Divorce is never easy. Whether we feel completely blindsided by it or that it’s the best thing for us at this moment, it can be one of life's most stressful events. Divorce is especially difficult because it represents not only the loss of a relationship, but the loss of shared goals and dreams. We are forced to make major adjustments to our lives in a relatively short period of time and may now have to share custody of our children, as well as experience changes with finances, friends, and family in the process. However, with the proper support and coping skills, we can re-establish our equilibrium and move forward with our lives in a positive way.
Here are 7 helpful steps for coping with divorce.
1. Work on yourself!
During a marriage, we sometimes find that we have invested so much time and energy into trying to save it that we have actually neglected many parts of ourselves. During the healing process, it is imperative to focus on yourself. For example, if you neglected your health, set small goals such as trying to eat healthier or implementing an exercise routine. Also, find at least 10 mites a day, where you can do something for yourself that you enjoy, whether it be watching your favorite tv program, reading a book, going for a walk, or calling a friend.
2. Be able to ask for and receive support
Going through a divorce is overwhelming and it is crucial not to go it alone. Establish a few close friends and/or family members that you can talk to and spend time with. Sometimes, when we are going through difficult times, people may feel that they need to give us “space” and may not reach out to us. This is why we may need to reach out to loved ones and let them know what we need to feel supported. For example, you may choose to call a close friend and let him/her know that you need to vent for a little while.
3. Set boundaries
When we go through a divorce, it’s important to set boundaries between our personal life and our friends and family. Some friends and family members may press us for details of the divorce or try and keep it the topic of constant conversation. It’s important to let them know when we are not feeling comfortable discussing certain details with them or when we would simply like a reprieve from discussing it altogether. They may even be eager to start setting us up on dates and we have to be careful not to let them push us into dating before we truly feel ready.
Grief is a natural response to a loss. With divorce, we experience many losses at the same time. Allowing yourself to feel whatever emotions you may experiencing, without judgment is a crucial step towards healing. Sometimes, well-intentioned loved ones may say things like, “Aren’t you over it already?” or “He/She cheated on you why are you sad that you aren’t together anymore?” The reality is that only we know our inner experience and the ways in which the divorce has impacted us. Also, it is not realistic for a marriage to be all good or all bad, so even if our spouse cheated on us and hurt us, there were also times in the marriage that were filled with positive memories, so it’s normal to experience conflicting emotions.
5. Don’t punish self
When a divorce happens, we may find ourselves taking on unhealthy blame and responsibility. We may feel guilty that “we couldn’t make our marriage work” or that our children "can’t grow up in a house with both parents.” Ask yourself whether that guilt is helpful or hurtful. If there were things that you wish you would have done differently in the marriage, take the important lessons that you learned, but don’t beat yourself up over the outcome. Remind yourself that we all do the best that we can at any given moment in our lives.
6. Focus on gratitude
There is no doubt that a divorce forces us to make certain adjustments in our lives that we may not be happy with, but it is also important to focus on the things going well in our lives. Research has found that practicing gratitude can increase happiness levels, as well as people who practice gratitude tend to bounce back more quickly from stressors. One example of practicing gratitude is to write down two or three things each week that we are thankful for or that went well.
7. Explore interests
We can use this time to explore new interests or reconnect with older interests that we haven’t pursued in a while. Maybe we have always wanted to take a dance class, but felt that we did not have time or maybe we loved sports growing up and haven’t participated in them years. Finding a new interest or reconnecting with an old one, provides an opportunity to create a fun outlet in our lives as well as an opportunity to meet others with similar interests.
While going through a divorce can easily be one of the most difficult experiences of our lives, it also provides you with the opportunity for personal growth. With the right support network and coping skills, we can heal and move forward from divorce in a healthy way. Remember that with any major change, it takes a while, so it is important that we give ourselves all the time that we need to heal.