Healing after a Divorce

Divorce is a very painful experience for many.  No one gets married with the intention of getting divorced.  Many people who go through this experience feel like they are on an emotional roller coaster—relieved one minute, angry the next, depressed and then anxious for the future.

Divorce is, at its core, an experience of deep grief and loss.  The loss of your family, home, relationship and life as you knew it.   Many describe feeling like a “failure” as a parent and spouse.  Questions such as “Did I do enough?” or “Was this really in the best decision for my kids?” often cause discomfort and anxiety.  So what do you do when your marriage has come to an end and divorce is now a reality? Though everyone’s process is different, below are some things to remember to aid those who may be in the midst of this difficult transition.

  1.  Allow yourself the time and space to grieve.  You ARE NOT going crazy and every feeling you have is normal for what you are going through.  Don’t judge yourself for feeling like you are on an emotional rollercoaster.  At times feelings can be intense and overwhelming.  Even if your marriage was unhealthy and ending it was necessary, it is still a loss and venturing into the unknown can be scary and anxiety provoking. 
  2. Avoid trying to make your spouse “get it.”  If they didn’t “get it” when you were married the chance of them obtaining a deeper understanding in the midst of a divorce is very slim.  Wasting time and energy in arguing and blaming will not help you feel better.
  3. Don’t be petty.  Often times it is easy to get caught in “tit for tat” games with your soon to be ex.  It is how we try to grasp some control in a situation that feels totally outside of our control.  Power struggles and games to “prove a point” do not reduce the pain and only causer further frustration, sadness, and resentment.
  4. Self-care.  Take care of yourself mentally and physically. Eat healthier, take a trip to the spa or exercise, and rest.  Take time to do things you enjoy.  Remember our mental and physical health directly impacts one another. 
  5. Utilize your support system!  Talk with your friends and family.  The discussion with your support system does not need to always be about the relationship.  Simply having good company can be uplifting.  In addition, you can find lots of online divorce support groups and forums that offer support from others experiencing divorce.
  6. Write a good-bye letter to the relationship.  Share what you will miss, what you are angry about, what you are most hurt about and why it was necessary for the relationship to end. Once you are done, dispose of the letter.  When you dispose of the letter, allow the disposing process to symbolize you no longer allowing the relationship to have emotional control over your entire life. 
  7. Remember you are woman who is divorced.  Do not carry the label of being a “Divorced woman.”  The divorce is an experience, NOT who you are.  Take a moment to write down who you are (i.e., a strong woman, mother, friend, woman of God, fearless, etc.) and include this description in your self-talk daily.
  8. Remember you have nothing to be ashamed of.  Shame is a very vulnerable feeling.  Sometimes it is brought on by family, religious views, or even the idea of how we felt our marriage should have been.  Be careful of how “shame” influences your self-talk.  Make an effort to talk to yourself in the same the way you would talk to a loved one.  Criticism and judgment deepens shameful feelings.
  9. Remember there is life after divorce.  There is a new chapter in your book of life.  Think and write about the journeys you want to embark upon in this next chapter.  Give it a title!  What new adventures do you look forward to?

As cliché as it may sound, hurtful things get easier with time.  However, ensure you are acknowledging you feelings along the way so that you can truly heal from the inside out.  If you don’t allow yourself to process your feelings, you are simply creating a mask that will only cover your hurt.  This is not healthy and prevents you from moving forward in a healthy manner.  You are not truly free until you heal.