Any way you slice it, divorce is an overwhelming, emotional process that brings out the absolute worst in all of us. While both parties may struggle throughout the separation process, it can feel especially difficult for those of us who didn’t see the divorce coming or didn’t ask for it in the first place.
Whether or not you realize it now, though, this pain you’re experiencing will not last forever (or at least I hope so… I’m in the midst of a divroce right now, too). In fact, many experts and experienced divorcees say that you can eventually move in the direction of healing if you follow these steps during and after the divorce process.
Show Yourself Some Grace
While it may sound harsh, the truth is that all marriages end someday. Although some end only in death, close to half of marriages end in divorce in the United States. So although you may feel like your marriage’s failure is somehow your fault, it’s important to show yourself some grace during this time, especially if the divorce wasn’t something you wanted.
Instead of reflecting on your former marriage, spend some time focusing on yourself and showing yourself some love and attention during this difficult time. It’s important to find true happiness without relying on another person, so use this newly found alone time to your advantage. After all, you probably neglected yourself in the time leading up to the divorce, so you deserve a little TLC.
Allow Yourself To Grieve
Losing a long-term partner often impacts us the same way a loved one’s death would. After all, you are losing someone, they will just continue to exist outside of your life (and possibly even in it). Because of this, you will likely feel the five stages of grief to varying degrees both during and after the divorce.
Even though you’re likely a very strong person, working your way through this particular grieving process will take time and energy. Remind yourself that whether you’re feeling anger, sadness, or even apathy, it’s all a normal part of the process. Also, the stages of grief are not linear, so you may find yourself in a constant state of flux while you sort out your feelings.
The grieving process is very personal and can often feel overwhelming while you’re in the midst of it. If it feels like too much for you, consider seeing a mental health professional such as a therapist so that you can have a safe space to express these feelings. Many therapists and counselors are specifically trained to help people work through difficult transitions like divorce, and they will help you work towards acceptance and, ultimately, healing.
Focus On Other Aspirations
Even with current feminist movements, many women still feel like they must prioritize their marriage over their own personal or professional aspirations. Because of this, women often put higher education, advancement opportunities, or even travel goals on hold “for the sake of their marriage.”
One of the best ways to stay distracted and busy during the early stages of your divorce can be to start reclaiming those parts of yourself you set aside for your spouse. If you want to go back to school, start looking into requirements and deadlines. If you always wanted to learn a musical instrument or other art form, sign up for a class to fill your evenings. Look at the big picture and really try to use this time of transition in a healthy way that ultimately benefits you.
Wait A While Before You Move On
Although some people immediately throw themselves back out into the dating world immediately after they sign off on their divorce, that may not be a wise decision. In fact, best-selling author and life coach David Essel says that many women don’t realize just how difficult it can be to find love after divorce.
In fact, Essel recommends that you wait at least one year post-divorce to start a serious relationship. His reasoning? Many of us use relationships as a distraction, but that’s not a healthy way to cope. “If you want to use dating as a distraction for loneliness, insecurity, boredom or anything else, you’re doing a great disservice to yourself and whoever else you’re bringing into your personal hell with you.”
Once the dust settles on your divorce and you feel emotionally ready to move on, take things slow. If you want to jump into the dating app game, make sure to do some research and find an app that best aligns with what you’re looking for. Also, share openly with your new partner once things do feel serious, and see how they react. The last thing you want to do is to open yourself up to the same problems you experienced in your first marriage.
Healing from a divorce won’t happen overnight, nor will it feel easy. But if you’re gentle with yourself, work through the grieving process, and focus on yourself for a bit, you’ll eventually find yourself in a happier, healthier place.
Also Published on Moms.com