Divorce is incredibly painful, no matter who made the decision. There’s no two ways about it. Even if it’s the right thing to do, it can bring an incredible grief and many challenges with it. In 2015 there were 48,517 divorces in Australia. When you’re in the midst of the grief and pain, it can feel like it may never end. Thankfully, the fact that divorce is a common occurrence can reassure us that others have walked a similar path. We know that if we can allow ourselves to grieve, we usually progress through to a better place emotionally.
There is life after divorce. Here are some ideas that may help you as you explore ways to cope:
Let yourself feel
Don’t feel as though you have to move on straight away (even if you were the one to instigate the separation). Let yourself feel those painful emotions. Shutting out the hurt may feel like the easiest path, but we know this makes any mourning process more difficult in the long run and can actually lead to a grief experience that feels ‘stuck’ or doesn’t pass
Learn to love yourself
A divorce can involve some really nasty things (on both sides). If you’ve said or done something that you’re not proud of, or if your ex said or did some unkind things to you, it’s easy to start thinking you are a horrible person. ‘Why would I do that?’ ‘Why would he/she say that?’ ‘I must be pretty awful for that to happen.’
Try to remind yourself that we can all say or do hurtful things when we are in pain. Try to focus on reconnecting with a positive sense of yourself: What are the things you used to like about yourself? Even if it’s something small, it’s a start. Your eye colour, that you have a nice phone manner, that you are caring or your fashion sense. Whatever it is, just focus on that and try to remember you are still wonderful.
If you feel you have lost your sense of self through the relationship, spend some time exploring your identity. Go to therapy, try new things, reflect on and identify what you care about, set some goals. It’s normal for there to be a period of ‘re-acquaintance with self’ after divorce.
It’s been a long time since you’ve been on your own. Being in a partnership for a long period can really change who you are. Take some time to figure out who you are again and acknowledge it is normal for this to feel scary and strange.
Learn that it’s okay to be alone
Being alone can be really hard, particularly if you haven’t been on your own for a really, really long time. It’s okay to be alone. In the romantic sense, or in the spending-a-lot-of-time-on-your-own sense. Alone time can help us reflect on the past, it can remind us who we are, it can force us to spend time with ourselves! Spending time on your own can also be a great time to practice mindfulness or gratefulness. What things are you grateful for? Health? Friends? Children?
Look at the positives
We have already agreed that divorce sucks and is incredibly painful, no matter what the circumstances. Despite this, there can be some positive outcomes. It can be a comfort to try to focus on these:
- The unhappy relationship you were in is gone – You got divorced for a reason. The heartache you experienced daily is now somewhat eased. You do have another big hurdle to get through now, but you’re not living in an unhealthy relationship anymore.
- Your time (and home) is yours – woo! No more worrying about doing the dishes straight away. You can do them later. It won’t be in anyone’s way. Want to start that new art hobby and take up the entire living room? No time like the present.
- Now you have time to work on you – never had time for the gym because you had to be home for dinner? Never had time to see a psychologist because any time you had went into working on your relationship rather than yourself? Never got to the weekend cooking course because it was always a family weekend? Now you can! It’s your time for you, to do you.
Focus on the future, not the past
Don’t discount the past, it has made you who you are. Reflecting on the past, especially on something as impactful as a marriage or divorce, is important for growth and self-improvement. Try to balance this with focusing on coping and taking small steps forward.