You go through a smorgasbord of emotions during a divorce, including rage, pain, and grief. The thing to remember is that there is still life after that. In this episode, Dr. Elizabeth Cohen shares her own tale of divorce, how she overcame resentment, and the importance of moving at your own speed to process loss. Dr. Cohen has a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from Boston University and a recipient of an American Psychological Foundation Research Award. She has experience in treating clients at the Center for Anxiety and Related Disorders and became the Director of the CBT program at Bellevue’s Outpatient Psychiatry Clinic. She uses her expertise to provide a comprehensive and holistic approach to help clients grow and heal using her split-specific counseling program, Afterglow.
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How To Reinvent Your Life Post-Divorce With Dr. Elizabeth Cohen
I line up great guests for all of you and this episode is no exception. Dr. Elizabeth Cohen, received her PhD in clinical psychology from Boston University. As part of her graduate training, she treated clients at the world-renowned Center for Anxiety and Related Disorders in Boston, Massachusetts. Dr. Cohen was the recipient of the prestigious American Psychological Foundation Research Award. Elizabeth did her post-doctorate training at Bellevue Hospital Center at New York University. She was asked to become the Director of the CBT program in the outpatient psychiatry clinic. Dr. Cohen has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, NBC News, Women’s Health, Huffington Post, Thrive Global and Good Housekeeping. Dr. Elizabeth Cohen, how are you?
I’m good. I am happy to be here. I’m excited to be with all of your readers and with you.
I feel like I am good to my readers because I bring on the best guests and they keep getting better and better. I want to tell my readers what is special and unique about you. First of all, we haven’t met in person but I feel like I’ve known you a lifetime because you’re that engaging and I love your energy. What I liked about you is that the program that you offer, you could get it 24/7. I feel like with coaches and therapists, you have to set up an appointment and get a discovery call. You have to make sure if it’s your scheduling and is the right person. With you, you can get your program 24/7 any time you want. Am I right?
Let’s talk about it. What did you have?
First, I want to say that you bring on the best speakers because you are in tune with your audience. It’s because that is the gift of you, that you are such an in-tune person. You give your audience exactly what they need. Thank you on behalf of all of them and me being one of them.
Thank you. Tell me about what you got.
I have a program that combines all of my professional experience and my personal experience of being divorced to help people know and get a life of joy, ease and excitement post-divorce, no matter what your divorce is like. As a therapist, I’ve been doing this work for a long time. I’ve been working with people individually in 45 minutes sessions once a week and I see how people transform. To be perfectly honest, it takes a while and we don’t all have that much time.
We’re ready to get better quickly.
I decided to create an online program where I packaged all of the work that I do in 2 to 3 years of therapy. I made fourteen classes and videos that people can access at any time of night. When I was going through my divorce, I would wake up in the middle of the night to panic, “My kids are going to my ex,” or, “How am I going to pay this bill?” I needed help right away and I couldn’t tell my therapist. I wanted people to be able to have access to videos at any time of the night or during the day. While your kids are taking a ballet class and you have fifteen minutes like, “I have to call my ex, let me re-watch the video about communicating with my ex,” or look at the tool sheet about how to communicate with my ex so that I can get this information right now.Meditation is pausing a moment and realizing you can slow down. Click To Tweet
I wrote a book about it. You read the book and you put it on your shelf. Once you read it, you’re done with it and it’s great, then you go back. This is absolutely hands-on material. Dr. Cohen, this is fantastic.
I’m a Cognitive Behavioral Therapist, which essentially means I focus on the here and now. I think of strategies and toolkits for handling situations that are happening. I give in this program specific guidelines. I’ll walk you through, say this and then say this and then say that. In fact, I’m going to give you and your readers a cheat sheet about how to talk to your friends about divorce. From my divorce, it was complicated. Not everybody had the same reaction and not everyone was the right person to talk to. I like to get into specific guidelines of, do this, do that, do this, do that. Let’s be honest, when you’re going through a divorce you have so much that you’re managing. You need someone to help you hone in on what do I need to do next? You don’t need to be looking at this whole big picture of how did I get here? You need guidelines.
Another thing about you that I love is that you’re divorced. When I was going through my divorce, a lot of people were trying to help, bless their hearts. A lot of people that were helping me were married and they had no clue. It’s nice to have a therapist or specialist that understands because they’ve been through it.
I don’t know if you had this, but my experience was whenever someone responded to hearing that I was divorced, it was always through their lens. I mostly had two responses. More often than not, it was like, “How’d you do that?” I was like, “It sounds like you want to do this?” or, “I’m sorry.” For me, I was like, “No,” and I always said, “This is great. This is much better than what it was before.” You want to remember that people are going to respond through their own lens. If you’re happily married or you’re in a difficult marriage, you’re going to respond differently to someone when they say they have a divorce. You need to remember that because we’re vulnerable when we’re going through a divorce because it is a trauma, it is a shift in our experiences. We’re vulnerable to what other people think and say, “Want to set me up with this person? You want to tell me if you want a lawyer?”
I would have listened to anyone. If they told me to jump up and down and put chicken blood, anything to get better quickly, I was like, “It’s going to work.” You realize you’re not in the right headspace.
A big part of my program is helping you get back to your headspace and to your entire body, to start trusting yourself, to know what your next move needs to be. I use this example a lot, being referred to as a divorce lawyer. The best lawyer goes to them, you’re with them and then 6, 8 months, you’re like, “I don’t know if this is a good fit.” I didn’t want to be married to my friend’s husband. I don’t want to have the same lawyer necessarily. We don’t just want to say yes. We want to check in first with ourselves and figure out what feels right for me.
This is hard for anybody but imagine as we know what it’s like to have been rocked by divorce, which means maybe we didn’t see something coming or we did. We’re in the space of not trusting ourselves anyway. What I’m saying is, “We got to get back to trusting ourselves because that is the only way through, getting back to ourselves.” We know what’s best for us. That’s why we are in this situation of being separated and divorced. I always say, “You’re a superhero.” There is nothing harder or requires more insight than any of the work.
I know when I was going through my divorce, no one could tell me anything. I wasn’t going to listen because I felt the opposite. I felt I knew everything. I have a lot of friends and clients too who I try to say, “I was there, I know.” Until you go through it, I don’t think you do. You have to start trusting yourself again. A lot of people don’t realize that you can and you will again trust yourself.
It’s true. We can go on one of two ways. We can either be overly dependent on other people or we can be like, “I’m going to do what I want to do. I’m not listening to anyone else. The last time I listened to someone, look at how that turned out.” We can get into that space as well. They’re both the opposite sides of the same coin. It’s not necessarily trusting our intuition because our intuition likely is going to tell us sometimes to listen to people and sometimes not. There’s flexibility in the thinking rather than thinking, “I can’t trust,” or “I have to listen to everyone.”
You have a four-minute meditation. Can you tell us about that?
I created a four-minute meditation that I encourage you to learn. That gets you grounded into your body, returns you back into yourself before you make any move. The idea is to learn the meditation to connect to yourself before you call your ex, before you return that text, before you talk to your kid about something difficult, before you talk to your friend who gives you mixed messages and mixed information about however they’re helpful or not. This is a grounding exercise, four minutes. I usually listen to it when I’m transitioning back from work to back to my home. I listen to it any time I’m going to have an interaction with my children because it helps ground me in myself so that I’m not swirling in their stuff.
Life After Divorce: Divorce affects every kid differently. If you can be present with them and allow them to have their experience, they will be better for it.
I need this and I do meditate. I had my meditation teacher on the show and I’m going to talk to her about this too because it’s fantastic. I’m going to use this because I’m impulsive. I’m quick to respond to a text without thinking about it.
One of the things that’s even important, we want to be kind and compassionate to ourselves. Even thinking, “I should have used that meditation,” or, “There’s that meditation,” that’s meditative. Meditation is pausing in a moment and realizing you can slow down. It doesn’t mean you have to do a 25-minute meditation. It’s noticing, “I’m on autopilot now.”
A lot of my readers know that I have a happy divorce. My ex and I are good friends. That’s not the case for most people. When I bring on guests like you who are able to talk to the readers who aren’t in the situation that I’m in, it helps. People oftentimes are like, “Jennifer, you’re lucky you have this great divorce.” That’s not the case.
Not everybody is that way. Another chunk of my program online is about processing the loss and moving through the anger and the grief. A lot of divorce coaching has to do with positive behavior, changing behaviors. One of the pieces that I bring uniquely to it as a clinical psychologist is my ability to help people process the trauma, loss and anger. Until we move those feelings through our bodies, we cannot heal.
That was the hardest part that I had. Even though I have a good relationship with my ex, I grieve. My grief was horrific. My loss was with the loss of my family. It’s the loss of the family unit. My family, the four of us, we were a team. That was the grieving process for me, it was horrific. I completely agree with you. That is the hardest for a lot of us, especially when you’re going through moving and you’re looking at the pictures.
It’s one of the easiest things to not deal with because we have so many other things going on, yet it’s one of the most important. One of the other pieces of the program is I have a closed Facebook group that is focused on positivity, holding space for everybody, for a place to process feelings whenever you want, all moderated by me. We also have once a month coaching calls where people can get laser-focused answers to their specific questions by me and this allows people to move at their own speed. I was grieving and processing the loss. It took me a while after my separation when my kids, my ex-husband and his new son were all together in the pool. I was hit with that feeling of, “I wanted this family.”
It took me a while, after my separation, to feel the depth of my loss and my mourning. I was at the pool with my ex-husband, my two kids and his son with his new wife. It was the four of us for a bit and I felt exactly what I had longed for, which was the four of us to be together. I had pushed that out of my head for so long and when I sat with it, I was full of grief. Many of us, understandably, push that grief away and move on with whatever’s next. I knew, because of the work that I do, I had to feel the grief. I cried, I wept, and after that, I was able to open my heart to my ex in a way that I hadn’t before. It was because I felt the pain and the grief and the loss of that dream, that allowed me to connect to him in a more pure and wholesome way.
You’re doing such a phenomenal work and it’s important. You have one more thing that you wanted to share also with my readers, that PDF for speaking with your friends. That’s such a crazy thing too. I went through that and couldn’t believe the way that my friendships changed. Could you believe that? I thought it was me, but after doing research and talking to my friends and writing my book, I realized it wasn’t just me.
First of all, as a therapist, I’m always talking to people about how friendships change in general. In our culture, we think people are friends forever. I don’t know if that’s more for women than for men. There’s this sense of if a friendship shifts, it’s a horrible failure. I like to tell people, “Friends come into your life for a reason, a season or a lifetime.” There is no blood oath when you become a friend that you have to be friends forever. That’s the first thing, take off the guilt bag of having to keep all your friends through every experience you ever have. I’m going to share with everybody a PDF about how to talk to your friends about divorce. The most important thing is it relates to what we were talking about before about connecting to yourself. Remember that you are in charge.
When you turn to friends or family for support, you are the person who is in charge of the situation. You get to decide who you ask and what you ask for. Often, we feel we’re supposed to turn to people because they are curious about what’s going on for us. This is about you. Think about whether your body, your nervous system, your mind is ready to talk to the other person in front of you. You know the friends you have that are quick to give advice. You know the friends you have who are cheerleaders and believe in you no matter what. We all have those friends we know who are negative and focus on the negative. Ask yourself, “Who is in front of me right now?” Because you know what you’re going to get and, “Is my nervous system ready for what I’m going to get?
I think which friend is which, and I know exactly who’s who.The only way through a divorce is getting back to trusting ourselves. Click To Tweet
When you’re going through your divorce or in any stressful period, I recommend, you have a list of those cheerleaders. As Brené Brown says, “If you have one person you can be vulnerable with, you go with them.” It does not have to be a list of seventeen people. You have your cheerleaders, the people who you can turn to and who always think you’re amazing no matter what. You write it down, put it in your phone. You write it down, you put it in your wallet. Those are the people you turn to when you’re feeling vulnerable.
Many of us turn to the wrong people when we’re feeling vulnerable. For example, somebody is feeling vulnerable and nervous about dating again for the first time. Often, we turn to someone who might start giving us a million ideas about apps to use or a million ideas about people to be set up with, when we want someone to hold space and validate our vulnerability. Think about your audience, and remember that most people hear what you have to say through their own filter. On this PDF, you’ll get all these suggestions about how to handle talking to your friends. Those are some highlights.
I also thought that divorce would affect my friendships, but I didn’t realize how it would affect my kids’ friendships. I thought, “I’ll lose my friends and my married friends.” My boys, their friendships were affected by the loss of my friendships, which was disheartening. My ex and I thought, “We’re going to stay friends and no one will have to pick team Jen or team Mark,” it’ll be easy and they’ll continue to have the same friendships, but it didn’t work out that way. We were disappointed and our disappointment carried through. We were upset.
First of all, it shows what kind of parents you are, that you have that empathy for your boys that their life was changing with their friends that matter for them. A lot of parents think, “Friends, whatever.” You guys picked up on how that would shift for the boys. There’s a whole module on co-parenting and you bring up such an important piece about the kids which is, being able to talk to the kids and saying, “We’re disappointed this happened.” It’s being able to be honest with them about, “This sucks.”
We talk about it a lot with them. They’re old enough. I had my boys in the podcast before. It cut like a knife because I said, “What was the worst thing?” I figured they’d say, “The move, we’re switching houses.” They’re like, “It sucks to lose our friends.” I was like, “Whoa.” I didn’t realize how traumatic it was, that portion of it.
I love that you’re bringing this up because this is important. When I talk to parents about how to tell their kids that they’re getting divorced or parents are worried about how it’s going to affect them, I always say, “The thing you’re most worried about is not what’s going to be upsetting, it’ll be something else.” It’s a perfect example of how we cannot control other people’s experiences.
Jonah was eleven at the time, but Zach would say to me, “What are you going to do with the ketubah?” For those of you who don’t know what a ketubah is, it’s the marriage license for the Jewish people. It was hanging on the wall. It was strange that he was asking me that, a nine-year-old saying, “What’s going to happen to the ketubah?” I didn’t even think about that.
I remember vividly when my son, he was about 8 or 9, I said something like, “Your dad and I are friends now.” He said, “No you’re not.” He said, “You have coffee with your friends. You go for dinner with your friends. You don’t ever hang out with my dad.” I was like, “You’re right we aren’t friends.” They are in tune with things that we embrace. If you can allow them to bring those things up and engage with them, you’re going to learn so much and they’re going to feel heard. We can’t control their experience. Everyone always says, “How is it going to affect the kids?” Honestly, every kid reacts differently. Every situation is different, but if you can be present with them and allow them to have their experience, they will be better for it.
There are many aspects to this. We have to get rid of the shame. That is a number one desire of my program is to get rid of the shame, to help people see that no matter how bad your divorce is, whether your partners in your life, ex-partners in your life or not, you can have an amazing life. You can make it through. Your kids can have an amazing life and sometimes the crappiest things that happen to us are what allow us to grow most beautifully.
I have girlfriends that still are in horrible places, I hope that they’re learning and I hope they find you. I obviously have a different view on divorce coach, I don’t deal with what you deal with. I’m the fun coach, I help with the dating. After the trauma, I can’t do that. That’s not my area. I hope that people are learning and they reach out to you and use your expertise and they find your program because you’re phenomenal. I love your energy and I love where you come from and your program is phenomenal. It’s nice to be able to at 2:00 in the morning when you’re hurting and you’re anxious and you don’t know what to do, to be able to roll over, open up your laptop and turn on a video or whatever and get the help you need. I didn’t have that.
I don’t want anyone to feel isolated anymore. Use my experience of having to piece this together because it didn’t exist when I went through this. Somewhere where you can heal and grow and learn. This is all in one place for people, no matter where they are in their divorce.
Life After Divorce: When you turn to friends or family for support, you are the person who is in charge of the situation. You get to decide who you ask and what you ask for.
Thank you for being here. I appreciate it.
Thank you for having this platform. This is an important issue.
Tell everybody where they can find you, your website and everything you’re going to have for us.
People can find information about the program which is called Afterglow: Finding the Light at the Other Side of Divorce, at DrElizabethCohen.com/Afterglow. If you get on the waitlist, you will get information as soon as the cart opens. There’ll be a little special thing that you’ll get if you sign up for the waitlist, which you’ll find on the website. There’s all this information on that website about what you’re going to get in the program which this program works for, who it doesn’t work for, what’s are your concerns might be and how we address them. It’s a detailed page with all the information and a little video about me so you can get a feel for me and if you feel like I’ll be the right fit for you.
You’re right for everybody, that’s my opinion. What else do we need to know?
The two other pieces of information that I’m going to share with you are going to be that meditation. That’s a four-minute meditation that allows you to reconnect to yourself, get back into you and figure out what you want to do next whenever you’re facing a difficult situation. I’m going to share with you a PDF of some tools to use when you want to talk to your friends about your divorce.
Thank you so much, Dr. Cohen, for being here. Readers, you’ve got to find your way to Dr. Cohen. I’m going to find my way there too. I’m going to do some more reading.
Thank you for having me.
It’s a pleasure, I loved it. Thank you. Everybody, you know where to find me as usual, www.JenniferHurvitz.com. I am on Instagram, @JennifierHurvitzBiz. I’m on Facebook at JenniferHurvitzBiz. I’m everywhere. You can get your peace, love, truth, Hurvitz merch, 10% of the proceeds are going to the Isabella Santos Foundation to help find a cure for rare pediatric cancers, which makes my heart fill up with joy because it’s close to my heart. I love you and it’s a pleasure to be here.
PDF – Tips for Talking to your Friends about Your Divorce
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About Dr. Elizabeth Cohen
After completing her post-doctorate training at Bellevue Hospital Center and New York University, she was asked to become the Director of the CBT program at Bellevue’s Outpatient Psychiatry Clinic. Dr. Cohen has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, NBC News, Women’s Health, Huff Post, Thrive Global and, Good Housekeeping.
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