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To the mom going through a divorce: you can do this.

I’ve been where you are, staring at a mountain of changes and challenges that felt insurmountable. The crushing ache of divorce, of family disruption, of building a new life, and helping my son through it all seemed endless and impossible. But eventually, I made it through to the other side, and I want you to know: the pain won’t last forever. 

The first year following a divorce is an overwhelming puzzle of putting your life back together. And when there are kids involved, there is so much more to consider. If you’re locked in a custody battle it feels like your literal life is at stake. The time your children are with their other parent can feel like a loss. If you’re now parenting solo, you’re wearing all the hats and trying to be everything to everyone. It can be so very hard to know which way is up and how to move forward. But as someone who has been through it, may I offer you some friendly advice?

Stock up on chocolate, wine, and good friends. Indulge in a good cry when you need to but don’t dwell there. Don’t isolate yourself in your misery (been there, done that). Get out and get on with your life. Go to a movie or meet a friend for a coffee. Your schedule is probably packed, your energy and finances may be in very short supply, but try to squeeze in time to connect with people who love you even when all you want to do is stay in bed. 

RELATED: No One Talks About the Grief of Divorce

Try to take things one step at a time. Depending on your situation, you may be looking for a new job, a new place to live, new childcare, new . . . everything, really. That’s a whole lot to ask of one person in such a short period of time. I don’t have any magic advice to make it easier for you although I wish I did. Instead, I’ll remind you of the old quip: How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.

If your kids aren’t with you all of the time, it’s okay to wallow in the grief of missing them. Respect that feeling, treat it with ice cream and tearjerkers if you need to. But it’s also okay to enjoy this time to yourself if you can. To use it to do something you’ve always wanted to but never had the time to–whether it’s tackling a project or binge-watching an entire TV series in your pajamas. It’s too easy to fall into the guilt trap and feel like if you’re not miserable, you don’t love your kids. But self-care is so important right now, and if you can find some happiness in the midst of everything else, seize it!

RELATED: The Thing No One Tells You About Divorce

Go easy on yourself, please. It’s okay if you’re not on your A-game right now. No one rational is expecting that of you. Do the best you can, even if that means pizza for dinner (again) or a messy house (again). Remember that you are in transition right now, and transitions are never seamless. This is not your forever so don’t feel like you have to be at your peak. 

Going through a divorce is unlike anything else I’ve experienced. It’s got all the world-building of going away to college with all the pain of a death in the family. My world was turned upside down, and I know yours was too. But little by little, things will get easier. You’ll fall into new rhythms, find a way through the maze, and continue with the rest of your life. So much good stuff is waiting on the other side of this transition. You’ll grow and learn more than you can imagine. You’ll build a life you never saw coming. You’ve got this, mama. You’re stronger than you think–just wait, you’ll see.

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Kayci Villarreal

Kayci is a working mom of two hilarious kids living in Southern California. Her hobbies include reading in two-minute increments and sneaking cookies when her kids aren't looking.

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