc as your family timetable has changed. Let them know what is happening, but do reassure them that you have put practical measures into place to make sure that your work will not be affected.