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Finding the true you after divorce

How to Move On and Discover Your True Self After Divorce

It’s tempting, and oh, so easy to believe that the hard work of divorce is completing the legal, financial, and practical steps you must take to officially dissolve your marriage. The black and white stuff. And Lord knows there’s a myriad of those logistical, challenges. You have to decide how you will divorce, how, or what kind of lawyer to use. You need to discover your ducks, get them in a row and hunt down papers, file, combine, fill out, let alone try to read.  You must develop your strategy and absorb stressful negotiations. All of which in total and individually is very difficult to navigate. Yet these steps have not transformed you. They have not delivered you to a place called Moved On after divorce.

To move on, to create a life worthy of you and filled with worth for you, you need to accept the invitation. It’s an invitation that is unspoken and easy to ignore. Yet, if you want what’s coming around your corner to be genuine, to be filled with meaning, discoveries, growth, joy, and peace, you must accept the invitation, and do the work.

Allowing yourself to heal after divorce

The unspoken invitation your divorce delivers is the opportunity to discover your true self.

Discovering the true you is a journey that not everyone opts for. Yet, the opportunity is there for everyone who divorces.

The reason so many decline or ignore the invitation is because accepting it first requires a genuine desire to heal. Some people prefer to remain bitter and angry, to remain the victim of their divorce, or to ignore healing in favor of beginning a new relationship as quickly as possible.

Although each of these responses is normal, none of them will help you cope with divorce or move on. In other words, these reactions to divorce won’t allow you to heal.

To heal properly, you need to deal with the emotional story, the wounds created by your divorce and the responsibility you played in bringing an end to your marriage.

Accepting that grief is a part of divorce

You lose a lot when you divorce. Obviously, you lose your spouse, your dreams of growing old together, and your lifestyle. But you could also lose your home, the ability to see your children daily, someone to help with the day to day tasks of living, friends, and so many other things you’ve grown accustomed to, both large and small.

And with the recognition of each loss, you’ll grieve.

Grief is a complicated emotion. It’s unique to each person which means your grief will be unlike the grief your friend may have experienced when she divorced. Grief is also nonlinear. You’ll feel like you’ve moved forward—like you are on your way to feeling better—but then something will happen. Suddenly, you’ll feel like you’ve been thrown back into the abyss of misery and you can’t get out of bed.

…And understanding that grief is complicated

The grief you’ll feel is also complicated by the fact that it isn’t just one emotion you feel before, during and after divorce but a range of them. And you probably started experiencing feelings of grief as soon as the possibility of divorce became a reality: back there when you were beginning the divorce process.  Or right now, after divorce, the grief ebbs and flows. It washes over you …

Thoughts of disbelief, that this can’t be happening to you—that’s shock and denial. Because your mind naturally protects you from taking in more information and pain than you can deal with at once, feeling this way is common when you don’t want to divorce.

You will probably suffer gut-wrenching pain about the end of your marriage and all the changes you must face during and after divorce as you work through your grief. Change is always painful, and changes of the magnitude required by divorce are often awful—at least at first.

As you continue coping with your divorce and grieving, don’t be surprised if you struggle with trying to understand why divorce is the answer to the problems present in your marriage. You might struggle with trying to assign blame.

At first you might even struggle to figure out what you did that caused your Ex to want to end your marriage. And when you think you have it all figured out, you may promise your Ex that you’ll change if he come back to you. But the firmer he stands in their decision to divorce, the more frustrated you’ll become.

Then, at some point, you may get so frustrated that you start blaming your Ex and feeling tremendous anger toward him because, in your eyes, he is the cause of all the pain and torment you’re feeling.

Another emotion you might encounter as you continue healing from your divorce is loneliness. You’re more likely to experience loneliness if you’ve lost friendships due to your divorce or if you don’t know other people who are divorced who are willing to support you through your healing process.

However, not all the emotions you may experience as part of working through your grief are negative. You can also feel hopeful about life after divorce. And when you do, you will begin to make plans for the future. These plans should not be the same as the logistical steps you needed to take to get through your divorce. These plans are things you want to do, things that make you smile and feel excited as you contemplate them.

Your grief is complex, nonlinear, and unique. You may or may not experience these emotions. That combined with the nebulous nature of healing from grief can make it seem never-ending. You can feel trapped in and at times engulfed by your grief.

Why leaning into (instead of avoiding) your grief is crucial to moving on after divorce

When you feel trapped and defeated by all that you’re going through it can be incredibly tempting to self-medicate yourself in order to numb the pain. Some people wind up declining the invitation to discover their true selves by over or under eating, drinking too much, looking for love through sex, or taking prescription and nonprescription drugs.

But the beauty of allowing yourself to experience your grief, so long as you maintain your desire to heal, is that you will continue to make small incremental steps toward feeling better.

It’s the compounding of these small incremental steps that will eventually lead you out of your grief with a new sense of who you truly are. It’s through the testing and trials you survive because of and after divorce that you learn to drop the BS, the masks, and the stories you used to hide behind.

When your emotional wound of grief has healed, you can finally face the world as you truly are—powerful, unique, lovable, and perfectly you.

Whether you are navigating the experience, or recreating after divorce, one thing we see making a significant difference for women is the conscious choice to not do divorce alone. Smart women around the world have chosen SAS For Women to partner them through the emotional, financial, and oft times complicated experience of Divorce.

woman's hand addressing an envelope with quill pen

Divorce Recovery: An Exercise Before Dating

You were not expecting this so soon, but here you stand, transfixed, in the doorway of a dimly lit cafe, your throat closing up and your chest tightening, watching a man who looks quite similar to his profile pictures. Could he be “The One” you wonder? You’ve had a tantalizing preamble of just the right amount of emails. He’s revealed himself, but not too much. Now, you see him in the booth in front of you. He’s wearing black, dramatic, cat-eyed reading glasses. He’s even better than you could have hoped ….

HONK. Stop Thinking That Way.

It is not your mission, take it from Mama. If you are looking for The One, Your Soul Mate, Your Next Mister Big, read this and consider more: What role did you play in your last long-term relationship? You know, the one you just left, with the ink still drying on the divorce papers?

It’s natural to feel a little insecure right now, to want to replace and fill the void. I did. But what I learned maybe simultaneously, in my Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde personality post-divorce, is that eventually in your divorce recovery, you have to take a hold of yourself. You have to shake off the dust, and look underneath your shirt. You’ve got to examine the wounds, the wounds that are just now seeing the light of day.

We propose the following as a start to getting to know your own story and for dedicating specific time to allow yourself to mourn:

Coaching Exercise: Divorce Recovery Letter

Goal: To examine what you have learned and to fully experience both the dark and light of loss.

Instructions: Choose an issue, an object, a way of living, or a relationship (hint, it’s probably the last one) In other words, someone/something you consider a loss. You will need a blank piece of paper and a pencil.

Create a graph marking the highs and lows of your relationship over time. First draw a horizontal line across a piece of paper.  The space above the line represents the positive experiences. The space beneath the line represents the negative experiences. On the far left of the line, put a dot on the line and write next to it the year the relationship began. Moving right, think about the highs and lows of your relationship as they relate to memories and events.  Put a dot and a notation for each memory, either above or below the line depending on whether or not it was a positive or negative experience. For example, your marriage may represent a very positive experience so it will be very high on the page.  Continue forward through the years with each important year or event plotted similarly. Connect the dots. Your graph should take you up to your current moment in time.

Examine this line. How did this exercise make you feel?  Do you see anything differently from the story you told yourself before?

Now write a letter to the object of the relationship. If it is your spouse, then you are writing to him/her and telling him/her how the graph makes you feel.  What did you learn? What do you see when you look at the narrative line of your relationship? What responsibility did you play in the story line?

Note: If you wrote to a person (your Ex for example) DO NOT attempt to read this letter to him/her.  This is for you and is a tool to help you process your thoughts and feelings. 

Divorce Recovery Homework:

This divorce recovery letter and graph represent how you have internalized and now externalized your life in this relationship. You have now documented how you feel and have felt about it. Where will you keep this graph and letter as you consider moving forward? Will you keep it in a drawer under your rolled argyle socks? Will you burn it, or put it in a box high in the closet?

SAS for Women helps women pick up the pieces after divorce and move forward with their lives. If you are not ready to talk to someone about your story, consider signing up for our weekly coaching letter. Our letter, SAS Day Break, will arrive discretely in your inbox and remind you of YOU and what you need in this moment as you continue to move, grow stronger, and rebuild your life after divorce.