Feeling like your heart has been ripped out? Like you don’t know who you are anymore? Like you have no identity? Feeling unsure of how to move past your divorce and actually live a full life?
You’re not alone. Divorce can be devastating for women. Emotions can come all at once like a flood, and at other times we can feel completely numb like we feel nothing at all.
This is because, often times we are experiencing grief, which is a normal response to a divorce. As an Atlanta therapist, I’ve worked with plenty of women (and men, but that’s another article) who are overcoming the grief associated with such a huge change in their lives.
And, there’s hope.
While you may feel completely depleted now, it can get better. You can heal. You can find yourself. You can feel happy.
With that being said, you’re where you’re at right now, and you may feel like crap. And that’s normal. Here are a couple of things that may help you move through the crap feelings.
- Work through the grief. Identify ways you benefited from the relationship and ways it hurt you. Really take inventory of what you went through so that you can fully release it.
- Validate yourself. Give yourself permission to explore your feelings, and validate how you feel.
- Use healthy coping skills. Find HEALTHY ways to cope with those feelings. The key is that they be healthy. Don’t over consume unhealthy food, unhealthy television, unhealthy sex… you get the drift. Find healthy ways to cope when feeling down.
- Set boundaries for yourself and others. It’s easy to display erratic behaviors when you’re angry. It might be tempting to cyber-stalk his new partner, or to call him and go off on him, or to talk bad about him in front of your kids. But those behaviors are not healthy. Or, it might be easy for him to talk you into something you aren’t okay with, or talk disrespectfully to you, or use you. That’s not healthy either. Set boundaries and enforce them. They help keep you and others safe.
- Start exploring who you are in this new chapter of your life. What do you enjoy or not enjoy? What would you like to start doing? Who do you want to be? As long as your answers are healthy, go for it! Identifying separately from your previous marriage is a great way to support yourself. Your marriage was not and is not your identity.
- Take responsibility. It’s easy to blame others during conflict. And holding on to blame can build resentment. So, focus on taking responsibility for you. Whether you got lazy, or you lost interest, or you didn’t recognize his unhealthy patterns, or you just need to love yourself…take responsibility for you.
- Be careful with wanting to know why. Sometimes life will not make sense. People will not make sense. If you find yourself ruminating on the relationship and it’s only causing negative feelings, it might be a sign that you need to stop dwelling on it. That may mean that some questions are left unanswered.
- Work on your spirituality. As an Atlanta therapist, I’ve noticed that may women struggle to uphold their spirituality in times of stress. This is the time to pursue it. Meditate. Pray. Practice gratitude. Heal your soul.
- Practice radical acceptance with things you can’t control. It doesn’t really help you to stay angry or anxious about things you cannot control. Instead, accept that it is the way it is and you’re doing what you can. This might mean accepting your financial situation, or accepting the custody arrangements might be difficult. Adjust to the things you can’t control. When I say this, I don’t mean you should be okay with them or not try to advocate for yourself. This just means you choose not to stay in anger or anxiety when you cannot change something. Instead you can choose to stay in a proactive attitude, or to focus on things you can control (like steps you are taking to advocate for yourself.)
- Work on your health. No matter how busy you are, force yourself to set a plan for keeping up with physical health, spiritual health, emotional health, and relational health. Try as best you can to take care of yourself. That may mean jump roping for 15 minutes at the beginning of your day, buying more vegetables, taking the kids outside for 20 minutes a day, attending church, seeing an Atlanta therapist, or scheduling phone calls with friends who support you.
- Don’t do this alone. Find healthy supportive people who can be there for you. This may mean being purposeful about making new friends if you shared all of your friends with your ex-husband.
Things can get so messy in a divorce, and no matter what phase of the process you are in, you can work to move through it as healthy as you can. It doesn’t mean you won’t be hurt. Painful emotions are normal in a life transition as large as this. And, if you approach your current situation in healthy ways, you’ll likely cause less damage than if you chose unhealthy approaches.