You’ve heard it before, divorce can be as stressful as losing someone to death. Except death is final. The person is gone. So for those who never wanted the divorce, who continue to struggle, trying to recover from divorce emotionally, that lack of closure — still knowing your ex is around — can be more painful than death. He’s not gone — entirely.
Losing your marriage no matter how long you’ve been married, or the circumstances of who left whom, is going to require experiencing and working through your grief. And grief may not be what you think it means.
We like to define grief as the sudden loss of a familiar pattern or way of living. For example, while you might not be missing the yelling, the passive/aggressive behaviors of your ex or yourself, or the lying, cheating or second guessing of yourself; you’re probably not entirely prepared for the changes facing you across the board, now that you are waking up wondering who your are. How did you lose yourself? As you begin to understand divorce recovery, and that this next chapter in front of you is complicated, you’ll need to remind yourself to be patient. Your healing is not going to happen overnight.
But there are things you can do to begin the repairing of your heart and body and soul.
Get the support and help you need
The first weeks and months after a divorce can feel soul-wretchedly lonely, but there are others who can help you feel less alone. While friends and family may be available to lean on if you need anything, it is sometimes better to work with a licensed counselor or therapist who can guide you through your grieving. It’s important to have a safe place where you can honestly open up and discuss your feelings in the wake of the divorce.
Accept your emotions, experience them and talk about them
You might be feeling angry or besotted with sadness. You might be numb. You are probably experiencing a spectrum of emotions after your divorce, and there is no right or wrong way to feel. This is an extremely challenging moment time and it’s important that you accept your feelings for what they are. Cry when you need to cry (in that safe place described above). Vent about your anger when you feel frustrated or upset. This allows you to experience the emotions and to process what they mean to you. It’s not about sweeping them under the rug or putting them in a box. It’s about honoring them and giving them space. A support group, a good friend who has been through divorce, or a coach can help you with perspective and what’s more, doing something to move beyond the trauma.
Try to maintain your daily routine
Nearly every aspect of your life is uprooted when you get divorced, and it’s easy to feel like each day is chaotic and stressful. To maintain some sense of normalcy, it’s necessary to stick to a consistent routine. Continue to have your favorite coffee in the morning. Take the same route to work, and make your favorite spaghetti dinner on Tuesdays like you always do. This can both alleviate stress and bring comfort during an emotionally trying time in your life.
Delve into a new interest or hobby
Divorce can take its toll on your identity. While you grieve the loss of your status as a married person and as a spouse to someone that you once loved, you should also see an opportunity to grow, change and learn new things. For many, a new hobby can be therapeutic. It takes your mind off of the pain of your divorce, and also allows you to find something for yourself that you enjoy. Photography, crafting, writing, hiking or yoga are a few options that you might want to consider.
Keep a journal
Writing about your feelings and your daily activities can provide you with a private outlet for your feelings. This is one of the safest spaces to disclose your thoughts and your experiences in the aftermath of your divorce. Pick a time of day where you have a few extra minutes to jot down your thoughts — many people find that before bedtime is a wonderful time of day to journal. Incorporate journaling into your new routine, and keep up with your new habit in the months and years to come.
After a divorce, it can be easy to focus your efforts on caring for your children or throwing yourself into your work. It’s also easy to forget that you need to take care of yourself. However, this is one of the most important times in your life to prioritize self-care. Treat yourself to that pedicure, even if it doesn’t feel like you have the time. Take a warm bubble bath at the end of the night and read a light-hearted novel. Visit your favorite local restaurant and enjoy the most delicious item on the menu. Do things that make you feel good and happy, as this will help minimize your stress.
Allow yourself to focus on the future
Your future needs your attention, And there is a future. You may not feel it or see it, but it’s right in front of you. You just cannot see it if you are only looking in the rearview mirror.
If you are struggling to recover from divorce, and dealing with the wounds at the same time you are trying to rebuild your life, you may be especially interested in a 6-week group we are forming to support women navigating this new chapter of their lives. If you’d like to learn more, schedule a quick 15-minute chat with SAS Cofounder, Liza Caldwell. To advance, to live well, you must do something.