They say the three most stressful things in life is a move, a death, and a divorce. All three involve significant life changes that must be confronted and adapted to in order to move on and thrive.
With divorce representing a way of life that is no longer viable, it’s important to stop and consider your feelings as you navigate this new stage of life. Since the process often entails a significant loss especially in a long term marriage that represents an important part of one’s identity, it would be helpful to process what the separation means to you on an emotional level and who we want to become as individuals, separate from the relationship.
Before we can really move forward though, we need to process all the feelings that come up during this stage and which are entirely understandable reactions.
The emotional process of divorce can therefore be broken down into five stages: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance. Those five stages represent the grief inherent in the loss of a relationship, and may not follow a specific sequence. Since the parade of emotions can change day to day, coping will sometimes be difficult. However, remember that time will be your greatest asset in the healing process.
Here are some strategies to get you through a very difficult and stressful time:
- Be kind to yourself. Validate your emotions. Research has found that people with self-compassion are able to handle the daily challenges of divorce better in the months after separation.
- Don’t view your marriage in terms of a failure narrative. Look back at the good moments, especially moments that have brought personal growth. Understand that the partnership had an expiration date and no longer serves you in a healthy way.
- Find a trusted friend or family member. A trusted confidant can help you through the difficult moments as you process your loss.
- Stick to your routine. Keep up a routine and avoid isolating yourself. Routines help keep your life as normal as possible.
- Keep a positive environment. Make an effort to stay positive and reduce conflict with your former partner. Ensure that your children are not exposed to a toxic and emotionally draining environment.
- Seek therapy. Seek mental health guidance when needed so you can navigate a difficult lifestyle loss and expedite healing. Process with a therapist what a life change can mean for you in terms of personal growth and acceptance.
- Don’t jump into dating. Give yourself some space to reflect on who you are and what you want in a relationship before you seek a new partner. Without giving yourself the time to work through your feelings and find closure with the old relationship, there is a good chance you will find a “rebound” partner and repeat old patterns of behavior that no longer serve you.
Big life changes are always scary and stressful, but as the architect of your own life, you can go on after divorce to realize the best version of yourself, change the narrative, and become the hero / heroine of your own life story.
Irene C. Lebbad, MSW, LCSW
Center for Intrapersonal Wellness LLC
2 North Rd, Ste 3
Warren NJ 07059