Katie Vessel says you have to feel the hurt of divorce to learn—and heal—from it.
In the last year or two I have personally gone through a divorce and have also coached a number of people who have also experienced this. What I am seeing in both professional and social settings seems to be some pretty obvious trends in the way that people deal with the pain that can come from this type of situation.
Just like with anything in life, looking at the pain we feel and seeing the situation for what it is is a choice. It takes great strength to be vulnerable and it takes a level of vulnerability to feel pain—to really feel it. So many of us do things to numb the pain, but what we do not realize is that numbing pain typically causes us to feel numb to other emotions as well.
We cannot selectively shut off certain emotions and truly be feeling what we need to feel to process what has happened.
We all have vices as well as other coping mechanisms. A lot of times something as disruptive to our lives as a divorce can send us into somewhat of a tailspin—if we allow it to do so. Many times we are uprooted from our homes, and we end up spending less time with our children—if children are involved—and we feel generally displaced in our existence.
There are so many major shifts that can happen all at once.
If we are not really in tune with ourselves and centered through this process, which I do not believe that anybody can do 100% of the time, we can feel as if our entire world has shattered, and we may even feel lost as to how to pick up the pieces in order to rebuild.
It can be so tempting and so easy to run from the pain involved. Every situation is different, but most divorces do not occur without varying levels of pain, shame, guilt, anger, resentment or sadness over perhaps our grieving what we had likely thought was going to play out much differently.
If we do not allow ourselves to fully feel and look at what is happening, if we drink to numb the pain, perhaps rush into another relationship as an attempt to fill a void, or close ourselves off emotionally in order to not feel the full weight of it, we will end up doing nothing other than continuing to carry this pain around.
It becomes heavy—extremely heavy. And bringing this weight into our future relationships will do nothing but likely repeat the same patterns that caused our initial relationship to fail.
We may keep these emotions—the pain, shame, guilt, sadness and all of the rest, in the periphery of our awareness. We sometimes avoid wanting to look directly at it, because that is not easy.
I told someone recently who told me that he had not really felt anything emotionally in two years that it is easier to not allow ourselves to feel—but that is not true. In the grand scheme of things, it actually takes a lot more of our effort and energy to avoid, suppress, or numb that which just wants our attention.
After all, I believe that pain is nothing but a teacher. We have these strong negative connotations associated with pain, but pain is merely a strong sensation that acts as a means of communicating information.
If we step onto something sharp, pain communicates that information to us and as a result we look down and likely choose to take appropriate action.
Pain is there to tell us something. What do I need to know right now? What can I learn from this? What adjustments do I need to make—perhaps physically, emotionally, or situationally in my life, in order to alleviate this pain?
Some amazing teachers of mine say that pain is inevitable, but suffering is optional. This is true. We will all feel pain in our lives—such as what we feel likely before, during and after a divorce, but it is only when we run from processing the experience in whatever way is appropriate for us that we begin to suffer.
Suffering is just an extension of pain that we have not addressed appropriately.
So, what can we do?
We can spend time alone. Our lives get to be busy, and sometimes this fast paced way of living can just enable us to avoid truly processing the emotions which run as an undercurrent to most of our days. They nag at us—sometimes gently, sometimes with more force. But on some level we know they are there.
Writing can help. We can just sit down with a pen and paper and just write whatever comes up, even if they are just sentence fragments. This can be especially effective early in the morning right after we wake up.
If we feel shame or guilt for our own contributions to the situation, or anger, sadness or disappointment toward our partner, we can look at this in a manner conducive to healing.
We can have some grace for ourselves and for our other—seeing ourselves as two people who at the time were truly doing our best with whatever level of wisdom and capacity that we had in those moments.
We are fallible.
Carrying around these feelings will do nothing but inhibit our lives moving forward, yet sadly this is what so many people do.
Letting go of this pain is a choice, but you can’t let go of pain unless you address it.
We want to be the best versions of ourselves. We want to move forward in the healthiest way possible so we can live better and rebuild something stronger as a result of all our pain has taught us. To do that, we need to feel the pain, to experience it as an emotion not to be resisted but embraced, to wrap the pain in our arms, then gently let it go.