In Part 1 of this series, we offered preparation for the trauma you may experience in a divorce. We listed common experiences recent divorcees have after their divorce. Now that you’re aware of what you may experience, it’s time to discuss the next part: working through that trauma.
Important note: This article is not meant to be psychological advice or treatment. It is, instead, a list of helpful tips pulled from various sources that are more qualified to discuss trauma. We encourage you to find an accredited mental health professional who can help you through the steps described below. They can also offer more specified treatments not listed below.
Allow Contradictory Feelings to Emerge
Losing an important relationship always comes with tough emotions, many of which are in direct conflict. They can happen whether you initiated the divorce or not. You love this person, but you hate them. You desperately want them back, and you never want to see them again.
All these feelings are real and valid, and they should be honored. Allow yourself to sit and feel them for exactly what they are, no more, no less.
Stay the Course
Make sure to stick to your decisions. Sometimes, the feelings can be so overwhelming that you feel compelled to take action. Don’t. There is a reason why you divorced, regardless of who made the decision. If you’re practicing “no contact,” keep doing so. If you’ve chosen to speak with your ex regarding the kids alone, then don’t bring up any other topics, and don’t play along if they do. Stick to your guns, and let the feelings happen when you do.
Go Easy on Yourself
Psychologists agree that it typically takes about two years to fully recover from a divorce. That’s a long time, especially when you are in pain. Give yourself that time. Allow yourself to be broken when you need to be. Trying to be a coach and telling yourself to “get over it” isn’t going to help. That’s only going to add to your frustration, and it will put unnecessary pressure on you.
Don’t push yourself to do something you’re not ready to do. If you know you can’t handle dating or sex, then don’t. Even if you feel that way next year, that’s okay. Remember, the goal is to go easy on yourself.
On the other hand, continually take stock of where you are. Throughout those two years, you should be making progress, however incremental. If you’re feeling stuck and unable to move forward at all, seek professional help. A counselor can give you strategies to move forward. The feelings will be hard, and that may be the case for some time, but you should be able to acknowledge some headway, no matter how small.
Surround Yourself with Love
Someone out there cares about you, and they want to be there for you. Surround yourself with friends and family, and don’t be afraid to talk to them about what you’re going through. If they truly care, they want to help.
For some, this may be harder than it sounds. Perhaps you left your home base, moving somewhere new with your spouse. Maybe during the marriage, you never found time to make new friends, and all your family is far away. This is hard, but it will be okay. Take time to call or video chat with your people. When you’re ready, start venturing out to make new friends. There are many apps and online social groups with similar interests that you can join.
Engage in Healthy Activities
Don’t forget that there is still a person inside of you who has vital needs. When you are in the thick of emotional trauma, make sure to keep your machine running. Eat well; get enough sleep; and exercise.
As for your other activities, focus on those that “fill you up.” If you’re a big movie buff, start watching the classics you never had time for. Start reading those books you’ve had sitting on the shelf. Look for positive, healthy, fulfilling ways to spend your time. Doing so can help you stay connected to yourself.
Once again, we encourage mental health counseling. Even if you don’t believe you need it, it will help, and it is a healthy, positive choice. At its best, mental health counseling can help you uncover emotions you weren’t aware of, emotions that aren’t necessarily related to the divorce. This can help you refocus your energy on yourself, which is where it should be right now.
This tip is easier said than done, especially during rough emotional periods. It may take some work, but you can find light in the darkness. If you’re feeling lonely, for instance, you can at least tell yourself that you’re free to do whatever you want. If you’re missing your ex terribly, you can still be comforted that you aren’t stuck in an unhealthy relationship with them. Even at the bottom of your worst moments, there are still opportunities and positives. Whenever you can, put your focus on these things.
Stay “All Business” With Your Ex
For at least a little while, you may need to stay in contact with your former spouse just to handle practical matters. If you have kids together, your ex will be a constant in your life.
We suggest that while you recover, keep your interactions with them brief and to the point. Don’t allow it to stray into emotional states, reminiscences of the past, or anything similar. Even if you want to be friends one day, you need to focus on yourself for now.
Furthermore, don’t get baited into fights or power struggles. If you can’t agree on something, allow your attorney or mediator to handle it. Keep your emotional distance, take care of yourself, and let legal professionals deal with conflicts.
Make This Time All About You
Now’s your chance. While you struggle with your trauma, you also have the opportunity to reconnect with and relearn about yourself. Take this time to focus on yourself first. Take care of yourself the same way you would an ailing loved one. This is not selfishness; it’s healing. Focusing on yourself first doesn’t mean you will automatically be neglectful of your kids or loved ones. In fact, interacting with and caring for them will remind you of what you care about, further connecting you to yourself.
Make The Divorce Easier for Yourself
Regardless of trauma, divorce is inherently difficult. You can make this process easier by avoiding ugly courtroom drama. If you can negotiate the terms of your divorce with your spouse, this is always the best option. For extra help, attend mediation. A neutral legal professional will meet with you both and help you hammer out the details. This gives you power over all decisions and allows you to have much fewer things to worry about. Afterward, you can truly focus on yourself and your healing.
For help negotiating the terms of your divorce, trust our firm. We focus on making divorce as smooth as we can, and we always want to keep couples from going to war. For a free consultation, call (949) 558-2624 or contact us online.