Divorce: Coping Skills to Make It Through
No matter how amicable your breakup, divorce can be one of the most challenging and stressful experiences you’ll ever endure. Like any significant life event, divorce disrupts virtually all aspects of your life. From a practical standpoint, you’re adjusting to living without a partner, which probably impacts your finances and perhaps even changes your housing situation. If you have children, you’re suddenly making co-parenting decisions with your ex-partner. It may seem that your whole world has turned upside down.
Emotional and Mental Fallout
At the same time, though, you’re also dealing with the painful emotional and mental repercussions of your divorce. Even if the breakup was a long time coming, the divorce process and the finality of the aftermath is a painful experience to endure.
In many ways, your breakup is like a death or significant loss. It’s the loss of your marriage and the end of the way of life to which you’d become accustomed. Therefore, it’s natural to experience many or all of the phases of the grieving process. You’ll feel deep sadness and despair over your loss, and perhaps experience resentment and anger toward your former partner for leaving you in this state. You might even go through the denial stage of the grief process, pretending that nothing has changed and refusing to face your new life as a divorced person.
The divorce process can quickly impact your self-esteem and mental health, leaving you with hurt feelings and a profound sense of loss and loneliness. These negative emotions and responses are perfectly normal, and there’s no set timetable for overcoming your loss or deadline for finding your new normal. However, it is possible to get to that last stage of the grieving process, acceptance, and do it healthily. Here are just a few self-care strategies to make your post-breakup healing a little more bearable.
Lean Into Your Support System
As the Beatles famously recommended, you can get by with a little help from your friends. Surrounding yourself with a support network made up of family members, good friends, and trusted coworkers is a great way to remind yourself that you’re not alone. Try to establish as much face-to-face contact as possible with people who genuinely care about you, are willing to listen, and will provide compassion and positive encouragement.
Although everyone enjoys a bit of verbal partner-bashing after a breakup, try to steer clear of people who want to dwell on the past or focus on how terrible your former partner treated you instead of helping you move forward to a better place.
Find a Divorce Support Group
It’s estimated that one marriage ends every 13 seconds in the United States. This statistic means that there are plenty of people going through the same difficult time as you are at any given moment. For this reason, religious and community organizations have organized divorce support groups as a safe place for those going through the divorce process to meet on a weekly or even daily basis and share feelings and experiences.
While long-time friends and family members will love and support you, someone who has been through the breakup of a marriage can offer a different kind of understanding. Describing the details of your partner’s painful betrayal or sharing how you cried for hours while devouring a tray of Oreos can be incredibly cathartic, especially when others can truly commiserate and share their own stories of their experiences with their exes.
Make New Friends
A divorce means splitting finances, assets, time with children, and often friendships. Sometimes people who were friends with you and your partner as a couple may have a hard time staying in touch with or loyal to you both. You may find that others you counted on flee in the face of your breakup rather than muddle through the turmoil by your side.
That’s ok, though. In many ways, a divorce is a perfect opportunity to leave behind those people who may only bring up painful memories of a happier time or those who only want to be around for the good times and not for the long run. Opening yourself up to new relationships is a great way to kick off this new phase of your life. Striking up a conversation with someone in your spin class or inviting your child’s friend’s parent in for coffee can be the first step to forming an exciting new friendship.
Cultivate New Interests
Depending on the logistics of your former marriage, you may find yourself with too much time on your hands post-breakup. Rather than using that time to wallow in despair or dwell on the negatives of your situation, why not spend it learning something new or exploring a hobby you’ve always thought of pursuing? Attend a beginner’s genealogy seminar, take a course in French cuisine, or join a book club. You’ll enjoy the companionship as well as the distraction from your divorce-related worries.
Spend Some Time in Self-Reflection
No matter how much your ex-partner is to blame, there are most likely things you could have done differently throughout your marriage and perhaps even through the divorce process. The end of a relationship can reveal a lot of pent-up resentment, and soon-to-be-ex-partner may say terrible things to one another.
There may be nuggets of truth within these hurtful words, though. Maybe you do need to budget better, communicate better, or spend less time at work. Rather than digging yourself into a bottomless pit of guilt or shame, use these thoughts as opportunities for self-improvement. This time to self-reflect can only help your relationship with a new partner head in the right direction from the get-go.
It’s also important to look back on the joyful times you enjoyed with your partner and express your gratitude for the good experiences you had as a couple or in your family life. Start a private blog or write your thoughts in a journal. As you chronicle your painful feelings, add the good things that happened, and the lessons you’ve learned throughout the relationship and even the divorce process. Also, praise yourself for ways you’ve grown since your wedding day, your accomplishments as a parent, and your resilience throughout these trying times.
Take Care of Yourself
It’s easy to let your divorce become all-consuming. You may lose sleep or sleep all day, let your sadness slip into depression, stop eating or overeat, or stop caring about how you look. Scrambling to adjust to new schedules or custody arrangements may mean you skip your yoga class or tell yourself you don’t have time for a lunch break.
Remember, though, to take care of others, you first have to take care of yourself. Even if you don’t have children, self-care is crucial to surviving the stressful situation a breakup can cause. No matter how difficult it seems, it would help if you carved out time to tend to your personal and emotional needs. Take a bubble bath, spend some time in meditation, or go for a walk through a lovely park. Self-care doesn’t have to be expensive but ignoring it can cost you a lot.
Try to Avoid a Lengthy Legal Process
Once you and your spouse decide that divorce is imminent, consider different ways to make the actual separation and divorce process easier on you both as well as your children.
Mediation is an excellent alternative to going through the court system. Mediation is usually shorter and less costly than the legal process, and for many people — especially couples with children — it’s a healthier way to deal with the more difficult decisions about the division of assets, custody, and visitation, and financial support. Instead of each individual hiring a divorce attorney, a divorce mediator acts as a go-between as you discuss your options. Many people say that the mediation experience helped them communicate better with their former partners, post-divorce.
Reach Out for Professional Help
Your support network, divorce group, and new friends will each contribute to your healthy recovery from your breakup in different ways. However, there are some repercussions and issues that only a qualified mental health professional can help you, your spouse, and your family to manage and overcome. At that point its likely time to find a theapist.
Individual therapy is an excellent way to continue your post-divorce healing process. A professional therapist will help you dig deeper into the problems with your previous relationship, as well as your feelings and reactions to the breakup. Your counselor will also help you transition from your life as a married person to a new, single life. Lastly, if you’re experiencing mental health issues such as depression or anxiety disorder, or if your mental health conditions worsen because of your divorce, your psychotherapist may provide psychodynamic, interpersonal, or cognitive-behavioral therapy to help you better manage your symptoms.
Consider Divorce Counseling Today
If you’re going through or recovering from a divorce, consider reaching out to one of the best divorce therapists in New York City. Let one of the mental health professionals at Therapy Group of NYC help you adjust to your new normal and start living your best life. Make an appointment online today.