It’s not surprising that divorce hurts or that part of the healing involves grieving. But knowing this intellectually does nothing to prepare you for the reality of the pain or the way your grief attacks you out of the blue.
Grief is merciless. It can hit you full force anywhere and at any time. It demands to be felt or at least acknowledged until you’ve worked through the pain of all you’ve lost.
Your grief will change you. If you allow yourself to feel and work through it, your anguish will change you for the better. However, if you ignore or stuff your sorrow, it will fester and change you for the worse.
When your losses are recent and raw, you’re more susceptible to being unexpectedly overcome by tidal waves of hurt regardless of whether or not you’ve been working through your pain. But the waves of anguish aren’t confined to when your divorce wound is new. They can hit any time and you don’t have a choice about when or where these grief attacks happen.
So what do you do when your grief ambushes you at an inopportune moment or place?
1. Accept what’s happening and be kind to yourself.
There’s no rule book or time frame for grief, so you certainly don’t need to judge yourself for what your soul needs to express. You’ve probably already sobbed so much that you can’t believe you have any more tears to shed, but when your heart aches so much you can feel it in your bones the tears will continue to come. Your tears are cleansing and by expressing your sorrow you lessen it. The more you allow the grief to flow through you, the less of a hold has on you.
2. If at all possible, excuse yourself and find some privacy.
But don’t apologize. It’s OK to admit you’re not OK, but there’s no reason to feel even worse than you do by believing you need to apologize because you’re upsetting others.
3. Take all the time you need to compose yourself.
The truth is you can’t be strong all of the time when you’re dealing with loss on the scale that you are. Sometimes you just need to be alone and let your tears out even if the sometime is in the middle of a meeting with your boss or in the middle of the cereal aisle at the grocery store.
4. Understand that there will be those who don’t understand.
People who’ve never experienced the grief of divorce will never get that you lost not just your spouse or your marriage. You’ve lost your life – the way it was. Your life will never, ever be the same and that’s absolutely heart breaking. You’ve lost not only the now, but the future you thought you’d have together. It’s a lot to say goodbye to. Unless someone has had a similar loss they’ll never really understand so it’s up to you to ignore their personal judgments and ignorance instead of using it to further torture yourself.
Sometimes, carrying on, just carrying on, is the super human achievement. ~Albert Camus
5. Carry on as best you can once the storm has subsided.
Of course people will ask how you’re doing once you return. One of the kindest (to you and to them) ways you can respond is to thank them for their concern and let them know that your bad days aren’t a sign of weakness. They’re actually the days you’re fighting your hardest to work through your grief.
Having a game plan for what to do when your divorce grief attacks will help you to weather the onslaught a bit easier, but it won’t prevent the attacks.
The only way to prevent them is to experience your emotions. You can’t ignore the pain and heartache away. You need to feel it and then get into action to make your new now and future better than they seem right now.
I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a divorce coach and advisor helping people just like you who are dealing with the stress and pain of divorce. You can join my newsletter list for free weekly advice or email me directly for a free consultation at [email protected].