When you have experienced a divorce you not only lose a partner but you may also lose your identity. No longer can you define yourself as the “spouse of” and do things married people do. You grieve what was lost and start to redefine yourself. During this process it is important that you do things that give you solace and comfort as part of your healing process. It is easy to get into a pattern of negative thinking so reframing to a positive focus can help you stay motivated to keep moving forward.
If you have children they will need your support as they will be experiencing their own sense of loss and change as well. By showing them that life can go on and helping your children in the transition you will help them adapt, feel secure, and see the new path ahead. To help you in your journey here are seven coping strategies I recommend to my psychotherapy clients:
You may have a support network in place or you may need to build one. It often starts with a good friend. This is the person who will listen, let you cry without trying to stop you, and at some point help you get your smile back. This person is trustworthy and will keep what you tell them confidential.
Locally we have support groups for persons newly divorced or in the process. You can access the Mid-Michigan Area Human Services Directory by calling 211. They can tell you what groups are in your area as well as when and where they meet.
Cry When You Need To
A lot of your energy is expended while processing emotions. I tell my clients grieving can require as much energy as a second job. Now is the time to back off on the extra responsibilities you took on at work and the volunteering you agreed to do. It is important to allow your feelings to have expression. This might mean you have a weepy day now and then. Feelings come and go like the tides. They don’t last forever. If you are thinking of harming yourself or are not able to pull out of the depression stage it is time to get professional help. You can contact your insurance company for a referral or go to the AACC Directory to find a counselor.
Reframe Negative Thoughts to Positive
Often people get caught up in the trap of catastrophic thinking and tell themselves that nobody cares, they have lost everything, or that they are not worth anything. This can be part of the depression stage of grief. These statements are factually not true and it is important to acknowledge this. Focus instead on what positive changes you can make.
Comfort Yourself and Find What Brings You Solace
One of the last persons we think about taking care of can be ourselves. Some of my clients show symptoms similar to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder after a divorce. After anything arduous it is important to comfort ourselves.
We also need time to soothe ourselves and to find out what it is that brings us that solace. To get this we need to be in a place where no one is demanding anything from us and one in which we are comfortable. For some this is time in the outdoors and for others it is time in a hot bath. For some men this can also be time in the garage or workshop. Only you can define what is comforting to you and what brings you solace. This is what fills our half empty cup.
Make Time for Self Exploration
Divorce can impact our self- worth because we can feel rejected. Your ex-spouse’s departure does not change your value. We are each unique with worth, purpose, opinions, and talents. This is a time to get back parts of yourself that were lost. Make a list of what you’ve always wanted to do. Find your passion or past passions.
Take a class. You are not the same person you were when you entered your marriage. Now is the time to get reacquainted with yourself.
Get Out and Socialize
It is a natural tendency to want to isolate yourself after a divorce. Often we lose friends through a divorce. It is time to go out and make new ones. Book clubs are very popular and a way to introduce yourself to new people. Sports leagues such as golf and softball are places to meet people if you like the outdoors. Support groups and clubs can help you find persons with similar interests. For persons who suffer with extreme shyness or social phobia there are chat rooms online for the newly divorced.
Be There for Your Children
For those that have children it is important to realize that they are also grieving. Some children have trouble expressing their grief through emotions so they act it out by: getting in trouble at school, getting poor grades, arguing, and bedwetting to name just a few. Be available to listen to them when they need you. Spend time with your children and they will feel that you are interested in their lives.
You are coping with many emotions and day-to-day realities after a divorce including the loss of dreams, the death of your marriage and starting a new life. Despite it all, this is a life changing event that you can get through. It is a time of self discovery. After healing from the loss of divorce there is the opportunity to find a stronger relationship than your previous one because you are more aware of your needs. Believing in yourself, knowing that you can live the life you desire, and staying positive can help you adapt and succeed.
You can survive and even thrive!
Books on this Topic:
- Life After Divorce: Create a New Beginning by Sharon Wegscheider-Cruise
- The Journey from Abandonment to Healing by Susan Anderson
- Thriving After Divorce: Transforming Your Life When a Relationship Ends by Tonja Evetts Weimer