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(The following is an excerpt from chapter 6, pages 113-119 of Making Divorce Work: 8 Essential Keys to Resolving Conflict and Rebuilding Your Life)

The best way to handle any problem is to break it down into its smallest parts and then determine what you can do to solve it, step by step. Only then can you start to change the way you think about even the most overwhelming issues.

What’s the Worst That Can Happen: Your Story

Is there a catastrophe looming in your mind that is driving you to distraction? Would you be able to think more clearly if you didn’t have so much fear about this horrible thing that might come to pass?

Writing down your biggest fear is a way to gradually and gently expose and desensitize yourself to it before it happens (if it ever does). You can come up with a potential solution so you aren’t filled with anxiety wondering and worrying about things that may never (and probably won’t) happen.

When you make decisions from a place of confidence rather than fear, you have a far better chance of averting catastrophe than if you get all worked up and stew.

Ask yourself the following questions about your worst fear and then write about them in your notebook (the more detailed and imaginative you can be in your description, the more aspects of your fear you can expose yourself to):

  • What is my worst fear?
  • Is there anything worse that can happen?
  • If so, what is it?
  • Ask yourself the first three questions over and over again until you have exhausted your list of “worst” things.
  • Now what’s my worst fear?
  • What’s the likelihood that it will actually happen? (Express this as a percentage.)
  • What’s the likelihood that it won’t happen? (Express this as a percentage.)
  • In my heart, do I believe that it will really happen?
  • If it seems unlikely that your worst fear will happen:
  • What can I do to feel calmer about this situation right now?
  • Now that I’m calmer, how can I stop myself from going to this dark place again?
  • What are the resources I can use now to help me stop thinking this way?
  • If I don’t have any ideas, who might help me with this?
  • If it seems likely that your worst fear will happen:
  • What can I do to prevent this from happening?
  • What are the resources I can use now to prevent this from happening?
  • What can I do to cope with this if it does happen?
  • What are the resources I can use now to help me cope if this does happen?
  • If I don’t have any ideas about what to do, who can I turn to who can help me with this?

Be patient with yourself. Do what you can do. Some days you will feel better and be more productive and open than others. Be honest with yourself about what you are ready for and try to do your best with each day. Your new life will be developed through your living it, so think of it as a journey rather than racing to get to the destination.

Play to your strengths. What did you want to do when you were a child? Is there a talent you have been ignoring that you’d like to develop? What makes you feel good about yourself?

Get out of your own way and be patient. A change as drastic as a divorce isn’t going to resolve itself over night. Also, sometimes it seems like nothing is happening to move you toward your goals and then you reach a critical mass and experience a growth spurt.


  • My worst fear is that I actually will lose everything in this divorce. And I can’t imagine anything worse. At least not legally. I could get cancer or my child could die, but bankruptcy is about as bad as it can get legally for me at the moment. I think that there’s maybe a 30 percent chance of this happening. And in my heart, I don’t believe that it will really happen. I feel like I don’t really know my husband anymore, and what he is capable of. He certainly is angry enough to do something pretty bad. But he’s always been very financially responsible and bankruptcy would hurt him, too.
  • If I come to a dead end and just don’t know what to do, I can ask that nice woman in Human Resources at work about the Employee Assistance Program. Maybe my friend Jill, who is always so poised, has an idea. My cousin is an attorney. Maybe I ought to call her.
  • Honestly, I am not sure what I can do to prevent this from happening.
  • I know that I have some resources and alternatives. I can consult with an attorney, or call my accountant. I can look at the self-help divorce books at the library or at the bookstore. Maybe I can find a support group on the Internet.
  • If my husband did leave me with nothing, it would be pretty hard. But money isn’t everything. I’ve started over before, like when I graduated from college without a job. I’m a capable person—I can get a job and work my way out of any hole I find myself in. I have supportive friends and family and they can help me get through this, emotionally if not financially. Plenty of people have started over.


Click the following to find out more information about Diana Mercer's and Katie Wennechuk's new book, "Making Divorce Work", or to purchase a copy.

Diana Mercer is an Attorney-Mediator and the founder of Peace Talks Mediation Services, and a contributor to First Wives World

She is the co-author of Making Divorce Work: 8 Essential Keys to Resolving Conflict and Rebuilding Your Life (Penguin/Perigee 2010) (Simon & Schuster/Fireside 2001) and writes for the Huffington Post, as well as her own blog, Making Divorce Work.


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