People do not get married expecting to divorce, but we all know they do. Though rates vary, divorce continues to hover around 45-50%. Despite the hard work and the numerous articles and blogs (mine included!) about how to sustain marriage, many marriages do not survive.
Despite the many challenges inherent in divorce and the often painful process that it entails, a divorce is not necessarily exclusively a negative experience.
Although not always initially seen or felt, in time, divorce can be beneficial in its own right. The beginning of divorce is wrought with a mixture of feelings and it makes some people feel like their skin is crawling. They don’t like it! They want to have it all figured it out – now. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way.
Divorce is very stressful (even good stress affects us) life changing event (even if we want it). I experienced my own roller coaster of feelings going through my divorce. When I see others struggling in a similar fashion, I completely understand. Though there are many similarities amongst people, there are also many differences. No two situations are identical.
And sometimes, just when you think you have it figured out, bam! Something unexpected occurs. But that’s ok. Its par for the course. However, if you can hold tight, believe in yourself, and learn how to manage your thoughts (even those dark, negative ones) and feelings (which are all over the place and make no sense), there is a light at the end of the tunnel and no, it isn’t an oncoming train! There are several things you to make this transition a little easier.
Rally Your Team. This means get a team of people in your life that will help support and guide you. These people may include an attorney, a divorce mediator, friends, family, church, mentor, support group, or financial planner. Continue to cultivate your personal relationships. Remember they want to help you!
Fasten Your Seatbelt. Divorce is an emotional roller coaster. Ever been on a roller coaster? You are afraid to get on, but once you do, you fasten your seatbelt and know that the ride will be filled with moments of calmness, excitement, fear, and angst. The depth of your feelings will range from anger, sadness, and disappointment to happiness and a sense of freedom.
Keep Calm and Carry On. Give yourself a break and take it easy. Not every day has to productive. A little mediation, mindfulness, and “time out” is crucial for your long term health.
Create and Maintain Structure. Going to work everyday, having a purpose, and creating short and long term goals provides structure and purpose. You need this. Days become weeks which turn into months. Time marches on. Too much “free time” often results in feelings of restlessness, anxiety, questioning your decisions, and negative thinking.
Silence Your Inner Critic. Find ways to be kind to yourself in both voice and behaviors. Limit the “should’ve, could’ve, would’ve.” These often leave you feeling worse about your divorce, about yourself. Ask yourself, “what is the utility in doing that?” “Is being self critical helpful?” No, its hurtful. “Am I being objective and providing myself a fair assessment of the situation?”
Make Healthy Choices. Unfortunately, the healthy habits that many of us have are often the first things to go. Don’t do it! Healthy food choices, regular exercise (even a daily walk), sunshine, and Vitamin D are vital. Also, keep an eye on emotional eating. Are you eating through your feelings? This is detrimental not only because of the weight gain, but because you are not acknowledging your feelings and soon this will become a conditioned response to overwhelming feelings.
Speak your Mind! Use Your Voice! This includes setting boundaries and saying no to things without the guilt. What are your needs? What would help you during this time of transition? Learn how to be assertive and state your needs.
Curb the alcohol. Its not uncommon to turn to alcohol to “take the edge off.” The downside? Turning to alcohol in times of distress could become a conditioned response. A bad habit that can get worse, quickly. The stimuli? A negative thought or feeling. The conditioned response? Alcohol. This could lead to an addiction if you are not careful. It also adds weight – due to alcohol’s empty calories.
Consider outside help. Some people benefit from working with divorce therapist or a divorce coach. They both bring something different to the table. Do not be apprehensive to interview more than one therapist or coach. Ultimately, it is about finding a good “fit”.
Remember Your End Goal. Getting stuck in a negative thought process is not only counterproductive but unhealthy. Most people are guilty of doing this, but it doesn’t mean it has to be part of your thought process on a continual basis.
Focus on Your Future. Yes, it IS about you. So is finding peace and creating hopes and dreams for your future. Although we grieve the loss of a dream, you focus on creating a different future for yourself. In some ways, your future is a blank slate with a new future waiting to be written. Before you know it, you will begin to feel that your life is yours again and experience happiness. Your resilience will astound you! Your “one day this will be all better” will have arrived.