Coping with divorce is a difficult process. Here are three steps that will help recover, learn and grow from your experience.
1. Give yourself time to heal
Nobody expects someone who’s just had surgery to be back to work the next week. Emotional injuries need time and nurturing to recover, too. You may feel exhausted, disoriented, sad, stressed and angry from your divorce. It may even be hard to identify what you are feeling. Use this time–weeks, months, whatever seems right to you–to explore your emotions and simply be with them. This is time for you–not your ex-spouse. Avoid contacting him/her and instead work on building up your personal strength.
Do what you need to feel calm and safe. Go for a backpacking trip or other travel; treat yourself well with warm baths and comforting activities. A spiritual or religious practice can be useful for coping with divorce. And a non-religious practice such as meditation can be a great help in finding calm clarity and strength. Keep in mind the bigger picture and all the good things you still have in your life. Towards the end of the healing period the emotional turmoil will abate and you will be ready to accept and acknowledge what has happened.
2. Reflect and learn
The next step for coping with divorce is to begin to reflect on what has happened. While you may have sought solitude and quiet during your healing process, now is the time to re-engage with the world. This step is important to move on and avoid depression.
Hopefully you now be able to approach what went wrong in your marriage with more clarity and objectivity. If you want to move on and have healthy relationships in the future, you will need to address your role in the failure of the previous one. If you don’t learn the skills to make your next marriage different, you will just experience the same problems with another partner down the road.
For some people, talking to an outside party such as a counselor, therapist or priest can help with this introspection. Others work better by themselves. The key is to not focus on what your spouse did wrong. Of course, he played his own part in the divorce. But this is about you. You want to get on with your life, so you need to figure out what you did wrong and need to change. Making a list can be extremely helpful. Tip: Instead of focusing on specific mistakes, look for patterns and habits in the way you act and react to things.
3. Grow and move on
Going through this process will give you incredible personal insight. Now that you’ve pinpointed the parts that need work, it’s time to address them. Do you have a short temper? Do you tend to avoid conflict all together? Are you negative or controlling? Skills-based learning will help you change negative habits and learn how to communicate with your spouse and increase positivity and intimacy.
You may also want to try changing non-relationship habits. In times of stress we tend to only cling harder to old patterns–patterns that may be holding you back. Try taking a public speaking course to dispel shyness. Go back to school for an advanced degree or a career change. Cut your hair. Take up bike riding. New activities will help you make new friends, build confidence, and even–perhaps–find a new romantic partner.