How Mindfulness Can Help You Recover Faster From Your Divorce

Photo: Dmitriy Zub, portishead1 | Canva
Woman removing the negative and being mindful of how she speaks to herself

Depression, anxiety, despair, hopelessness, fatigue, lethargy, anger. These are just some of the emotional by-products we face when we go through the debilitating divorce process.

When we’re here, we’ll shout into the void, “What the hell is happening to me, and how the hell can I get myself through it!”.

Practicing mindfulness was one of the most powerful tools I found to help me put the pieces of my life back together.

What is mindfulness, and how can it help you recover when your relationship ends?

Skewed perceptions

Many people perceive mindfulness as sitting for an hour in a cross-legged position or doing loads of yoga and journaling. I want to dispel that image from your mind because that sounds like a lot of time and effort.

If you’re new to the concept of mindfulness or curious about how it can help you to heal faster, I want to explain it in straightforward terms.



RELATED: 5 Reasons You Feel Lifeless After Divorce & How To Heal

Mindfulness is simply noticing what you think and feel at any moment rather than running on auto-pilot or reacting to subconscious thoughts.

  • It’s about turning the subconscious conscious.
  • It’s emptying your mind of thought.
  • It’s about allowing space for all of our thoughts and not judging or labeling them as right or wrong, good or bad.

When we’re experiencing deep pain and grief after the end of a relationship, our minds take us into dark places.

Failure, negative self-talk, depression, stress, anxiety. All of it compounds, and we feel overwhelmed. Sometimes, when it gets really bad, we may even start to question the point of being here.

We know we are not functioning at our best, but we can’t seem to catch our breath and figure out what we need to do to start feeling better. The road before us stretches out endlessly, and we think we will never reach the end of it and feel good again.

I can vividly recall feeling this way after both my divorce eight years ago and the end of my three-year relationship post-divorce.

Pain starts with a trigger.

It’s important to realize that every time you are feeling bad or experiencing anxiety or emotional pain, there is a thought that has triggered the emotions. It’s impossible to fall into that type of state without thinking of a particular thought first as the catalyst.

For example, I had a voice inside my head after my divorce that told me I was incapable of loving someone. Other people knew how to love and have relationships, but I didn’t because something was inherently wrong with me.

This thought would trigger extreme pain because if this thought were true, that meant I was destined to be alone forever. Deeper despair would be triggered as the thought of being isolated set in.

I was already struggling to be alone, so thinking I would be alone forever was causing me immeasurable pain and sadness.

RELATED: How To Get Over Divorce: 24 Harmful Myths That Keep You From Moving On

Learning to be aware

Until I started practicing mindfulness, I had no idea what was happening in my mind and body. All I knew was that I felt awful when I wasn’t busy.

Any time I wasn’t distracting myself with work, kids, dating or drinking and socializing to fill in the quiet times, I was suffering.

I told myself I was just living a busy life. The truth was, I was in denial that being alone with my thoughts was scaring me and that I was using distractions to avoid the grief I didn’t feel ready to face.

When you aren’t aware of your thoughts, there is little opportunity to challenge and reframe them. Awareness gives you the power to look objectively at what you are thinking and make changes so you can start to feel better and stronger about what you are going through.

Try to be patient.

It takes time and practice to master mindfulness. At first, you might think that it is pointless or that it’s not going to help you. If this is the case, notice that thought. “This feels pointless”. Now challenge the thought.

“It feels pointless, but maybe I just need to keep going. Imagine if I could start to feel better one day soon if I persevere”.

It’s surprising what activities you can access to help you clear your mind. It doesn’t have to be meditation, Journaling or other more common tools that are associated with mindfulness.

An excellent example of this came from a client I was coaching recently. He had started archery classes to implement healthy self-care practices after his divorce. He found that while he was doing archery, his mind was completely clear because he had to focus on the target in front of him each time.

A surprising benefit of archery for him was the mental break from the self-defeating thoughts that would arise when he was alone.

This is such a great example of how being mindful is a unique process for each person. It doesn’t have to be meditation. It can be any activity that helps you to clear your mind and be in the present moment.

RELATED: 7 Ways To Trust Your Intuition After Divorce

Avoiding the present

You may have heard the advice that you should stay in the present moment. Sometimes, staying in the present seems counterintuitive.

My present moments suck; why would I want to stay in them?

This is a valid point and one that needs exploring if you are finding that it is a barrier for you.

Avoiding or denying our pain is not the key to moving past it. Grief is not something that you can ignore. It will stay with you until it is bought out into the light, felt and accepted. Acceptance is the key to moving past the pain of loss when a relationship ends.

When we try to run away, it goes something along these lines:

I’m feeling sad. This is painful. If I feel sad, something is very wrong. I don’t want to feel sad. Quick, let’s think about something else. Let’s grab our phones, pour a drink, go to the mall, visit a friend. Anything but feeling sad!

What would happen if you did none of those things? What would happen if you sat still and felt sad for a little while?

Yes, it will be unpleasant. You may feel anxious or cry and feel as though there is never going to be relief. Trust that you will come out of the overwhelm by breathing deeply and allowing what is happening.

RELATED: 6 Essential Tips For Rebuilding Your Life After Divorce

How mindfulness helped me:

When I first began to practice meditation as a way of being mindful, I felt frustrated. I used to sit there and feel agitated and bored. I wanted it over so I could get back to ‘doing stuff’.

But I kept going with it. I was so tired of feeling down and broken and unable to move on that I figured, what the hell. Nothing else has worked, so maybe this will.

After a week or so, I found myself able to detach and observe myself feeling the feelings. I noticed the thoughts that would arise when I allowed time for them. And I was a bit shocked, to be honest. I started to understand why I was feeling so low.

I started to see how I was catastrophizing certain events, how I was worrying about an unknown future, how I was keeping myself a prisoner to the blame and guilt and beating myself up relentlessly, how my inner critic was blasting me constantly in the background while I went about my day.

Once I could see it all, I could start to change it. Before then, I had no chance of moving through it.

I began to hear which thought patterns I needed to disrupt clearly. And I made the choice to say no to the ones that were taking me down. It was almost like I was in a battle with them. I made the choice that I was going to win.

Life was too short to be living in a painful fog and missing out on all of the precious present moments that I could never get back.



The Takeaway

The sadness and grief of loss after divorce is not something to be ‘overcome’. There will always be a part of you that carries the memories of not only the good times but the debilitating times when you had to accept that your marriage was over.

Healing comes when we integrate our grief as part of our story and the experience that has made us who we are today.

By using mindfulness to acknowledge our grief and accept it as part of us, we can start to feel a sense of peace and rebuild a life that involves joy and optimism again. We stop running and realize that it’s finally safe for us to rest.

RELATED: The Mind-Blowing Lesson Tony Robbins Taught Me About Divorce

Carol Madden is a writer, coach, lifelong learner and champion of people realizing their personal potential.

This article was originally published at Medium. Reprinted with permission from the author.