When it all started, did you have any idea how difficult getting divorced would be? No one does. Divorce is one of those life experiences that no one truly understands unless they’ve been through it themselves.
The problem is that once people have been through it and moved on with their lives, they forget the depths of despair they experienced as they struggled with getting over their divorce. So your friends and family who have been there don’t have any easy answers for you when you ask for advice.
And it’s not like there’s a guide book you received when you got married about how to get over a divorce. (Even if there was, I’m sure you wouldn’t read it because you were sure your marriage would last. I know I wouldn’t have read it.)
But easy answers (or at least comforting ones) are exactly what you most want and need right now. You’re tired of hurting and wondering when it will all end.
I can’t promise that these 45 things you must do to heal from divorce will be easy for you, but hopefully you’ll find some comfort in them:
- Accept that your path to getting over your divorce will twist and turn. Even if you’re definitely putting one foot in front of the other, sometimes it just won’t feel that way. Sometimes you’ll feel that you’re actually going backwards. But as long as you keep moving forward, you’ll get through it.
- Be patient with yourself. It will take you time to heal. You’ve never been through this before (even if you’ve been divorced before this time is different from the last time) so allow yourself to make mistakes along the way to healing.
- Know it’s about you and not them. Your reactions to your ex, your ex-in-laws, your family, your friends and even your kids are all yours. You’re the only one that can change them and not anyone else. So stop wishing others would change.
- Know it’s about them and not you. Their bad behavior (read your ex’s and ex-in-laws’), your friends who have drifted away instead of being there for you, and your friends and family who continue to ask painful questions or make uncaring statements are doing so for their reasons. Your divorce makes them uncomfortable and they don’t like feeling that way, so they’re doing whatever they can think of to feel better – even if it makes you feel worse.
- Allow yourself to grieve, but don’t wallow. Pity parties are not OK. They sap your strength for moving forward and on with your life and just make things harder. So acknowledge, experience and express your grief as you continue to get through all the changes of divorce.
- Practice kindness. I’m sure you’ve heard the saying “you get what you give.” Believe it or not, there’s actually scientific evidence that if you’re kinder that you’ll feel better. (Read more about how kindness can help you heal from divorce: 5 Super Simple Ways To Heal Your Post-Divorce Pain With Kindness)
- Have hope. This is important. Having a sense of hope that things will be better is what will help you get through all the tough parts of getting over a divorce. Your hope will probably be small at first and as you gain momentum, it will grow. As you continue to hang on to your hope, you’ll be more and more encouraged to conquer your fears and move on with your life.
- Be courageous. Divorce puts you in uncomfortable situations that require you to make bold moves and to take brave actions. It’s by knowing that you’re taking the necessary steps despite your fears that you become more and more courageous. And more courage means less divorce misery.
- Be determined. Feeling tempted (very tempted) to sit back and nurse your divorce wounds?If you do it, don’t do it for long. Being clear, focused and determined to create for yourself a new life that is fulfilling and wonderful is exactly what you need to do to enjoy your new life!
- Do it for your kids. Sometimes motivating yourself to do something just for you is almost impossible. If that’s how you’re feeling, do it for your children. They deserve to have you be the best parent possible and part of being the best parent is teaching them that they can overcome disappointments and heartbreak. (Besides, they need to get over the divorce too and you need to model how to do that for them.)
- Accept that your path will be unique. As you search for resources and guides to help you recover from your divorce, don’t be surprised to find that some things work better for you than others. Healing from divorce is a grief process. No one else has gone through exactly what you’re going through. So keep searching until you find the support that fits you best.
- Dare to be alone. One of the most surprising things about divorce is how lonely you feel. Embrace the loneliness, it’s part of the process. Challenge yourself to do things solo – like go to the movies or out to dinner. As you become comfortable with being alone with your thoughts, you’ll begin to discover that you’re pretty wonderful. (Here are a few tips on how to get through the loneliness of divorce.)
- Express (constructively) your anger. Anger is one of those emotions that tend to get a bad rap. However, anger is a normal emotion and when it’s constructively expressed, it can actually speed your healing from divorce.
- Embrace the do-over. Think of your divorce as a chance to do things differently in your next relationship by learning all that you can from what didn’t work in your marriage.
- Accept that your ex is not there for you and never will be there for you in exactly the same way ever again. Marriage gives you a built-in sounding board and back-up for when you need a little bit of help. However, as much as you may wish it were different, you don’t have your spouse there to do those same things for you anymore. This is when you get to learn to lean on yourself more and your real limits. (You’re probably more capable than you think you are.)
- Remind yourself (again and again) that you’re not a failure. Your marriage failed. That doesn’t make you a failure – no matter how you feel. Need more proof? Read this: Divorce Doesn’t Make You A Failure.
- Stop second-guessing yourself. You’re always going to ask yourself “what if” questions about your marriage and divorce. What if I had done xyz? What if they had been abc? The problem with these questions is that they focus you on the past. The past is over and all you can do is accept that stuff happened and move forward with your life a much wiser person.
- Accept that you are THE parent when the kids are with you. Yup, there’s no more tag-teaming with your ex when you need a 30-minute break or just need to run to the grocery to pick up some cereal for breakfast. You’re it and that’s going to take some getting used to.
- Take off your wedding ring and allow it to feel weird – until it doesn’t anymore. It’s funny how accustomed you can get to the feel of your wedding band and how foreign it is to take it off. I found myself feeling naked without my ring when I first got divorced, but as I started wearing other rings they felt strange too and eventually the lack of my wedding ring didn’t bother me anymore.
- Accept the fact that your ex will find someone new. Chances are that you’ll find yourself fretting over whether or not your ex is dating and how that person (or those people) compare to you. STOP! All you accomplish by doing this is making yourself miserable.
- Let yourself believe it’s possible for you to find someone new. Too many people believe the statistics about divorce and expect that just because their first marriage ended that their chances of having a successful next marriage are abysmal. It’s just not true. (Read more about the lies of divorce statistics.)
- Hear yourself tearfully ask the question “Why?” again and again and be OK with not getting an answer. We all want to understand why things happen – especially when those things are hurtful. Unfortunately, you’ll probably never have the definitive answer as to why your marriage ended in divorce instead of happily-ever-after and that’s OK. It may take some time before you believe it’s OK (it took me quite a while), but I promise it’s OK.
- Know that your life is not over. Divorce is the end of your marriage and living your life in a certain way. It’s not the end of your life. In fact it’s the beginning of your next chapter because you’ve still got a lot of life ahead of you. (Yes, you do have a full life ahead of you no matter what your age is.)
- Create a new relationship with your ex that allows you to co-parent (or at least talk calmly about the kids). Even though you’re not married to each other any longer, you’re still parents to your children for the rest of your lives. So figure out how to make parenting work.
- Build a support team. No matter how alone you feel and how unique your situation, you can still find people who are there for you. Find them. Then ask for the support and help you need.
- Avoid self-medication with drugs, alcohol, food, excessive sleep, excessive exercise or excessive sex. It’s so easy to want to heal hurts by numbing them with other experiences. The trouble is that if you avoid the feelings you avoid the healing.
- Explore new interests. Now that you’re on your own. All of your time is yours. You don’t need to worry about coordinating your schedule with that of your ex’s so use the time to try out that new restaurant or take that class or join that club or watch the movie you want to watch or …
- Own up to your part in the divorce and don’t bring it with you to your next relationship. Yeah, you did play a part in the end of your marriage. Even if the only part you played was in agreeing to marry the wrong person, the sooner you know what your role was, the better the chance you have of making your next relationship work.
- Avoid power struggles with your ex. There’s going to come a time or two when you’re going to want to have your ex behave in a certain way. You may even try to “encourage” them to behave that way. Don’t do it. All you’ll really accomplish is making it harder for you both to heal from your divorce and move on with your lives.
- Think positively. OK, this may sound Pollyanna-ish, but it works. What you focus on colors your view of the world. If you expect everything is miserable, that’s what you’ll get. If you expect things to start going well, you’ll start looking for ways to make that happen and interpret things in a more positive light. (Don’t believe me? Read what the Mayo Clinic has to say about positive thinking.)
- Like yourself. One of the biggest challenges of divorce is overcoming the hit to your self-esteem. You’ll find yourself questioning whether or not you’re lovable because the one person who promised to love you forever didn’t. So be that person for yourself and love you.
- Rediscover who you were. Don’t be surprised if you realize you’re not really sure who you are anymore. If this is you, you probably got so tied up in their marriage that you forgot to continue growing as an independent person. No worries, just start focusing on being you again instead of only a spouse, parent and employee.
- Dare to date. Just because your marriage ended in divorce doesn’t mean that you can’t find love again. When you’re ready, try going out on a date or two. You might be surprised at how much fun it is.
- Welcome your new roles. One of the things that happens when you get divorced is you have additional responsibilities. Exciting? Yeah, not so much when you’re already feeling overwhelmed by the magnitude of the changes happening. However, if you can focus on how much more self-reliant you’re becoming and what a wonderful example you’re setting for your kids, then you’ll be taking huge strides toward overcoming the overwhelm of your new roles and responsibilities.
- Pay attention to the conversation you’re having with yourself. It’s amazing how much our internal dialogs tend to the negative – especially after divorce. One of the most profound ways to help yourself get over your divorce is talking to yourself in empowering ways. (Here are some tips on how to talk nicer to yourself: Want To Get Over Your Divorce? Start Name-Calling)
- Get more human touch. Sometimes a hug can go a really long way to making you feel better. If you don’t have someone to ask for a hug, try hugging your pet, a pillow or even yourself!
- Stop believing the lies about divorce. I know you’re scouring the internet for how to feel better simply because you’re reading this! BUT beware that all of the information out there isn’t true and you shouldn’t believe it. Here’s a list of some of the most common lies about divorce recovery: Divorce Recover Lies People Tell You Post-Split.
- Don’t place blame. All blame does is make you a victim. You’re not a victim. In fact, you’re incredibly powerful and extremely capable of getting through your divorce and creating a wonderful new life.
- Join a support group. Despite how unique your situation, you’ll be surprised at the comfort you can find by talking with others who have been or are going through divorce too.
- Relax, you’re not suddenly bi-polar. Divorce is one of those life events that scrambles your emotions. It’s pretty typical to feel fine one second and bawling the next. But as you conquer the overwhelm of the changes, your emotions will calm down.
- Don’t worry, you’re not crazy. Along with the volatile emotions, your thoughts will run all over the place. It’s just your mind’s way of solving the problems you’re facing. Not all of the thoughts will be “normal” to you, so let them float away and focus on the thoughts and ideas that can help.
- Nurture yourself daily. Take good care of yourself because the better shape your body, mind and spirit are in the faster you’ll get over your divorce.
- Take it moment by moment until you can take it day by day. No matter how much you want to wave that magic wand and make things all better right now. You can’t. So just take each moment as it comes and tackle what’s immediately in front of you.
- Develop your faith. Having faith in something bigger than you (e.g., God, the Universe, or your Highest Self) can provide a sense of comfort which would probably feel really good right now.
- Breathe! Stress can cause you to hold your breath and holding your breath can cause more stress. So, let it all go and spend 5 minutes at least 3 times a day taking some deep breaths. (Curious about the physiology of breath and how it can impact your emotions, personality and health? Read Waiting to Exhale)
Like most things in life, it’s so much easier for me to tell you about divorce recovery than for you to actually do all 45 of these consistently. Don’t worry. Just do what you can as often as you can and you will get over your divorce.
Originally Published on DrKarenFinn.com
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