Your divorce will probably be one of the most intense emotional experiences you'll ever face. It sure was for me. I had a full spectrum of extraordinarly strong emotions hit one after another in an often confusing and frightening way. Sound familiar?
The world of divorce can feel like a tornado has come through your life and wiped away all that was familiar and safe. I thought of it as being tied up, blind-folded, and stuffed into the front seat of a runaway roller coaster. I never knew when I was going to be slammed to the left or right by a sharp turn, and I dreaded any slow upward movement, because I knew that at some point, I would drop down into depths I couldn't imagine, be thrown into a loop-de-loop, or even get caught up in a corkscrew.
I'll be honest with you: There were times back then when I thought I might be going insane.
What I've found out since my divorce in 2002 is that the emotions of divorce are intense and change rapidly for most people. These emotions often include everything from denial, fear, hope, anger, loss, guilt, confusion, rejection, and loneliness.
I think the loneliness was the hardest for me, and that's why I've developed some very specific strategies for dealing with the loneliness of divorce. Below are the top two strategies that work best with my clients. I'm hoping you'll find them helpful too.
I know this is going to sound simple, but sometimes the best solutions are really not complicated. One of the easiest things to do to help yourself when you're feeling the loneliness of divorce is to give yourself a hug. Yes, I do mean wrapping your arms around your chest and placing your hands just below your shoulder joints. Hold this hug for a bit, and after a while you'll notice that you're taking deeper breaths. You'll want to continue to hug yourself at least until you sigh. We forget how transformative the power of touch truly is.
There's something especially comforting about hugs. I used to think that the only good kinds of hugs were with others—either human or animal, but I've found that hugging body pillows, and especially hugging myself can have fabulously calming and comforting results, too.
The second of my top two strategies for dealing with loneliness after divorce is also simple to express: it's acceptance.
The only way to get through the loneliness is to accept that it's a natural part of the healing process of divorce. Your life is changing in a pretty dramatic way, and it's okay to feel lonely when the spouse with whom you shared your isn't a daily part of it anymore. Acceptance is one of those things that can usually be helped by talking with people who love you (like your friends and adult family members), people who are also dealing with divorce (like those in a divorce support group) or people who have successfully healed from divorce themselves, like a divorce therapist, a clergy member, or a divorce coach. I'm being very specific about the people who are typically great at helping people who are going through divorce, because I've seen the repercussions of the mistakes people make when they try to rely on people other than the ones I've listed.
Unfortunately, many people seek another romantic relationship to avoid feeling lonely. This can have tragic results. When you enter into another relationship before allowing yourself to heal completely and become a whole person again, you run the risk of getting into a relationship with someone who's just like your ex—or someone who's the exact opposite. Usually this doesn't work out so well, and I can tell you from personal experience that breaking up with a new honey before you've healed from your divorce is especially devastating. (I felt like a double loser when it happened to me.)
Even more detrimental, people deal with the loneliness of their divorce by talking with their kids about it. They'll tell the kids their fears under the guise of being honest, but the truth is they just need someone to talk to, and the kids are an easy audience. Kids aren't cut out to be an adult friend to either one of their parents during divorce, and the long-term effects on both the kids and the parent-child relationship are just too costly. Believe me, it's worth finding someone else to talk with.
Loneliness is a normal part of divorce recovery for most people, and your Functional Divorce Assignment has some specific things you can do right now to help you get through your loneliness quickly.
Your Functional Divorce Assignment:
Give yourself a hug right now. I'm serious. Go ahead and try it right now. I think you'll be pleasantly surprised by how good it feels. Be sure and continue hugging yourself until you sigh—that's how you'll know you're allowing yourself to relax and be comforted. (It's OK if you start to cry on your way to sighing.)
Are you relying on the right person or people? Think about whom you've been relying on to support you through your loneliness and other emotional upheavals you're experiencing. Based on the suggestions above, are you relying on the appropriate people? Do you need to look for another way to get the support you need?
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