Learn helpful tools for transforming grief and moving on with life after a divorce.
Going through a divorce can be similar to experiencing the death of a loved one. Sometimes it is quick and sudden or slow and gradual. In any case, the person you dreamed about growing old with is no longer a part of your everyday life. This is a huge loss no matter how dysfunctional the relationship was. Not only have you lost your life companion, but your sense of security, financial stability, parenting partner, and much more.
With hopes dashed and trust broken, you may think life will never be the same. Feeling depressed, disappointed, sad, alone, and disillusioned, life hasn’t turned out the way you had planned. You may find yourself isolating and sleeping more than usual. You may even question your purpose in life or wonder what’s the point of it all?
After a divorce, it is important to go through a grieving process yet society does not honor our grief. Our family and friends want to see us happy so they encourage us to move on with our lives. Not wanting to burden others, we often grieve alone or repress our feelings and pretend to be happy.
Unresolved grief is unhealthy and often leads to depression, anxiety, addiction and even physical illness. Further, it keeps us stuck, from living life fully. It keeps us from being fully present and available to new relationships and new possibilities for our lives.
Healing and transformation doesn’t happen over night, but is a process unique to each individual. For example, a divorce after a twenty-year marriage may take longer to heal from than one that lasted only three years. It may entail more complications such as dividing shared assets and co-parenting. Further, over time, more resentment may have built up.
Here are some keys to help you get started with the process so you can heal your broken heart and live life to the fullest.
1. Allow yourself time to grieve. Buy a beautiful notebook or journal and take time every day, at least ten minutes, to write about your feelings. Write about your thoughts, experiences and emotions. Alternate journaling with meditating. Sit quietly, slow your thoughts down and focus on your breathing. Notice where grief, anger, fear, etc, lives in your body? What would these feelings say if they could speak? Talk to a friend or therapist about your feelings. Don’t keep them bottled up inside.
2. Have compassion for yourself. Going through any type of loss, especially a divorce is going to be hard on you mentally, emotionally, physically, spiritually and financially. Now is the time to have great compassion for your self and to do things that honor and nurture you. For example, take luxurious baths, walk in nature, get massages, and take naps if you are tired. Really pamper yourself.
3. Take responsibility for your part. What part did you play in the divorce? It always takes two, so even though you may be hurt and your heart is broken, examine what you might have done differently. What lessons have you learned? When we take responsibility for our part, we own our power and are better able to make positive changes so we don’t make the same mistakes in the future.
4. Forgive the other person. We are all doing the best that we can with what knowledge and life experiences we have. If you are angry, try writing a letter to your ex expressing all of your feelings and raw emotions. Then, burn the letter. Write a letter back from him or her. What is their pain? What are they afraid of? Now, write another letter back to them from your heart, sharing what you wished had happened differently. Continue until your anger has subsided and you can imagine forgiving this person. Get help from a therapist if you feel stuck.
5. Envision a new life without your spouse. What are the possibilities for your life now as a single person? What are some of the dreams that you put on the back burner? Get back in touch with yourself and your own deepest dreams and desires. What is on your bucket list? Take a trip. Do something new. Get out of your comfort zone. Sit down and visualize the possibilities. See yourself happy.
6. Create meaning from your loss. As you go through the grieving process and your broken heart heals, you will be able to look back and have a new perspective on the hardship you went through. You can ask yourself…What purpose has it served? How have I grown from this experience? Who am I now?
When we experience a broken heart, we can choose to keep it open and allow for new growth and possibilities, or we can close it to protect ourselves and choose not to trust or love again. When we close our hearts, we also keep ourselves from experiencing joy. What will you choose?