How could this happen? The day you took your wedding vows, you took for granted that this relationship would be for the rest of your life. You threw yourself into making your marriage work, perhaps putting your career goals on hold, supporting your spouse, taking care of the home, raising the children. Your future seemed so clear, so simple. And then something happened that shattered your dreams. Someone else’s choices completely up-ended the plans you had for the future. What are you supposed to do now?
Divorce is considered one of the most stressful things a person can endure. And the consequences of divorce can affect you and your family for years to come.
People can recover from divorce. A happy, balanced, and fulfilling life is possible after some years and a lot of hard work. As with any trauma or loss, we can sometimes look back and find the hidden gifts, the silver lining. If we allow the experience to do so, we can grow a lot and learn to be resilient.
10 Ways to Heal From Divorce
- Be patient with yourself. Divorce is exhausting…emotionally, physically, financially, and spiritually-you name it. It is draining! On the Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale, divorce is #2, meaning it is considered one of the most stressful things you will ever experience. No wonder you are tired and emotionally spent.
- Stuffing your emotions-and you will have a lot of them-isn’t helpful. Grieving is an important part of recovering from divorce. It’s a process. It will take a lot of time and energy.
- Give up the expectation that people should understand how you feel. If they have never been divorced, they might have trouble understanding why you can’t just get over it. Your friends and family may love you but find it hard to really understand. The fact that divorce is so common makes it even harder for people to grasp what a terrible thing you are going through; but if 50% of the population was dropping from say, the Ebola virus, people might give it the shocked, grieved reaction it deserves.
- Make new friends. Many people are shocked to discover their friends scatter to the wind after a divorce. Remember the line from Ella Wheeler Wilcox’s poem Solitude: “Laugh and the world laughs with you, weep and you weep alone…”? People often don’t know what to do with the broken-hearted. The ones that stand with you in this challenging time are a precious treasure. Time will show you who your true friends are.
- Identify your losses and work through your grief. Divorce is like a death. What did you hope for that is no longer possible? What parts of your life were left behind when the marriage fell apart? Loss isn’t just about the person you divorced. It might be something more abstract such as having someone to talk to at the end of the day, or someone to travel with, or someone to take care of you when you are sick. Maybe the loss relates to financial security or social events. What hopes and dreams died when your marriage ended?
- Reach out for help. This is a really painful experience and you will need people to support you. Besides friends and family, you may consider Divorce Recovery support groups. Spending time with a professional counselor may also be very helpful.
- If you have children and divorce is inevitable, healthy co-parenting is critical. As painful as it may be, the children, not punishing your ex, MUST be the priority.
- Refuse to be a victim. You don’t have to let someone else’s choices define who you are.Life may not have turned out the way you expected, but it isn’t over. You can takes steps to write a different and perhaps better ending to your life’s story. Over time, you will discover new opportunities you wouldn’t have had if the divorce hadn’t occurred.
- Use this as an opportunity to discover parts of yourself that have been neglected during your marriage. Did you play tennis at one time? Dust off that racket! Have you neglected your health? Join the gym. Look up friends you haven’t seen in a while. Travel. Find a new hobby. Go back to school. All these things will help to remind you that YOU are the author of your life’s story.
- Last, and definitely not least, lean into your faith. Be comforted by the words of Isaiah 54:4-8. God says he will be our spouse, and with “great mercies” he will gather us. This passage offers an important truth for both grieving men and women, so change the nouns and pronouns if you need to.
Do not fear, for you will not be ashamed;
do not be discouraged, for you will not suffer disgrace;
for you will forget the shame of your youth,
and the disgrace of your widowhood you will remember no more.
5 For your Maker is your husband,
the Lord of hosts is his name;
the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer,
the God of the whole earth he is called.
6 For the Lord has called you
like a wife forsaken and grieved in spirit,
like the wife of a man’s youth when she is cast off,
says your God.
7 For a brief moment I abandoned you,
but with great compassion I will gather you.
8 In overflowing wrath for a moment
I hid my face from you,
but with everlasting love I will have compassion on you,
says the Lord, your Redeemer.
If you need additional help with divorce recovery, consider making an appointment. I am a Licensed Professional Counselor, a nationally certified counselor, and a registered nurse with several years experience helping people with healthy, successful living.