Divorce is not only an ending, but it is also a beginning.
There will be many changes to adapt to and emotions to work through. It can take 1-3 years to adapt to the changes you’ll encounter through the divorce. You may want to speed up the divorce process in hopes that this will make you hurt less, but the legal divorce is not the same as the emotional divorce.
In the emotional divorce, you grieve the loss of a relationship and the loss of future plans together. You may even find it hard to take off your ring or do things on your own that you would have done together. But someday you won’t just be surviving your divorce, you will be making new plans, creating new memories, and finding what you’ve lost along the way.
While it takes time, it is possible to grow through the divorce. Growing involves working on being responsible for your happiness without this relationship. And the first step is coping with the loss of your significant other as your best friend and lover. In my counseling work with those going through a divorce, men and women have shared with me what’s helped them along the way of adapting and growing through their divorce.
4 Ways to Cope When Trying to Grow Through a Divorce:
When emotions are flooding you, it can seem impossible to get on top of the way you feel. By focusing more on goals and functioning, you can’t stop the hurt but you can keep living and connecting.
1. Focus on Small Daily Goals – While you can’t stop the hurt from following you around, you can focus more on your functional goals. The more you focus on your goals and functioning, the less you focus on the discomfort of living through the breakup. Then, you begin to realize you aren’t just worried about living without that person, but you are making it without that person.
Set simple goals like 1) getting out of bed, 2) taking a shower, 3) going to work, 4) eating even when lost appetite, 5) helping kids with homework, etc. List 1-3 small daily goals. The goals must be so important to you that you need to do them even though you feel miserable right now.
2. Get Better Connected – When you are losing someone, you lose an emotional and social resource. It’s more important than ever to get more connected. Reconnect with friends and family you’ve lost touch with or join a group to meet new people. In developing relationships, you find reassurance that you are less alone than you thought. You also hear how others navigate living through their ups and downs.
3. Set Emotional & Relational Goals – At some point, most people decide they don’t want to be done in by their divorce. Begin setting long-term goals to help guide you through the rough waters that lie ahead of you. Possible goals are endless but may include: a) letting go of resentment, b) not putting kids in the middle, c) taking responsibility for own happiness, d) finding cooperative ways to communicate with your ex, and e) not viewing differences as a threat.
4. Make Sense of Marriage Ending Without Staying in Blame – People feel very strongly about divorce and find it hard to not take sides or pass the blame back and forth. Some will blame the other while others will take all the blame themselves. Neither way of thinking is completely accurate. Both people play a part in co-creating the marriage relationship or environment, but neither is solely responsible.
If you take all the blame, you will have a hard time letting go of guilt. And if you blame the other, you will have a hard time letting go of anger. But if you take responsibility for just your part, then you will have something you can work on either for yourself or in future relationships.
Accept the Invitation to Grow in Divorce Recovery:
At some point, you will begin to accept the reality of your loss without feeling hopeless about adapting to the divorce. When you accept the invitation to grow yourself without taking all the blame, you will start to notice that you are making it without your significant other. One day you will let go of the fantasy to reconcile in order to be happy and you will find you can be happy without that person. It is gradual and you can’t force it to happen, as there are no quick fixes when adapting to loss.
It may be hard to imagine, but someday you will be able to let go and move on. The more you turn this difficult time into an opportunity to learn about yourself, the better off you and your future relationships will be.
Many people find meaning once they go through hard times. They realize they can do hard stuff. Divorce invites you to re-evaluate your life, reinvent yourself, and to try new things, including how to relate in different ways.
Please share what has helped you cope, adapt, and/or grow through a divorce.
Marci is a counselor/therapist based in Lee’s Summit who provides online counseling for adults who live in Missouri. I provide divorce counseling for men and women from all over the state (including Kansas City, St. Louis, Springfield, Columbia, Blue Springs, and beyond) who want to love themselves and their relationships again. Schedule a free 15-minute phone consult to determine if she is the best counselor for you.
Photo Credit: “Sunflower Rain” by H. Koppdelaney