Going through a divorce is often an overwhelming, scary, and lonely experience. The process of divorce is different for everyone – from circumstances that contributed to the marriage starting to dissolve, to whether you are the leaver, the one who was left, or if divorce was a mutually agreed on decision. Then, of course, there are custody decisions (if kids are involved), splitting any shared property, financial agreements, and associated legal fees, on top of changes in relationships with shared family and friends. Beyond the difficult logistics and negotiations, raw emotions can range from rejection to guilt, anger to sadness, or relief to despair.
Regardless, divorce causes a relational rupture between two people who once committed to each other for life, which requires substantial emotional repair and self-care. At the end of the day, 99.9% of couples that walk down the aisle on their wedding day don’t imagine that divorce is in their future. The reality is, divorce is very common. It’s important to remember that you are not alone. There is support available to get you through a heart wrenching but often transformational stage of your life. In a strange way, divorce creates an opportunity for a fresh start and presents the beginning of a new chapter in which you are the author.
What does it look like to take advantage of this opportunity to start over? How can you take care of yourself throughout the painful process of divorce? Consider these three steps:
1.Pay attention to shifts within yourself through the divorce process.
Be curious about the changes in yourself, how the dynamics are shifting between your friends and family, how your eating, drinking, and sleep habits are changing, and how your sense of self is shifting.
Be aware of any maladaptive coping mechanisms that you notice, like:
- Has your drinking increased?
- Are you getting enough rest, or are you experiencing sleepless nights?
- Has your appetite or eating patterns changed?
- Are you still seeing friends, or are you pulling away?
- Are you binging on TV? How are you spending your free time?
Set routines for yourself to promote getting enough sleep, eating healthy, exercising, and having conversations that do not center around the divorce. Remember to keep up your friendships and maintain communication with loved ones around you. It can be natural to withdraw from others when you are feeling low, and yet, one of the best things you can do is to connect with others.
2. Start a gratitude practice.
Take a few minutes each day to write down three things for which you are grateful. You can keep a journal or write down happy memories on a small slip of paper and drop them in a jar as they occur. When you’re having a tough day, or even every night before bed, choose a slip of paper and reflect on things you have been grateful for. Focusing on the positive moments can help center you and help you to rebuild your own sense of independence as you start this new chapter of your journey.
3. Seek out a counselor during this transitory time.
Find a counselor who can see you as an individual and provide you with support that is focused solely on you and your needs. A divorce support group, with other people who are going through a similar situation, can help you process your experience and relieve feelings of isolation. The experience of group counseling can provide moments of clarity, and the knowledge that others understand exactly what you are going through can act as a supportive sounding board for you during this stage of life.
Life post-divorce can feel overwhelming, isolating, and depressing. It can also feel hopeful, exciting, and like a new adventure. Reach out to friends and family, rejuvenate self-care routines, and seek counseling to help you find balance in this new chapter.