The end of a relationship is never easy. Whether or not it was your choice to end the relationship, the future can look unfamiliar and frightening. Not only are you ending your marriage, you may also be losing your home and time with your children, facing a change in jobs or schools, or entering the workforce after being a stay-at-home mom. I know from personal experience, no matter how strong a person you are, divorce can knock the wind out of your sails.
As overwhelming as it may be during this painful transition, life does continue after divorce. I am living proof that it is not only possible to survive, but to also thrive! You can create a happy, authentic, and meaningful life. Here are 7 things you can do now to begin rebuilding your life after divorce.
1. Date Yourself Before Dating Others
It’s likely that in your marriage, you focused much of your energy on your relationship, it's inevitable ups and downs and, eventually, trying to keep it together—or dealing with its dysfunctions. What you probably did not get to do enough of was to focus on yourself. You may have gradually lost touch with your authentic self throughout your marriage in your efforts to keep the peace. First, it is important to take time to rediscover your personal values. Second, identify specific steps you need to take to let go of the past and begin living as your authentic self.
You may feel euphoric or despondent or a little bit of both after your divorce. But in either case, you will likely feel lonely at times and be tempted to jump into another relationship to fill the void. I strongly advise taking time for yourself to reflect on what your relationship was lacking and how the relationship failed to meet your and/or your partner’s needs. This will reduce the likelihood that you will fall into the same unhealthy relationship patterns. Some meaningful introspection early on will pay huge dividends later.
2. Ignore the Rear-View Mirror
Most people don't enter a marriage expecting to get divorced. You may feel shocked, saddened, and even angry. It’s easy to make excuses as to why you can’t move on. Your life vision was just shattered! Maybe your ex cheated, robbing you of your self-esteem and your ability to trust. You may be emotionally and financially drained after horrible court battles that wounded your children and left you fearful of your financial future. However, focusing on these negatives is what is keeping you stuck in your past. Even though a divorce is not something you just “get over,” you don’t have to let it hold you back. The ability to let go of the inevitable negative emotions is true acceptance, which ultimately gives you the freedom to move forward.
3. Give Forgiveness
It’s definitely okay to grieve and get upset for a period of time over your profound loss. Hanging on to anger and sadness for an extended time only hurts you. By refusing to forgive, you are allowing yourself to be a prisoner to your ex’s behaviors and allowing them to dictate your feelings. Even though you may not have had a choice in your divorce, you do have a choice as to whether or not you will remain bitter. No one is twisting your arm and demanding that you waste your time in negative emotions. This is your choice and you have to consider how this choice may be keeping you from moving on and living authentically.
Forgiving is a gift of peace to yourself, not a pardon for others. Although forgiveness is a difficult and painful road, it is well worth it.
4. Get Out and Grow
This is a perfect time to go back to school, take a yoga class, or learn the art of gourmet cooking. Take the time to invest in yourself and learn something new, follow your passion. Taking time to identify your interests and setting small achievable goals will give you the confidence to achieve larger goals. Transforming yourself by learning and growing will help you to live the meaningful and authentic life you want.
5. Create Positive Connections
It is not uncommon to feel alone after a divorce. Along with your spouse, your mutual friends may also be gone, leaving you feeling isolated and adrift. You may feel wounded and ashamed and want to hide from the rest of the world. It may seem easier to avoid prying eyes than risk further rejection. Isolating may seem safer in the short run, but isolation is harmful to your mental health and a deadly long-term habit. Avoidance feeds social anxiety and makes future connections even more difficult. As scary as it may seem to put yourself out there, if there is one thing I have learned in my life it is that we need people! We are not meant to walk this earth alone.
One way to recover from loneliness after divorce is to get involved in something that interests you. A proven method to relieve your own emotional pain is to help others who may have needs greater than yours. Volunteering for a charity is one great way to accomplish this.
Surround yourself with positive people and create positive connections. Take time to get to know the people around you and learn about events taking place in your community. A great resource in most communities to connect with people with similar interests is Meetup.com. Check it out!
6. Practice Self-Care
It is important after divorce to make sure you take care of your mental, physical, and spiritual health. This is often a struggle for single parents who bear the sole burden of their child’s wellbeing and often push their own self-care aside. But remember what they tell you when you get on a plane “make sure you put your oxygen mask on first.”
Part of your responsibility as a parent is to teach your children how to care for themselves. If they see you constantly sacrificing your own needs for theirs, they will emulate that in their own relationships. Being a parent and a person are not mutually exclusive. Furthermore, happy people make happy parents and being happy means taking care of yourself and your needs. Make sure you eat healthy, exercise, get the appropriate amount of sleep, and make “your time” a priority. It’s not only good for your kids, you’re worth it!
7. Talk to Someone
Divorce is unquestionably one of the most painful experiences we may go through. Trying to put the pieces of your life back together can be a very lonely process. Don’t be shy about seeking help from professionals who are trained to assist in these types of difficult life transitions.
On a personal note, it is true that when one door closes another one opens and how you embrace what lies behind that newly open door is up to you. I am grateful for the choices that I have made and the meaningful and joyful path I have created and continue to create. As I have learned, you cannot experience the joy of the view from the mountaintop until you have been in the valley and made the journey, on your own path, to an authentic and purposeful life.
For more information about how to recover from divorce, go to naomiberrycounseling.com or contact Naomi Berry at 480-477-3553.