Whether divorce takes us by surprise or takes a long time to happen, it stirs up a strange, confusing, ever-shifting, revealing, and painful season of emotional and psychological upheaval. Very few things leave us feeling so baffled, so desperate, and so sad, as the separation of our marriage, something we went into with a lot of hope and the best of intentions.
Is it normal to feel this way? It certainly is. Marriage is a deep bond and a complex, shared experience with another human being. It opens us in ways we didn’t know were possible, pushes us to grow, and develops within us, an intricate web of connections that are both universal, common to all those who are married, and yet, somehow unique to each couple.
Each of us will walk our own path, use the tools and experiences and support systems we have, to grieve during the divorce process, work through painful feelings, find comfort, and ultimately heal. For every individual moving through divorce and its aftermath, the way toward healing will be through, not around, our suffering. This is probably the most important thing to understand during this time. No healing comes about by avoiding pain or difficulty, but by walking through it with acceptance, openness, and a lot of support.
It Gets Intense
The emotional intensity of divorce can sometimes be overwhelming. Life changes dramatically for you and every member of your family. It brings up negative feelings and takes a toll on your physical health as well as your mental health. The things you’ve come to count on for so long for a feeling of security, ritual and strength are no longer in place. Even if you initiated the separation, the grieving process and the dramatic changes that take place can leave you feeling lost and suddenly exposed to all kinds of stress, anxiety, and regret.
It’s normal to experience extreme swings in your emotions during this time, from hope to despair and back again, from anxiety to serenity and assurance to doubt, and from confusion to peace of mind. In some ways, change is the most constant thing during divorce.
It’s important not to let it scare you or make you feel like things will never return to normal. They won’t return to what they used to be, but you will heal, find your equilibrium, and build a new life with new relationships and meaningful experiences to explore.
Partnering with an experienced therapist is important during this period. They understand what it takes to navigate divorce with understanding and how to work through both the consequences of divorces and the stages of divorce. They’ll be able to provide you with tools and habits that build your identity and confidence, and allow you to feel everything you must so you can finally let it go.
Counselors can also work with you to better understand the effects on children and work directly with your kids during this to make sure their emotional well-being doesn’t slip through the cracks.
Lean On Your Support System
When it comes to life after divorce, you need people around you who care deeply for you and love you unconditionally, individuals who will support you no matter what but still retain a sense of objectivity and clarity. Plus, if you’re a single parent, a community of loving people around you will go a long way in helping you get through the rough patches.
Some days, you’ll need someone to speak some sense into your perspective. Other days, you will just need a shoulder to cry on, a friend to listen to you, or someone to help you relax and disconnect for a little while.
Choose wisely. Spend time with those who have your best interests in mind, the ones who won’t judge or criticize. Surround yourself with friends and family who will speak truth and encouragement in your life and help you work through the minutiae so you can make healthy decisions going forward.
It’s also a great idea to link up with a few older individuals, a few mentors, so to speak. Folks our age are wonderful, but the wisdom and perspective afforded by those who have lived a lot longer and have already experienced many of these things is invaluable, and an asset like no other.
Watch Out for Compulsive or Addictive Behavior
Whenever we’re going through seasons of heightened emotions or grief, we are more vulnerable to making unhealthy choices regarding our physical and mental well-being. The intense loneliness, anger and sorrow we often experience during relational breakups, career struggles, the death of a loved one, or other difficult seasons, makes things like alcohol consumption, drugs, overeating, media binging, careless sexual encounters, and reckless spending more attractive. A painful divorce, being on the receiving end of infidelity, or experiencing the traumatic memories of physical abuse and other difficulties can tempt us toward actions we will later regret.
These empty pursuits promise much and deliver little, if anything at all. We want to fill the void in our heart, patch up all the broken places, sew together the innumerable threads that were torn during our separation. And these hollow distractions are easy to come by and often praised by others.
When you’re feeling a strong pull toward self-destructive behavior, reach out to a trusted friend who wants your best, one who will talk or spend time with you. Reach out to your counselor, or get one if you don’t already have one. They will give you solutions for dealing with the increased temptation and ways to process your emotions that are both liberating and affirming.
If you absolutely need some release and distraction, look to other activities, like creative habits such as painting, photography, printmaking, pottery or others, along with physical pursuits in various athletics, outdoor adventures, travel, and more. We’ve only named a few. There are probably several hundred things you could be doing instead of self-medicating. We guarantee you’ll feel so much better spending that time and releasing that emotional energy in creative work, exercise, exploration, or time with others.
It All Takes Time
We are complex beings, with layers and layers of emotional and psychological nuances. Divorce and separation run deep and often affect every corner of our interior world. Things inside get shifted around, toppled over, reshuffled, and ultimately built back up. This process doesn’t happen overnight, or even after weeks. It usually takes months and even a few years for some.
Go easy on yourself. Take it slow. Move through your pain without repressing it, but don’t make demands of yourself or set deadlines for emotional healing. That’s not how the heart and mind work. They heal when they heal. We can only help that process by making healthy and affirming choices for ourselves and our family.
Stay Positive but Don’t Lie to Yourself
Staying positive isn’t about putting on a good face or pretending everything is just fine. On many days and nights during this time, things will not be just fine. Remaining positive is about hope and courage, two things necessary for any difficult season. It’s also about keeping your plans for growth and for the future in sight so you don’t lose your way in the emotional haze.
Gather people around you who help keep you positive, but don’t lie about your reality either. You want honest and supportive friends who can inspire you to move ahead in healthy ways without relying on the very destructive patterns of emotional repression and avoidance, or keeping up the pretense that life is just fantastic. This only hurts your and your children’s chance at finding healing and moving on.
Choose the Higher Ground With Your Ex
Inevitably, you’ll still have to interact with your ex to one degree or another, especially if you have kids together. Your conflict with each other makes it easy and tempting to start fights, hold grudges, or try to manipulate them into doing what you want.
Do your absolute best to avoid these things. You’ll only make it worse for yourself, your ex, and your children. Choose instead to remain positive (not condescending or superior). Keep calm, even if they get worked up. Listen to their concerns attentively and ask them to do the same. Work calmly as adults toward mutual solutions that are best for all involved.
If conflict and arguments increase, even with a solid effort, schedule time with a professional mediator or therapist to help the two of you work through issues and solve problems in positive ways without tumbling into a fight every time.
Divorce is also an Opportunity
As silly as it may sound, it’s true. Yes, divorce is incredibly difficult, full of sorrow, loss, anger, confusion, and profound readjustment, both in your life and in your family member’s lives. However, divorce is also a fresh start, a chance to put aside beliefs and habits that have held you back.
You can use this time to explore new opportunities for creativity, investment, relationships, education, travel, and much more. Such a dramatic change can inspire new passions or rekindle old ones. Don’t ignore this chance to reshape and redefine your life for the better.
Divorce brings many changes, several of them we never see coming. There’s no quick-fix remedy to getting through divorce. You can’t take a pill or magically find healing. You’ve got to move through, not around your pain and struggle, and do so with the support and love of friends and family, the wisdom of those who have already walked these paths, and the skill and knowledge of professionals dedicated to your growth.
Give yourself a break. Don’t make demands. Reach out to connect when you’re feeling lost or overwhelmed, and explore the newer, more life-affirming opportunities that divorce affords.
Torrone Law is your ideal family law partner. We help you navigate divorce, separation, custody, and adoption with confidence, empathy, and peace of mind. Connect with us today to learn more or to schedule a consultation.
To learn more about dealing with the emotional and psychological effects of divorce, check out our frequently asked questions and answers below.
Why is divorce so difficult, emotionally?
Marriage unites us in many ways, weaving together so many aspects of one another’s lives, the physical, the financial, shared and individual histories, kids and family, goals and dreams and so many other things.
Separating these, even when the separation is necessary, is incredibly painful. We’ve grown accustomed to our life together and rely on many aspects of this union to bring us assurance, comfort, and perspective. Pulling these strands apart can bring up feelings and thoughts that range from the subtly uncomfortable to the downright terrible.
Should I express what I’m feeling or just keep moving forward?
The short answer is…both. Choosing to feel and express everything you’re going through instead of bottling it up brings release, along with understanding and strength, which equips you for the process of growth, healing and moving forward.
Where can I find support during divorce?
Making the most of your support system is incredibly important while you’re walking through divorce. Surround yourself with sincere, honest, caring friends and family members, experienced attorneys, trusted counselors and mediators, and older mentors.
We find tremendous strength and encouragement from those who love us. Don’t ignore your biggest supporters. They are imperative for your healing and will help you move ahead in life in healthy, positive ways.