Divorce is not a failure, it’s an ending or changing of a relationship with different degrees of cutoff. Some divorces involve complete cutoff (or avoidance), while others are friendly and cooperative.
There will be many changes to adapt to and emotions to work through. And it can take 1-3 years to adapt to the changes that divorce brings in order to return to your pre-divorce state of well-being. Many people want to speed up the divorce process in hopes that this will make them hurt less, but the legal divorce is not the same as the emotional divorce.
In divorce process, you grieve the loss of a relationship and future plans together, but some day you will make new plans and new memories. It is possible to grow through the divorce if you have the courage to take responsibility for your well being outside of this relationship. In my coaching and counseling work, people have shared with me what’s helped them along the way of adapting and growing through their divorce.
4 Ways to Cope When Trying to Grow Through a Divorce:
When emotions are flooding you, it can seem impossible to get on top of the way you feel. But our amazing brain has the ability to override emotions by accessing the thinking part of the brain. By focusing more on goals and functioning, you can’t stop the hurt but you can keep living and connecting.
1. Focus on Daily Functioning – While you can’t stop the hurt from following you around, you can focus more on your functional goals. The more you focus on your goals and functioning, the less you focus on the discomfort of living through the breakup. Then, you begin to realize you aren’t just worried about living without that person, but you are making it without that person.
Set simple goals like: 1) getting out of bed, 2) taking a shower, 3) going to work, 4) eating even when lost appetite, 5) helping kids with homework, etc. List 1-3 small daily goals. The goals must be so important to you that you need to do them even though you feel miserable right now.
2. Get More Connected – When you are losing someone, you lose an emotional and social resource. It’s more important than ever to get more connected. Reconnect with friends and family you’ve lost touch with or join a group to meet new people. In developing relationships, you find reassurance that you are less alone than you thought. You also hear how others navigate living through their ups and downs.
3. Set Emotional & Relational Goals – At some point, most people decide they don’t want to be done in by their divorce. Begin setting long term goals to help guide you through the rough waters that lie ahead of you. Possible goals are endless but may include: a) letting go of resentment, b) not putting kids in the middle, c) take responsibility for own happiness, d) finding cooperative ways to communicate with your ex, and e) not viewing differences as a threat.
4. Make Sense of Marriage Ending Without Blame Assignment – People feel very strongly about divorce and find it hard to not take sides or pass blame back and forth. Some will blame the other while others will take all the blame themselves. Neither way of thinking is completely accurate. Both people play a part in co-creating the marriage relationship or environment, but neither is solely responsible.
If you take all the blame, you will have a hard time letting go of guilt. And if you blame the other, you will have a hard time letting go of anger. But if you take responsibility for just your part, then you will have something you can work on either for yourself or in future relationships.
Accept the Invitation to Grow:
At some point, you will begin to accept the reality of your loss without feeling hopeless about adapting to the divorce. When you accept the invitation to grow yourself without taking all the blame, you will start to notice that you are making it without your significant other. One day you will let go of the fantasy to reconcile to be happy and you will find you can be happy without that person. It is gradual and you can’t force it to happen, as there are no quick fixes when adapting to loss.
It may be hard to imagine, but some day you will be able to let go and move on. The more you turn this difficult time into an opportunity to learn about yourself, the better off you and your future relationships will be.
Many people find meaning once they go through hard times. They realize they can do hard stuff. Divorce invites you to re-evaluate your life, to reinvent yourself, and to try new things, including how to relate in different ways.
Please share what has helped you cope, adapt, and/or grow through a divorce.
Photo Credit: “Sunflower Rain” by H. Koppdelaney