Getting a divorce involves a radical re-framing of life for most people. For years perhaps, you have been planning a future with your spouse — and a divorce changes ALL of those plans in one single day. It is normal to have feelings of loss, or to be bombarded by new and unfamiliar emotions during a divorce. Yep, even for you men. . . Psychologists agree there are some things you’ve got to do to survive. You must make time to both spend time with supportive people and also to “take care of you” after a divorce. If you’re someone who’s wondering “I never thought I’d be getting a divorce — what do I do now?” — here are some guidelines to help you get through the experience.
Recognize That It’s Normal to Have Different Feelings
Many people are caught off-guard by their emotions around getting a divorce. The divorce itself may make you feel angry, sad, relieved or just numb and broken — or a variety of other emotions depending on the circumstances surrounding your divorce. Many people feel a sense of failure that they could not make a marriage work; others may be saying “what did I do?” or “what could I have done differently?”, particularly if the other spouse unexpectedly ended the marriage or if there was a third party involved.
When you’re going through a divorce, recognize that it’s perfectly normal to have a wide range of feelings about the experience — AND the emotions/feelings many rollin cycles. Yep, even for men . . . It’s OK to function at a less-than-optimal level for a time while you are working through the transition. It is absolutely VITAL that you consult a counselor to help you cope with the changes, some of which you may not consciously perceive. Divorce is never natural. Many believe that we humans were notmade nor equipped for divorce. If you are to start over, you MUST first deal with the past . . . and then be able to leave it in the past. This takes assistance, pure and simple. Your divorce Attorney should be able to recommend a counselor.
Give Yourself Permission to Grieve
For many people, the loss of a relationship is similar to the death of a loved one. The emotional process is much the same, and it is understandable; there has been a loss. A divorce demands a complete re-thinking of your life goals and plans for the future. Instead of the mutual future you have mentally and spiritually prepared for with your spouse, you’ll be facing a future without him or her – much like a death.
It’s not uncommon to grieve this loss in a very similar manner to death. After all, grief is a natural reaction to loss, and divorce involves loss on a variety of levels, including:
- A loss of companionship and shared experiences
- Financial, social and emotional losses
- Loss of hopes, plans and dreams
Some of these emotional losses can be even more painful than the practical losses surrounding a divorce.
Give yourself permission to grieve the loss of the relationship. Understand that it’s similar for many people to the feelings surrounding the death of a loved one, and that it’s natural and normal to feel grief over the end of your marriage. Don’t fight the feelings or try to avoid feeling them. Keep in mind that moving on is the goal, and remind yourself that you still have a future – it will just look different than you had planned.
Spend Time with People
Some people withdraw from friends and family during a divorce as they try to cope with the emotions surrounding the process and adjust to a new reality. It’s important to remember to spend time with people who support, value and energize you during a divorce. After a divorce is a good time to cultivate new friendships – particularly if many of your friends were your friends as a couple, and their presence reminds you of your spouse or keeps the divorce fresh in your mind.
Choose wisely who you spend time with, though – surround yourself with positive people who listen to you without judging, criticizing or making you feel negative about the divorce. If you have friends or family members who make you feel like you “should have seen this coming” or that you’ve somehow caused the divorce, take a break from those individuals. You need positivity and support after a divorce.
Don’t be afraid to get outside help from a counselor or therapist during or after a divorce. It can be helpful to have someone trained to assist you in spotting and analyzing unfamiliar emotions, or to help you figure out your role in the relationship and the divorce so you can apply that self-knowledge to future relationships.
Take Care of Yourself After a Divorce
Finally, the number one piece of advice for people who are going through a divorce or who have recently divorced is: take care of yourself. If you’ve always been a busy person, or if you’ve been spending your energy taking care of others, you should make time to nurture yourself. Pay attention to what you need, and give it to yourself.
After a divorce, try sticking to a routine. Sometimes you may feel lost or may have difficulty finding purpose, but sticking to a daily routine can help you get through the hard days until you’ve begun to cope.
Alternately, a divorce can also be a good time to take a time out. Make time to visit someplace you’ve always wanted to go. Take a vacation. Give yourself a unique experience, or explore new interests.
Bottom line: divorce is a time for you to re-frame your life around your new reality. It’s normal for that to include difficult or unfamiliar emotions, or to feel loss surrounding the dissolution of your marriage. Give yourself permission to feel those things, and surround yourself with supportive friends and family to help you get through it. Take care of yourself, and eventually you’ll find that your divorce is behind you and you’ve built a new life for yourself.