Tools You Can Use to Survive Your Divorce
Regardless of how amicable a divorce may be, going through one is never an easy process. Even after both parties have survived the legal end of divorce, they often have to deal with a period of emotional recovery. Whether the divorce is amicable or contested, there are often feelings of hurt, anger, resentment, and sadness that both parties must go through – in some cases, these emotions are so overwhelming it makes it difficult for the individual to function as normal on a day to day basis.
As painful as these emotions may be, it is important for both parties to allow themselves to feel these emotions and walk through the grieving process – many experts view the emotions related to divorce as grieving the loss of the relationship and/or the marriage. While there is no “cure” or way to stop these feelings there are some tools that can be used to make the grieving process more manageable. Coping with these emotions begins with allowing yourself to grieve and then moving on with your life.
Allow Yourself to Grieve
Greif is not a simple emotion and it is important to remember that grief is a very natural feeling to have when experiencing a loss. Everyone experiences grief in different ways but the process tends to unfold in a rather predictable way for most people. Generally, individuals will pass back and forth between a shocked or numb state, which is usually characterized by depression or denial to an angry and/or fearful state or state of vulnerability. This exchange between numbness and anger continues for some time until the loss, or the divorce, feels like something that happened in the past.
Fighting these emotions of grief is not productive to the emotional process one must go through during a divorce. It is best to allow yourself to feel the emotions and move through them instead of trying to avoid them altogether. Eventually, whether it is over a period of a few months or even a few years, life will return to “normal” and the individual will be able to happily and in a stable state of mind move into the next period of his or her life. If these emotions are ignored, shoved down, or not processed individuals will often find it more difficult to move on and may harbor unwarranted feelings of resentment.
How to Cope with Your Emotions During Divorce
Even though emotions are something we cannot control there are a number of tools available to us to make dealing with these emotions a little bit easier. By following these suggestions, it is possible for an individual to properly grieve the loss of his or her marriage without having to put the brakes on entire life.
- Prioritize: Life doesn’t stop when we need to cope with grief or other emotions. Despite our feelings, there will still be things that need to be done, from our careers to family commitments, to tasks that need completed around the home. Since the emotions of sadness and anger that are associated with divorce can often be paralyzing, many people struggle to continue to live their day to day life during the divorce process and struggle even more completing tasks that have to do with their divorce. Make sure to take the time to set your emotions aside and prioritize the items that must get done, such as finding somewhere new to live, filing appropriate paperwork, and other necessary tasks that must be completed.
- Put Away Your Married Life: As soon as practical, start living your life as a single person. This means putting away photos of you and your ex-spouse, changing your last name, paying your own bills, and so on. Also, start to reduce your contact with your ex-spouse as much as possible keeping in mind that, if you have children, it may be more difficult to do this.
- Be Open about Your Feelings: Being able to share feelings of sadness, hurt and frustration often lessens the emotional burden that divorcing individuals feel. Many times these individuals find comfort in sharing their feelings with trusted friends and family members, helping to lessen the emotional weight they may be feeling. If you do not feel sharing with close family members or friends if appropriate, seek the counsel of a licensed therapist who you will be able to speak to and who can give you sound, unbiased advice about how to handle your emotions.
- Rediscover Yourself: Often times in marriage, we put off doing the things we love for the betterment of the relationship. Now that the relationship has ended, it is important to rediscover those things you loved to do and get back to doing them and being who you truly are. Many divorcing individuals feel that rediscovering themselves, as a single person, is an important part of how they cope with the other emotions they feel during the process.
Avoiding Dangerous Coping Behaviors
While all the coping behaviors discussed here are effective in moving through the emotions of the divorce process, there are some other coping methods individuals turn to that can be self-defeating and even dangerous. Individuals going through a divorce often feel wounded, hurt, and extremely sad – in some cases, the combination of these emotions will lead people to make bad choices in an attempt to do anything to numb or remove the pain and sadness they are feeling.
While coping with your emotions is important, there are some coping mechanisms that are self-destructive and dangerous including:
- Alcohol and/or Drug Use
- Diving into new, intimate relationships too soon
- Acting out of anger or rage
- Being overbearing/stalking your ex-spouse
Many of these behaviors will lead to additional emotion stress and some could even lead to further legal action. While these actions may make you feel better for a period of time, the consequences of these actions will come back ten-fold and may cause more legal and emotional issues down the road.
Choosing to Move Forward after Divorce
It is important, after dealing with the emotions divorce can bring, to make a conscious effort to move forward with your life. It is very possible that the grief an individual feels during and after a divorce is so strong they become emotionally immobilized but they cannot stay in that state forever and live a healthy life. For some, the moving forward process occurs naturally while they are still grieving the loss of the marriage. Over time, the grieving process will lose steam and moving on will be more possible.
It is unrealistic to believe that the grief, sadness, anger, frustration, and sense of loss will go away in a predetermined amount of time. It is not even realistic to expect to be over your divorce in a period of months or even years. While several years is a very long time, it is important to know that you will not be exclusively dealing with your emotions every hour or every day – life will continue to go on around you and, unless you shut yourself out from the world, you will also move forward with life.