If You Want To Get Over The Heartbreak Of Divorce, You Need To Learn How To Find Yourself

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How To Find Yourself, Get Over Heartbreak, & Move On When Coping With Divorce
Self, Heartbreak

Find yourself first.

If you're coping with divorce, the heartbreak can be hard to handle. One of the best ways to move on is to learn how to find yourself first. 

Divorce can be traumatic and tumultuous. When people say that you need to “survive a divorce” they mean it! It’s like being the survivor of a tragedy, battle, or violent crime (sometimes all three rolled into one). Experts in post traumatic stress disorders (PTSD) now include experiencing any serious event, such as divorce, as one of the potential triggers.

RELATED: Why I'll Always Be Happy About Getting A Divorce

If you’re feeling like you need to survive your divorce, and move on with your life, you’re not alone. I personally survived and moved on with my life after a very emotionally traumatic divorce.

As a child of divorce, divorce survivor, and professional divorce coach, I am familiar on every level of what it means to live through the end of a relationship. I’ve experienced sleepless nights, shed boatloads of tears, felt deep, dark despair, and wondered if my life would ever be worth living again.

No stranger to the battlefield of custody and financial negotiations, I’ve fought the good fight, and ended up mastering the art of survival, diplomacy, and even co-parenting.

There isn’t one way through divorce -- no magic pill to swallow, or straight path to follow. I encourage you to find the ways that work for you. The following nine tips are things that helped me survive and move on. I welcome you to try them out, and see if they alleviate your suffering, or help shine a light into all that darkness, so that you too can find your way through.

1. Grieving & forgiveness

I didn't want to get divorced. Even though I wasn’t happy, I fought the idea of divorce tooth and nail. Doing everything I could to try and keep my marriage and family intact.

As a child, I suffered a great deal when my own parents split -- feeling isolated and desperately longing for them to get back together. I didn’t want that for my children. My dream was for a happy, healthy, and whole family.

But sometimes even the best laid plans don’t work out the way we expect. And despite two years in couples counseling, my husband and I couldn’t make our relationship work.

Nothing prepared me for the intense physical heartache and absolute grief that I felt at the loss of my marriage. Overwhelming feelings of failure and guilt that I couldn’t fix what was wrong; I couldn’t keep the relationship and family together.

The only way out is through. I had to embrace my grief. Learn to feel it. Own it. Process it.

Someone shared with me Elisabeth Kubler Ross’s five stages of grief, that she developed to deal with the death of a loved one. Divorce is a death. It was the death of my marriage, and my nuclear family. I went through all of the stages: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and onto acceptance.

And ultimately to a possible sixth stage: forgiveness. Forgiveness for myself for failing, for my ex for all of his shortcomings and bad behavior, and for the third party that brought about the ultimate end of our marriage.

Throughout the process there were so many huge feelings. The kind of anger, despair, and depression that I’d never felt before. If this is your first major loss, you will be in unfamiliar territory, and would likely benefit from some outside help -- such as a therapist, counselor, support group, close confidant, or clergy person.

2. Accepting help

Growing up I was always a very independent person. Completely capable of taking care of myself, and even those around me. As an adult I was content being alone as well as leading a group. I wasn’t used to asking for help. If someone needed help, they came to me for support and answers.

With the ending of my marriage I was suddenly in way over my head -- drowning in the emotions, uncertainty, complexities of the law, the process, and the unraveling of a 21-year-relationship. I needed help, but had no idea how to ask for it, or accept it.

Necessity is the mother of invention they say, and during my divorce it was absolutely necessary for me to accept help. I knew I was drowning, so I grabbed on to any lifeline that came my way.

Help came in all sorts of fantastic forms: therapy, life coaching, energy work, shamanism, Buddhist chanting, love and support from my family of origin, and new friendships.

Staying open to help in all its forms, and being grateful for whatever came my way, saved me. I was supported and able to shift my thinking, so that I could recognize different opportunities and better solutions.

RELATED: 6 Ways To Deal With Grief After Divorce — So You Can Heal & Move On

3. Being moved by music

Some days I could barely get out of bed, or get dressed. The sense of overwhelm was just too great. I needed to take care of myself and my two children, but felt utterly spent, and devoid of energy. What helped raise my spirits, and get me through the day was music.

Music is the ultimate mood shifter. There are all sorts of songs and musical genres; and they offer a full range of emotion and energy -- from rageful and angry or tragically sad all the way to happy and euphoric.

If I needed a good cry, I knew the song to put on (With Or Without You, U2). If I wanted to be lifted up and energized, there was a song for that as well (Walking on Sunshine, Katrina & the Waves).

I would blast Alanis Morissette in my car when I was feeling wronged or annoyed. Sometimes I felt nostalgic, and needed to hear songs that reminded me of my husband, and the good times we’d had -- like the music from our college days (anything by The Samples). To cheer myself up, my children and I would pump up the volume on a favorite song, and have a dance party. It felt so good to get silly with them!

Music would transport me to another time and place. Sometimes back in the past, other times into my hopeful future. Anthemic music would get me pumped up and excited about the journey of life, and inspire me to think about my next chapter. What’s the soundtrack to your emotions? What song will get you through today?

4. Eating feel-good food

At the start of my divorce journey, when I was steeped in sadness, I couldn’t bring myself to eat. I was wasting away, so thin and lethargic. My doctor said he would be concerned if I wasn’t losing or gaining weight -- meaning that when we are in the throes of some major life change, it’s normal to fluctuate. But I knew to get healthy I’d need to focus on what I was eating.

At first, I could only get down protein shakes, so that’s what I ate. I listened to my body, and tried to coax it to tell me what it needed.

Divorce is a time for nurturing yourself, and a huge part of this comes through food and sustenance. A dear friend of mine would cook for me, and take me out to cozy restaurants, to make sure I was eating. Comfort food felt and tasted good -- soup, pasta, chicken.

Food is fuel, it’s love, it’s an important building block. With the right nourishment you will grow stronger, and be able to face all of the uncertainties that come with divorce.

5. Enjoying the company of friends

Support is key when going through divorce, and it comes in a variety of ways: family, experts, support groups, religious affiliations. One of the best ways is from your friends.

Friends can be your biggest help, your cheerleaders, your champions. They can build you up when you’re feeling down, hold your hand when it gets dark and scary, drive you to court or mediation, bring you chicken soup when you can’t get up out of bed.

Personal friends may not be the best people to guide you through all of the divorce decisions, but they can be a sounding board, or a much needed distraction.

I relied on my friends for so much in my divorce. Friends hosted me so I didn’t have to be alone on my first night without my kids. They invited me to go trick-or-treating with them when I had my first solo Halloween. My girlfriends listened for hours when I needed to be heard. They set me up on blind dates, taking me shopping beforehand for just the right outfit.

Having a network of friends to keep you company, shift your thinking, listen attentively, offer up suggestions of new ideas or solutions, make all the difference in the journey from married to single.

RELATED: If You're Heartbroken Over Your Divorce, You Need To Read This

6. Trying new activities and hobbies

I got a bit lost in my marriage. I think it’s normal to sacrifice somewhat for the good of the relationship, for the good of the family. It’s not unusual to be a little unsure of who you are, or what you like to do, after being in a long-term marriage.

The solution to this is to rediscover what you like to do. Learn what moves you, what makes your toes curl.

Endings lead to new beginnings. The end of your marriage leads to the beginning of your newly single life. What is that life going to look like?

At the start of my single days I knew I wanted to date. I’d met my first husband when I was 17, so dating was something I’d never done.

Dating right away is not for everyone...you get to decide what sounds fun and healing for you. Maybe it’s a dance class, or yoga, or hiking, or taking a photography class. How about joining a weekend sports team? Or making new friends, and trying out new activities with them.

I love to travel, so during the windows when I suddenly found myself without children, I made the most of it (and got out of my house so that I didn’t feel sad without them). This time in your life is for exploration and trying new things!

7. Rewarding yourself

There are so many daunting and difficult tasks to face and decisions to make in divorce. We are asking a lot of ourselves -- to face fears of the unknown, have difficult conversations, feel huge emotions, reorganize our lives, give up the comfort and security of what we’ve known.

After all of these challenging tasks, I think we deserve to be rewarded! Don’t wait for someone else to acknowledge you for your heroic acts, plan something nice for yourself.

After going to my deposition, my mother picked me up and took me to my favorite restaurant. Where she lovingly listened to what I’d been through, and made sure I had a glass of wine, a plate of pasta, and a tiramisu (which literally means “pick me up” in Italian).

When you know you are going to be tested or taxed, have a reward planned. It could be anything that feels good to you: a favorite coffee, bunch of flowers, massage, date with a supportive friend, session with a therapist, play date with your child, a night of pampering at a swanky hotel. Whatever would seem like a meaningful reward to you.

8. Doing passion projects

Sometimes divorce makes us myopic; all we can think about is ourselves, our lives, what’s happening to us. We get bogged down, and tired of the same thoughts swirling around in our heads.

Connecting with something meaningful, that you’re passionate about, is a fantastic way to shift your mood and mindset.

Volunteering has always been something that makes me feel good. Being with children is another activity which brightens my day. For me, combining the two was the perfect antidote to the divorce doldrums!

Giving back helped me remember that my problems are not my whole life. That I have much joy and love to give to others.

My divorce coaching business also grew out this time in my life. I wanted to give back, and help people navigate the murky underworld of divorce. Bringing light to this dark time is a gift that changes lives.

What’s something that brings you joy? I encourage you to get out there and do it today.

9. Daydreaming about your future

Divorce happens because we’re unhappy. Our marriages aren’t working. They aren’t healthy, and we’re not living a fulfilled and authentic life. Moving on is about living a better life. One that fits you and who you’ve become.

In ending a marriage we can get lost in the minutia, legal documents, and major decisions. We tend to spend a lot of time looking backwards, trying to decipher what went wrong, what happened? But we also need to look forward, and begin to daydream about what the future might hold…

Do we want to change careers? Start a company? Be a stay at home parent? Move to another place/town/country? Date? Get remarried? Find true love? Volunteer? What moves you?

This is the time for journaling, exploring, visualizing. Having a 'Big Why' for your life helps to build motivation, and move us forward. For me it was about dating, falling in love with an evolved partner, blending a family, building new traditions, and shifting my career to reflect all that I’d learned -- to give back, to be of service. What does life after divorce look like for you?

RELATED: 6 Steps That Will Help You Re-Start Your Life — After A Divorce You Didn't Want

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Kira Gould is a certified divorce coach and the founder of Getting Unmarried and Moving On. Want to explore what life after divorce looks like for you? Reach out to her and discover how to move through this time in your life gracefully with compassion, intention, and forgiveness.

This article was originally published at Getting Unmarried™. Reprinted with permission from the author.

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