By Cathy Meyer
Divorcing someone you once loved or someone you still love can be devastating. It can feel like losing a limb. Divorce can mean losing your best friend. It can leave you confused about the past, present, and future. It can cause feelings of loneliness, desperation, depression, and self-loathing.
But what’s worse is that divorce can cause you to act a little crazy at times. You might behave in ways that are destructive or irrational. If you allow pain from your divorce to rule you, you could end up losing your job, your friends, or your self-respect.
It’s important to remember from the start that divorce isn’t a death sentence. Your life isn’t over, no matter how much you feel it is. You haven’t lost everything, even if you feel like you have. You are simply in a period of transition and as scary or difficult as that may seem, there will come a time when this divorce will an insignificant event in your past.
That is, of course, is if you don’t lose your head over it! For many people divorce isn’t just about losing someone they love or once loved, it can also be something quite complicated and daunting.
For instance, if you and your ex have a lot of shared possessions, a home together, or children, a divorce can entirely change the landscape of your life. If you are forced to see or speak to your ex because of shared obligations like co-parenting things can get difficult.
A complication like that can make it very hard to navigate your way through the healing process after your divorce.
Endings, like divorce, can be extremely difficult to cope with and unfortunately, we experience a lot them throughout our lives. Losing a job, experiencing a death in the family, saying farewell to a friend who’s moving away can cause serious emotional pain. Endings can feel like an emotional wrecking ball hitting you in the gut with each pendulum swing. It’s no wonder people can feel so entirely blindsided by the end of a relationship due to divorce.
Endings also come with new beginnings. To start over you need to let go of the past, the emotional pain and begin to focus on yourself and your future.
Below are 10 steps you can take to heal and get over your divorce.
1. Delete daily reminders off your phone and computer.
When you use your mobile phone throughout each day the last thing you need is a picture, email, or a text message bringing you down. If you have photos of your ex on your phone delete them so you don’t accidentally see them every time you use your phone.
Delete all text messages from your ex too. If you have text messages concerning your children, save those and then delete, delete, delete. Seeing their name every time you compose a text message is going to sting.
The same applies to emails. Most importantly, don’t let yourself read messages from your ex over and over. Don’t try to analyze what they really meant when they said something that caused pain or confusion.
Ruminating about things like this will only keep you rooted in anger, disappointment, confusion, and sadness. Accept that you cannot change anything that you once shared with your ex (good or bad) and do what you can to protect yourself now. That means having as few reminders of them as possible.
2. Keep a healthy perspective.
Don’t get caught up in catastrophic thinking about your situation. Don’t allow the thoughts running through your head cause you to fall prey to negative thoughts like, “Nothing will ever be OK again,” or “It’s too late for me to ever find love again,” or, God forbid, “I’m going to be alone for the rest of my life.”
When you’re going through the healing process it’s important to remind yourself to gain perspective regularly. Think of your situation in the grand scheme of things. Create a backdrop that will help you keep your thoughts realistic and truthful. Think about how you’ll feel about this situation ten or twenty years from now.
Think about other times you’ve felt low because of a loss or a breakup and take note of how you feel about that now. Recognize that you have healed before and you will heal again. This divorce is not the end of the world. It is merely one of life’s many peaks and troughs. You are hurting now but you won’t hurt forever. Life will go on.
3. Focus on the good times you shared with your ex, not the bad times.
When you’re going through a divorce it’s common to get stuck focusing on the negative. You may experience bouts of intense anger and resentment. You may find yourself calling this a “failed relationship” or a “waste of time”. Feelings like these are only natural. Unfortunately, indulging in this way of thinking too much can have adverse effects. It could make you feel bad about yourself and your prospects for the future.
Dwelling on the negative can make you feel getting into a relationship with your ex was a bad idea and this could put you off taking risks later in life when you are ready to look for a new relationship.
Negative thoughts can make you feel like you’re not capable of having a lasting relationship and these thoughts can eventually make you bitter, resentful, or cynical.
It is important to remember that the fact that your relationship didn’t last forever doesn’t mean that there were no positive aspects to it. The times that you were happy, satisfied and excited are things worth remembering with fondness. Let go of the bad and be led emotionally by the good.
4. Use divorce as a starting point for personal growth.
Reflecting on your personal growth is a very positive thing you can take out of your experience with your ex. Think about what you learned from your relationship and marriage. Think about things you learned about yourself, other people, and the world itself. Think about who you were before your relationship and who you are now.
What positive things can you take from this experience that might be useful in the future?
What things are possible now that weren’t possible before?
Have you changed in ways that you are proud of?
Have you learned about a personal fault that you would like to grow past?
Have you learned things about other people that will be useful in later relationships?
Use your past relationship as a learning process and take your new knowledge and your personal growth into your future.
5. Get to know yourself again.
If you’ve divorced after being married for a long time, you may feel like you’ve lost your sense of self. Being on your own can be a huge shock to the system after years or decades of being part of a couple. If you’re used to spending every waking hour with someone else, you might forget how to be alone and that can be scary. You might find that a lot of your time is spent thinking about the mere fact that your ex isn’t there with you.
When you find it hard to be alone, whether you’re attending a social event on your own or simply getting ready for bed, remind yourself that being in a relationship doesn’t define you. You are whole with or without your ex. It’s always hard to get into a new routine no matter what the circumstances behind it are, and it’s normal to feel scared, confused, or listless in these situations.
Focus on the things you love and start remembering who you really are on your own. Don’t beat yourself up if you’re not sure where to start or if you feel bulldozed by the sudden change. Go easy on yourself.
Allow yourself time to adjust to being single. Let yourself discover new things or rediscover old things you once loved. Listen to music. Indulge in your favorite sport or creative outlet. The world around you might seem big now and it might be frightening to walk into it alone. You can either let it overwhelm you or use it as motivation to get back in touch with yourself and start looking forward to your future.
6. Allow yourself to grieve.
Grief is one of the most difficult things we face in life. Coping with loss can be exhausting and it may lead to depression, isolation, and self-sabotage. One of the hardest things about the grieving process is that it varies from person to person and there is no right or wrong way to experience it.
Some people recover from loss quickly and easily, others may find grief incredibly difficult to cope with. Where grief is concerned, no two people are the same. This is especially true for the grief of divorce. No one on earth has experienced your relationship apart from you and your ex.
Grieving isn’t easy but it’s important to let yourself go through it. Suppressing your grief can make it last longer and could make you feel worse in the long run. Go easy on yourself during this time. Don’t beat yourself up if you still experience sadness when you think you “shouldn’t”. Your feelings just want to be felt. Let them come like waves, recognize them, feel them and then let them go. Eventually, the tide will recede and each wave will be more and more tolerable.
7. Keep in mind why you divorced.
There may be times after your divorce when you feel a desperate desire to get back together with your ex. It’s possible that you might feel this way the entire time you’re grieving. These feelings are not easy to deal with.
You could feel devastated over the loss. You might feel like you’ve hit rock bottom. You might be experiencing a major struggle. You might feel guilt or be faced with the fear of being alone and not able to make it on your own.
When feelings like this are at their worst, try to think about why you and your ex divorced. Were you so unhappy in the marriage that you initiated the divorce? Did he walk away causing you unbearable pain due to abandonment?
If you initiated the divorce due to your own unhappiness refer back to how you felt inside the marriage should you start questioning your reasons for the divorce. If he left you on the receiving end of an unwanted divorce, do you really want to get back together with someone who could make a conscious choice to do you so much emotional harm?
Rehashing these things might be difficult at times but it may also help to keep your thinking and actions rational. If you feel like you want to get back together with your ex, ask yourself why. If you don’t have a rational reason, stay focused on moving forward with your new life.
8. Learn to appreciate the things you have in your life.
When you’re feeling low it’s easy to think about all the things you don’t have. In fact, when you’re coping with a loss it can seem like the things you don’t have has multiplied tenfold! Thinking about the things you don’t have is simply a way of punishing yourself. The pain of your divorce is hard enough! Don’t add extra pain by focusing on other negatives.
Instead, look around you and recognize what you do have and what accomplishments you have achieved. If you need a little help seeing how blessed you are, take 5 minutes and make a list of 10 positive things you have going for you right now. If you can’t think of 10, have a friend or family member point them out to you. Sometimes, someone from the outside is more aware of the good in our life then we are.
9. Don’t forget that time heals all wounds.
At this moment, it may seem that you will never recover from your divorce but, this pain won’t last forever. You’ve experienced other losses in your life. When you feel stuck or fear never moving past the pain of your divorce, think back on those other losses.
Do you still feel the pain that you felt then? Remember how sad you felt about those things at the time. This relationship won’t have been the same as your high school sweetheart but loss and pain are a part of life and chances are you have felt like this before. Remind yourself that you have hurt before and you have overcome pain before. It might be hard to believe but studies have shown that human beings are at their strongest when they are suffering. This won’t be easy but there will come a day when you wake up and find that the world is a brighter place again. Have patience with yourself.
10. Keep your faith in humanity.
After a divorce, the world can seem bleak. When you love someone and you’re forced to let them go for whatever reason, it hurts. When you trust someone and they let you down, it can be devastating. When the person you respect more than anyone else turns out to be someone who causes you heartache and loneliness, it’s hard to imagine ever giving yourself over to someone else again.
You are hurting and it’s natural to fear being vulnerable with another person. You might want to distance yourself from other people altogether and that’s fine for a while. But don’t give up on love and don’t think badly of everyone else on earth because of this one person. Don’t allow the pain one person caused to impact how you feel about everyone else. Especially other men!
This experience is its own thing. It isn’t a representation of all relationships and it isn’t the end of life as you know it. Remember that there is a lot of good in people and it can be blissful when you find it. Believe that there is a lot of good in this world.
Otherwise, you risk becoming cynical and more isolated later in life. If you made a mistake, let yourself try again. If you made a bad decision, give it another go. If someone let you down, that’s their problem. It’s not indicative of everyone on Earth or your value.
Divorce does not leave everyone with tremendous emotional pain to deal with. Some are so relieved to be divorced, they throw themselves a party. If you’ve read this far, you aren’t one of those people. Here is something for you to hold onto, you may not be in the mood to party, at this time, but one day you will party, you will love your life again and, you will be grateful for the opportunities that divorce opened up for you. I promise!
Originally Published on Divorced Moms
Photo: Getty Images
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