A couple of years ago, I wrote this article (and maintained the rights) and published it in SpouseBuzz Magazine online. I am in a very happy marriage; however, I am child of divorce. Watching my mother struggle to begin anew created in me an empathy for women that never went away. Please, read on; share it with your friends. Also, if you have something to contribute, please be sure to comment. Thank you.
It’s Over: Twenty Tips on What to Do When You Get Very Bad News
The Article You Don’t Want to Read (but probably should)
A very dear friend of mine was given very bad news by her husband of 5+ years: their marriage was over, and there was nothing to be done about it. My heart hurt for her, as I could easily place myself in her shoes – those of a homeschooling, stay-at-home-mom.
Becoming a stay-at-home parent is a decision made by two people – a committed couple. One parent agrees to go out of the home to make the money, while the other agrees to stay at home to watch the kids. The person who stays at home is trusting that their livelihood will be provided by the working spouse, which is no easy thing, as years of workforce experience are lost when an adult stays at home.
When the working spouse decides that the marriage is over, the stay at home parent has their promised future stolen from them. But after all of the heartbreak and all of the tears, one thing is clear: a new path must be carved. But how does one do that? Where does a shaken spouse look to for guidance?
After agonizing over my friend’s situation, I thought to “look ahead” for her. I sought advice from the people who might know what should happen next: a psychologist, a human resources professional, a financial planner, and divorced women. Here is what they said:
Sabrina Rios – The Human Resources Manager:
“First off, that is horrible,” said the manager (and awesome first cousin of mine) when I told her of my dear friend’s experience. I wholeheartedly agreed. Here was the advice she gave me:
- Don’t try to hide your absence from the workforce in your resume. We’ll spot that in a hurry. But know that the HR field is full of women, and all sorts of folks who are very empathetic and understanding of disruptive life changes. Instead, highlight your college degree (if you have one) and whatever work you did that is related to it during your time out of the workforce. Put any volunteer work you have on there, too.
- Work on networking! Get a profile set up on LinkedIn, and find your old work contacts – anyone who can vouch for you in a professional manner. Consider the alumni network of your college, too.
- As proud as you are (and have the right to be) about being a stay-at-home parent, do not list: “Looking at going back to work after being a stay-at-home-parent for XX years” as an objective on your resume. Employers want to know about the skills you have that they can use.
- A great place to start looking for work is at a job placement business such as Office Team. There, you will be tested and can possibly be placed for a temporary position. It is a great way to beef up your resume and work towards a permanent position.
- Somewhat easy-to-attain skills are proficiencies with Microsoft Excel and PowerPoint. While waiting to find a position, work hard on dominating those software programs. Managers like me look for those AND test our candidates in those areas.
Maria Siconolfi – The Financial Professional:
“This is a very good idea,” said the financial professional (and my tax preparer) when I told her why I wanted this information. Here is the advice she gave me:
- The person who has the children more than 50% of the time is entitled to the Head of Household deduction, which is not an item both parents can claim. You do not have to take the child as a dependent to be head of household, though that is solely based on days with each parent.
- Whoever claims the child as a dependent also gets to claim daycare/college expenses as well as the tax credit. Make sure the divorce decree says who will get to take the child as a dependent during college years. Most decrees only go to age 18, but there is a deduction up until age 23 if the child is a full time student.
- Alimony received is tax deductible, but child support is not. Family support will be classified as alimony or child support depending on circumstances, so get in writing how much is allocated to each.
- It is better to receive higher child support than alimony given the choice.
- The IRS has a publication for divorced parents; I hope it helps: http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/p504.pdf
Maria Lozano – The Psychologist:
Maria, a psychologist with a practice of her own (and my former sister-in-law) had great points for me. They made me all teary eyed.
- A rupture or an act of abandonment is a loss. It is very possible for one to go through the stages of loss as described by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross: denial, negotiation, anger, depression, and acceptance.
- Do not isolate yourself. Activate your safety net, or your support group.
- If you feel as if you might be suffering through clinical depression, seek the help of a mental health professional.
- Redefine your life! Look for new goals and aspirations.
- Look for a way to attain closure. For example, burn a break-up letter or delete a voicemail that delivered the bad news to you.
The Subject-Matter-Experts: Divorced Women:
My divorced friends are some of the biggest supporters for this article. They are the best cheerleaders and some of the happiest people I know.
- Lisle: “Just keep going. Keep going no matter how strong the urge is to get in bed and pull the covers over your head. Lean on your family and friends and let them help you! From a practical standpoint, seek legal counsel and protect your assets. And most important for me was to pray.”
- Jennifer: “You will get through it and learn something from it.”
- Karen: “For the first few days, I think that I just held tight to knowing that if I just kept putting one foot in front of the other, accepted and let the shock pass through me, trusted my instincts, that clarity would come. Priorities snapped in line very quickly. Also, don’t agree or do anything until you are clear headed!”
- Sheree: “Get a really good attorney, and don’t “be nice.” I’m not saying be nasty or anything like that, but you future is very affected by every decision made now. Try and maintain your routine, too. It helps.”
- Tabatha: “When I left (because it was over), the shock and depression had me sleeping most of the day. But I then found a job in a field that I love; I stayed busy with church, friends and family. Hope was all I needed to get through the first few months, and even to this day.”
At first, I reached out to strangers for their “professional” advice, but got a lot of rejection and non-answers. Then, I thought to reach out to my friends and family. They did not hesitate or delay to lend me assistance, which is telling.
When in trouble, we should look to our family and friends first, and strangers second.
However, sometimes we are far away from our homes and our family, and that cannot be helped. What you can do is look to the people we speak to everyday – our neighbors, the people at our churches, the parents of our children’s friends, or even someone we speak to on Facebook. I know that I’ve been wonderfully surprised at the places where I’ve found friendship.
But if you are someone who needs help right now, please don’t hesitate to comment in this article and ask me (or my friends) for help. We’ll be happy to listen.