How Do I Mentally and Emotionally Get Through a Divorce?
Even under the best of circumstances, going through a divorce is daunting.
You will be challenged spiritually, mentally, and emotionally. And you will probably have some degree of anxiety when it comes to your future finances as well.
Guess what? In the context of divorce, all of these feelings are completely normal.
You need to accept the fact that divorce represents change.
And change, even if you view it as a positive, is never easy. But change can also represent renewed hope for the future once you work your way through a gamut of emotions.
But how do you do that? What exactly are you going to feel? And what do you need to do to mentally and emotionally get through a divorce?
Here are some suggestions on how to get through a divorce:
Understand that grieving is NORMAL
Depending on the nature, length, and type of relationship you had with your spouse, you may feel that a part of your identity is going away when you get divorced. The label you had as “husband” or “wife” will no longer apply. For now, and possibly many years to come, you will be a single person.
It’s not only okay to mourn the loss of those labels and your relationship with your spouse – it is completely normal.
In fact, have a good cry (or several) to help you process the anger and sadness you’re feeling over the loss of your relationship.
Recognize that it’s going to take a while.
Coping with a divorce is a process…and it’s more like a marathon than a 100-yard dash.
The intense feelings of love and joy you had when you fell in love and got married will take some time to dissipate as you unwind your relationship.
If you try to go too fast, you’re likely to repress feelings that you need to process to help you heal.
Progress will be incremental. Go at your own pace and understand that there will be setbacks. Divorce can be an emotional rollercoaster.
How fast you heal will be different from well-meaning friends who try to hurry you along or compare your divorce to their own.
Don’t go it alone.
You may feel too ashamed, sad and embarrassed to seek out support from others to help you through your divorce.
But friends will step in to fill the breach of the loss that you’re feeling.
They will be there when you just want to talk things out. They will take time to listen and offer encouragement when you need it the most.
They will help you offload your anger. It may be tough for you, but you should take the risk of sharing your feelings with friends and family. It’s healthy. You can also join a support group or even seek out a mental health professional to help you put things in perspective and start you on your path to healing.
One warning: be careful about taking advice from your friends and family. While well-intentioned, their advice is often misguided (chances are they don’t understand the ins and outs of divorce law and your financial situation).
Be kind to yourself.
Fight the feeling to place all the blame for your divorce on yourself. Healing will be tough enough without making you your own worst enemy.
Instead, do things that will feed your soul, nurture you and take you down a positive path. You will probably have more freedom than ever before, so take walks on the beach, read all those good books you’ve been wanting to curl up with, go dancing with your friends, take up a hobby like playing the guitar, tennis, photography or just about anything that feels good that you have been holding off.
Improving your self-esteem is critical at this point in your life.
Take care of yourself physically.
If you’re depressed, the refrigerator might turn into your best friend, and every step you take could be labored unless you make up your mind to take care of your physical self as well as your mental self.
Physical activity releases endorphins, and endorphins relieve tension, anger and anxiety.
You can also make physical activity a social activity as well by finding a running buddy, a golf partner, making friends at the gym or any other number of ways to engage with others in a positive outlet.
Keep your kids out of it.
As difficult as the divorce is on you, it will be exponentially tougher on your children. Divorce shatters their concept a family unit, and the worst thing you can do is fan the flames of insecurity by bashing your spouse or preaching any kind of doom and gloom.
They will need just the opposite from you. And actually, you will feel better in maintaining your role as a nurturing provider whether you are a mom or a dad.
No matter what age they are, your kids will still look to you as a role model, and how you conduct yourself during a divorce will be imprinted on them for many years to come.
Think about how you want to reinvent yourself.
When you’re married, you compromise. You don’t always get your way, nor should you.
But once you find yourself on your own, you have been given a gift of freedom to explore things you may not have had a chance to do while you were in a relationship.
It could be reconnecting with old friends, losing weight, changing out your old wardrobe for a new one, or taking up hobbies or activities that you never could before.
Once you understand that this part of divorce can be viewed as an opportunity, you’ll be on the path to mentally and emotionally recovering from the trauma that you’ve experienced.
How Do I Cope With Separation and Divorce?
Some people grieve the loss of the relationship. Others breathe a heavy sigh of relief.
The bottom line is that no two people will react in exactly the same way. The one thing that is common however is that separation and divorce represents change.
And how you react to that change plays a large part in how you ultimately cope with separation and divorce.
One of the best things you can do is to find someone you can talk to about what you’re going through.
It may be a family member or a friend who has gone through a divorce. Also consider going to a therapist who will not only be a great listener, but will also offer up specific things you can do to help you get through your current situation.
Also stay focused on the present. Reliving things that have happened in the past will only cause your mind to go into a bad kind of overdrive and impact your ability to move forward.
Live one day at a time, try and maintain normal routines when possible, and separate out those things directly related to your separation and divorce.
Try taking a practical approach by focusing on what you can do to prepare for divorce. Staying busy can keep your mind from wandering and engaging in negative self-talk.
Most important, understand that as hard as things are right now, they will change.
Your situation will get better. You just need to give it time.
How Can I Help a Child Cope With Divorce?
As an adult, you have a certain measure of control in your life. But a child is essentially helpless when it comes to making decisions. They are also in less control of their emotions, so expect a wide range of feelings to come out ranging from sadness to anger and many others in between.
While there’s no denying the impact of a divorce, there are some things you can do to help your child cope.
Start by reassuring them that the divorce is not their fault.
Be a good listener and take time to answer their questions in a compassionate but direct way.
As part of this, be careful not to involve your children in any marital conflict by speaking poorly about your spouse, laying blame, flashing anger or attempting to use them as spies on your spouse’s activities. If your children are upset, acknowledge that this is normal and that you will work through this together.
You must also do what you can to try and maintain stability and routines to minimize the impact to their world.
Keep them involved in school activities, make sure they spend time with friends and do not go overboard in trying to compensate by spoiling them, especially if you feel guilty about what is happening. Get other reliable and compassionate adults involved who can help take some of the pressure off of you as well.
If you sense a child is not coping very well, then you should consider working with a family therapist who has experience with divorces.
Get guidance to handle the tough and unpredictable situations that are sure to arise while also giving your child a non-threatening place to offload their many emotions.
Looking for more great divorce tips? Here are a few of our favorite resources: