Divorce is one of the most devastating, stressful, and life changing experiences a person can go through. Many people feel it is worse than a death of a loved one, in that you feel the feelings of the “death” of the relationship but are still forced to deal with the person you once committed your life to. It is even more difficult when children are involved.
One of the most important things to remember when you are going through a divorce is that you are grieving. You will actually go through the stages of grief such as denial, anger, bargaining, depression/sadness, and acceptance. You will feel a wide range of feelings and often at great intensity. That is normal and ok. Let yourself naturally go through and feel every feeling in each stage. If you would like additional information see our article on Coping with Grief and Loss.
Because you will experience such a wide range of feelings, it is imperative that you have a strong support system during this time. You need emotionally safe people you can talk to that will not judge you or try to fix your problem. You just need someone to listen. There are various divorce support groups that are valuable during this time (see additional resources at the end of the article). It would also be very helpful to find one person who has actually gone through a divorce that can be a listening ear and help normalize your feelings. This would also be a great opportunity for therapy if you don’t have anyone you can talk to or that supports you, or just to get an objective point of view from someone completely uninvolved. A therapist can listen, help you identify positive coping skills, validate and encourage you, and assist you with the grieving process.
When you are going through a loss such as divorce, it is difficult to remember to do healthy things that make you feel good. It is imperative during this time that you don’t focus solely on the divorce. Try to still go out with friends, spend time doing a hobby, develop positive relationships, or maybe start something you have wanted to do that you haven’t had time for before. It is easy when we are in relationships to forget what we like to do. Now is a good time to start some things you may have stopped doing.
Make sure that you take care of yourself. It may be difficult but try to get enough sleep and rest. Additionally, make sure you are still eating well. It is easy to not take care of ourselves when we feel so sad but it is important to have good nutrition to have positive emotional health. Exercise will really help you emotionally as well. Just 30 minutes of exercise a day releases the same chemicals in our brain as an anti-depressant. Take care of your body and it will take care of you.
Keep a journal. This will help you release some of your feelings and be a great way to reflect and/or vent! Keep the journal in a safe place so you feel completely free to write whatever you want in it. It is also a great way to look back and see how far you have come. You will be amazed in a couple years, looking back at where you were and how you’ve changed. It is hard to sometimes see progress when you are in the midst of it, but looking back will help you see it.
Hold on to your faith. This is a good time to lean on your faith. Personally, when I went through a divorce several years ago, it was my faith that kept me strong. The divorce actually strengthened my relationship with God. I started finding Him in my devotionals and little “God winks” throughout the day. Now I look back at that time as a time of amazing growth and spiritual development. I had let the problems in my marriage distract me from God and it was great to reconnect my relationship with Him.
Create meaning from your suffering. I constantly encourage my clients to not just go through their suffering but to create meaning from it. My failed marriage ultimately led me to become a marriage therapist! I wanted to help others avoid the pain I had felt. I learned so much during that time that I wanted to share it. I believe that is one reason I am so passionate about what I do. Try to find some way to use your pain.
If you have children who are going through a divorce, I highly recommend you encourage them to use these coping skills mentioned as well. Kids deal differently with divorce than adults, so it is important to understand where they are and be ok with that too. Be sure not to use them as your sounding board. It is ok to be real with them about your feelings to an extent. For example, if you are crying, it is ok to let them know you are sad about the divorce. But do not go into a long, drawn out conversation about things. This can make them feel overly worried, as though they are responsible to help take your pain away. For more information, see our article on Helping your child cope with divorce.
We understand how difficult divorce can be on a family. That is why we specialize in divorce recovery for the entire family. We know how important it is for the entire family to be reconstructed. If you would like to meet with one of our relationship experts to help you through your divorce or recovery from a previous divorce, please call us at 317-569-0046 or visit us at www.imaginehopecounseling.com. We are the leading relationship experts in the Indianapolis Metropolitan area including Carmel, Fishers, Noblesville, Zionsville, and Westfield.
*If you would like more information on divorce support groups, please contact us and we will direct you to one.
Helpful articles on www.imaginehopecounseling.com:
Coping with Grief and Loss. Natalie Chandler, MA, LMHC
Helping your child cope with divorce. Teri Claassen, MSW, LCSW
Finding The Right Therapist. Tamara Wilhelm, MA, LMHC
Focus on Feelings. Joleen Watson, MS, NCC
When the One You Love Wants to Leave. Donald R. Harvey