Divorce is known to be one of the top five stressors that a person can experience during life. Not only can it affect many areas of your life–such as money, living circumstances and children–but it also can bring about very difficult emotions. Coping with divorce involves an emotional process similar to experiencing the death of a loved one. Feelings such as shock, denial, anger, guilt and depression are common. Taking steps to help yourself and utilizing effective coping skills can bring you to a level of acceptance and peace.
- consult with a reputable attorney or mediator
- expect a variety of emotions
- focus your energy on enjoyable activities
- provide your children with ways to cope
- realize that your life is not over
- jump into a new relationship
- use alcohol, drugs or food to cope
- get embroiled in heated discussions with your ex or soon-to-be ex
- make any major decisions right now
- spend time blaming yourself
Ask around for referrals for a good attorney or mediator. There are important legal ramifications to many decisions that you may make as a result of separation or divorce. In addition, consulting with a legal professional will help you reduce the likelihood of making decisions based on emotion versus logic.
You may feel sad, angry or confused about this life change. Although these feelings can be very uncomfortable, denying or avoiding them can potentially lead to bigger problems, such as drug or alcohol abuse. If you feel overwhelmed, seek counseling or a support group. These feelings will ease over time as you begin to accept your situation.
Distraction is a positive coping skill when it is used in conjunction with accepting your emotions. Spend time with friends and family who are supportive and caring. Involve yourself in new (or past) activities that take your mind off of the divorce. Physical activity is particularly helpful because it can reduce feelings of anxiety and depression.
If you have children, reassure them that the divorce is not their fault. Since divorce can be anxiety-provoking for kids, maintain routines as much as possible to ease worry and stress. Work as collaboratively as possible with your spouse on parenting because this will significantly aid in the children’s adjustment to the divorce.
Although divorce is a big life change, you can rebuild. Focus on what you have learned from your circumstances and ways that you have grown through this decision. Remind yourself that this can be the beginning of new opportunities. Replacing negative thoughts with positive ones will help you cope with feelings of anxiety or sadness.
Give yourself time to heal before you consider another relationship. You are quite likely to pick someone with similar traits as your ex-spouse–unless you take the time to understand why your relationship did not work. In addition, a rebound relationship is generally a distraction from the pain of the divorce. Working through these feelings–instead of avoiding them–will benefit you in the long run.
Since divorce can trigger many different uncomfortable feelings, it can be tempting to avoid these feelings by using alcohol, drugs or food to numb your feelings. Use other channels to process your emotions, such as journaling or talking to friends or family. Avoiding self-medication will prevent you from having additional problems to deal with, such as potential addiction issues.
Getting angry or overly emotional will pull your energy in the wrong direction and it may work against you with the legal process. Meditation and relaxation exercises can help you keep your cool.
If possible, avoid making any big decisions right now. Sometimes, during a divorce, this is unavoidable because changes may need to be made about living or financial circumstances. However, try to resist making decisions that can be postponed until you are less emotional and have a clearer perspective on your circumstances.
It is important to recognize the difference between blaming yourself and taking responsibility for your mistakes. Everyone makes mistakes, and you may have made some that contributed to the marriage ending in divorce. But be sure you are not taking responsibility for other’s mistakes. Forgive yourself, focus on making changes in yourself that are important and let go of issues that you do not have control over.
Although divorce can be quite painful, it is also a brand new beginning. New beginnings can be exciting, and if you focus on the positives ahead of you, you can create new, exciting dreams and hopes.