Nine Tips for Coping During & After a Divorce
If you’re trying to heal after a divorce it is similar to a grief process, and there are several things you can focus on to work through the emotional toll you’re feeling. Divorce can be messy, exhausting, overwhelming, full of negative emotions, and, let’s face it, scary. You may find yourself feeling depressed or having divorce stress or anxiety. The sooner you begin to heal from the painful feelings, the sooner you’ll be able to move on from the grieving process and feel ready to once again enjoy the things you used to care about and loved doing.
“During a divorce, painful feelings of guilt or shame can challenge our forward motion. Therapy can help work through those negative emotions and feelings, which can be overwhelming.”
Talkspace therapist Dr. Karmen Smith, LCSW, DD
Having a few tricks at your fingertips might help you better navigate the process. Use some or all of the following ideas if you’re having a difficult time dealing with a recent (or past) divorce.
1. Don’t be hard on yourself
Perspective is important, especially when you’re figuring out how to cope with divorce. If you’re feeling guilt or shame about your marriage ending, remember that it takes two people to be in a relationship, and two people to end one.
Guilt and shame are common feelings that can arise during the stages of divorce. However, forgiving yourself might help you let go of any remorse or guilt you’re harboring. It can be an effective way for you to move on with your new life. Regardless of who said or did what during the marriage, you need to figure out how to get through a divorce emotionally, or you’ll never be able to move on from it. Forgive yourself. Give yourself the time and space you need, so that you can begin the next phase of your life.
“A divorce can trigger feelings of failure and uncertainty which affects our self-esteem. Therapy can give you new ways to see your value.”
Talkspace therapist Dr. Karmen Smith, LCSW, DD
2. Find a support system
Anyone who’s gone through it knows, getting through divorce is taxing, emotionally and spiritually. Lean on your friends and family, both new and old, to help you survive the toughest times.
Finding a support system is key to coping with divorce. It might feel challenging at first to make an effort to spend time with others, but you’ll be better off for it. Reach out to old friends and make plans. Or find new friends to connect and spend time with. Support groups are an excellent place to connect with other people who understand exactly what you’re going through.
3. Make time for self care
Self-care is always important, but when you’re going through a divorce, it’s even more necessary. Taking time to do things you love — yes, even if that means doing nothing — can make a world of difference.
One of the great things about self-care is it can be anything you need it to be! From treating yourself to a massage or a little pampering, to going for a walk, to meeting a friend for coffee, to getting out for an afternoon drive, to making time for exercise…doing something for yourself is especially important when you’re trying to figure out how to deal with divorce. Making time to take care of yourself can be refreshing, both emotionally and physically.
4. Look for divorce counseling
Even if you feel like you’re handling your divorce the best way possible, there may be times when you feel overwhelmed, sad, angry, resentful or a host of other emotions that may not be beneficial to your own mental health and well-being. This might be the time to consider getting some outside help.
Seeking divorce counseling can allow you to find new ways to navigate the process. Therapists can help you find new outlooks on life and recognize and break unhealthy thought patterns. The right therapist can help you learn how to deal with divorce with grace and newfound wisdom.
Divorce counseling can also be beneficial for people not directly involved in your divorce but are definitely affected, such as your children. You might want to seek child divorce counseling to help them cope too.
5. Discover new interests & hobbies
Keeping yourself busy can be helpful if you’re looking for new ideas about how to handle divorce. You may find that the more downtime you have, the more depressed you begin to feel.
Now is the perfect time for you to branch out and discover new things that interest you and can occupy your time. Hobbies are a great way to fill your days. They can keep you from dwelling on all the changes in your new world.
Have you ever thought about taking a ceramics class? Wanted to learn how to brew beer at home? Dreamed of starting gardening? Thought about tackling a home project? Toyed with the idea of training for a marathon? Here’s your opportunity.
6. Avoid conflict with your spouse or former spouse
This may seem like a no-brainer, but you might be surprised how hard it is for old habits to die. While it may be difficult, especially if you’re divorcing a narcissist, remind yourself that conflict likely isn’t going to do either of you any good at this point. Remember to take deep breaths, walk away when you need to, and above all, refuse to let your ex create more drama in your life.
If you find that you’re having a difficult time breaking old, destructive habits, focus on things that teach you how to cope with divorce — journaling, meditating, and other relaxation techniques are great ways to train yourself how to react to difficult situations with a new behavior pattern.
7. Think positively
It may sound like a cliché, but the power of positive thinking is exactly what it says…powerful. It can be difficult in the beginning, especially if you are struggling with divorce depression. However, with practice, you can train your brain to see the positive side of things. And that can help you adjust to your new life better than just about anything else.
Note that if children are involved, this is an especially important part of the equation. As a parent, you want to model behavior that demonstrates healthy ways to overcome difficult times in life.
Self reflection is always a good thing. Anytime you go through a major life event or change, it’s worth your time and energy to focus on the positive and negative aspects of your experience. Think about the following:
- What was your part in the relationship?
- In what ways can you grow from it?
- What did you learn about yourself and your relationships?
- Do you have regrets?
- If so, how can you plan to do things differently in your next relationship?
- Do you need to apologize?
- Are you holding on to resentments?
- If so, how can you let go of them?
You may even possibly find yourself remembering some good from your marriage. Focusing on the good things that came out of your relationship — children, memories, friendships you formed along the way — can help you let go of the negatives.
9. Simplify legal matters when possible
Yes, coping with divorce means dealing with the legal side of things. But if you can, try to avoid a long, drawn-out legal proceeding. If at all possible, going through the divorce proceedings using mediation can save you time, money, and a lot of stress and frustration.