A divorce is a massive psychological and emotional blow for anyone. No matter how difficult your marriage had become, whether or not you initiated the divorce process, it is normal to feel devastated. The person you expected to be your lifelong partner is gone, and your trust is shattered. You may feel isolated and alone, and be unsure where to turn. If you have kids, you might worry about their reactions. You might also be concerned about such practical matters as finances and housing. Fortunately, taking it one step at a time can help you settle into a new sense of normalcy.
1. Go No Contact
No Contact is a system designed to break the hold that you and your former spouse have on each other. Although it seems harsh, No Contact is actually the best way for both of you to heal. It allows you to focus on your own needs and grief process without getting drawn into arguments, jealousy, or messy conversations.
Delete your ex from your social media, block his or her phone number, and take steps to avoid running into your ex in public. Let your friends know what you are doing, as many people share gossip or news in an effort to “be helpful.”
If you have children together, full No Contact may not be helpful or even possible. In this case, keep your conversations to an absolute minimum, and speak only about the children’s needs. Some people find it helpful to go through a neutral third party, either as a messenger or a mediator.
How long to remain in No Contact is a personal decision. Some people never speak again, but many find that after several months or years, they are able to rekindle a friendship. However, it should never happen until both partners are fully healed and have moved on with your lives. If you feel ready to begin contact, reach out cautiously and respectfully. Your ex might not yet be ready to speak to you.
2. Grieve Your Loss
The stages of grieving a lost relationship mirror those of grieving a death. There is no right or wrong length of time for each stage, and many people move forward and backward between stages before finally reaching a true acceptance. It is absolutely essential that you make time for your own grief process in order to truly and fully heal. Trying to minimize it or put it out of your mind will only extend the process and increase the risks of getting stuck in an earlier stage.
The stages of grief are:
- Denial: At first, you are overwhelmed with shock and disbelief. You know that the relationship is over, but it doesn’t feel real. This is the time when people see glimmers of hope and feel an overwhelming urge to talk to their ex and “work it out.” Stay strong and distracted during this time.
Anger: This is a highly useful stage, as long you don’t get stuck in it. Anger helps you disconnect from the relationship by reminding you of everything that made you miserable. You might also get angry at your higher power, other people who you perceive as involved in the divorce, and friends or relatives who try to calm you down. In this stage, it is important to find clarity. Focus your anger toward the situation, write angry letters (but don’t send them!), and vent to supportive friends and family.
Bargaining: This stage looks a lot like desperation. You begin to believe that you can argue or beg your way back into the relationship. You might try to bargain with your higher power, or convince your family or friends to talk to your ex. Many people also look for signs in astrology, tarot cards, and other forms of divination. Remaining No Contact during this phase is critical, as it keeps you from saying things you will later regret.
Depression: Although depression feels absolutely miserable, it is a great sign that are you are starting to heal. You realize that the marriage is over for good, and that knowledge hangs over you like a lead balloon. Although it is difficult to stay motivated, honoring your feelings while forcing yourself to keep going will help you work through this stage.
Acceptance: This is when you finally come to terms with your divorce. Lingering sadness, wistfulness, and even regret are common, but you learn to live with your feelings and move on with your life. It often comes in fits and spurts, until one day you realize that it is your normal state of being.
3. Create New Rituals While Maintaining Your Routine
A divorce requires you to completely abandon the things you once took for granted, such as eating dinner together or celebrating holidays as an intact family. It is common to feel the loss most deeply during those moments. Meanwhile, the overwhelming emotions can make it difficult to perform even the most basic tasks of daily living such as washing your hair or going to work.
Maintaining your routine is an important key to successfully working through your pain. Be kind to yourself and let go of things that really don’t matter, but focus on the parts of your day that are fundamental to who you are. A routine gives you a reason to get up in the morning and a reason not to stay up all night, and helps you recognize your inner strength.
Create new rituals to ease the feeling of loss. Spend holidays with your parents or call your best friend every night. Find things to look forward to within your new reality and, over time, they will begin to replace your old traditions.
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