Acknowledge that you are feeling the pain. Regardless of whether you want the divorce or are reacting to a divorce, there is still emotional pain. Sometimes we are afraid to acknowledge the pain, for fear that you will be so overwhelmed by the pain that you will be swallowed up by it to the point that you can’t function. That’s what depression is, at its core. Acknowledging that you feel pain isn’t processing each aspect of the pain, it is just one step of letting yourself start to make the list of things you need to process in order for you to be healthy emotionally. Tell yourself that you will process your feelings when you feel emotionally strong enough to do so, but you don’t need to deal with it all now.
Grief: Divorce is often compared to a death, only that the people involved are still living and interaction is ongoing. Your marriage died, but your spouse and your need to interact with your spouse to disentangle assets and parenting responsibilities. That’s because divorce is a transitional grief, not a final grief. You are transitioning from one family structure to another family structure.
Loss of marriage is more than a loss of marriage. It is a loss of a lifestyle that you chose, with all of the benefits that used to exist. For most marriages, there are good times you can look back on. Raising children together. The companionship of eating dinner together every night. Sharing adventures and heartache. Even if those benefits don’t exist (hence why you are getting a divorce), they did exist, and it is a loss. You are also losing a spouse, transitioning to a co-parent. Just as importantly, you are losing the dream of the future that you thought you would have and the belief that your marriage would be until “death do us part.” Acknowledge that loss.
Grief is a process. There will be a time when you don’t feel the grief so intensely. The loss will transition as you develop a new family structure, even if you are the only one in that “family”. The loss will likely transition into another relationship, when you are ready to take that step.
Develop a good support system for your divorce team.
- Good divorce attorney. You absolutely need someone that you can trust. There are going to be moments when decisions will have to be made in minutes, decisions that you would prefer to have time to process, and you won’t have that time. You need to feel you can trust the advice of the person who is giving you the information and recommendations for actions.
- Good friend willing to listen. Choose more than one if possible, so that you don’t overwhelm any one person. One who has a balanced perspective, who is calming. Don’t choose someone who is going to amplify your negative feelings. It may feel good in the moment and justify your negative emotions, but in the long run it’s really draining emotionally. You don’t want to be in a long term reactive mde.
- Therapist. Most of the time, a good friend is as good as a good therapist. However, during the divorce process, a good therapist will have training and suggestions or a perspective that someone who is emotionally invested in you will not have.
Be conscious about taking care of yourself. Who among us hasn’t indulged in a comfort ritual that isn’t good for us, whether it be eating a bag of chips or dinner is wine and chocolate? However, if unhealthy habits become a lifestyle, then you will not be able to make good decisions when you need to.
- Eat healthy. No one can feel good on wine and chocolate all the time.
- Get sleep. This is a tough one because your mind is always racing in circles trying to process all of the changes. But not getting enough sleep over time means that you don’t have the mental energy to react appropriate or make good decisions.
- Exercise, especially if you are someone for whom exercise creates hormones that make you feel good.
Do mindfulness exercises, noting what you are feeling in the moment, acknowledging the feeling. Focus on feeling present in the moment and on your breathing. Mindfulness may be something that you do several times a day, to have a calm mind that allows you to make good decisions. It may be something that you do once a week as a way of taking stock of where you are at, and what you have been able to process emotionally, and what still needs to be processed.
Once you have a plan for how you can take control over your own emotions and your own feelings, you are well on your way to building resilience and coping with the process of getting divorced! Give yourself a congratulations, and remember that it is an ongoing process that will take a while to complete, but the emotional divorce process will become complete!