There is a saying that “you never step into the same river twice.” Transitions and movement are a part of life – we change, or our circumstances change, or we find both changed in ways that are irrevocable, and sometimes painful. One of life’s changes is when you get divorced, a reality that has been in decline in the last few years in the US, but still affects thousands of people every year.
Getting married is usually attended with joy at the transition into life with someone and getting divorced separates you from the person with whom you shared life and dreams for that life together.
How to Navigate Life After Divorce
The situations in each marriage are different, and so divorce can bring with it a broad mix of emotional responses, from anger, relief, confusion, grief, or a combination of these. Life after divorce is about navigating a new reality with its own complexities that others may struggle to relate to. How do you move into life after divorce in a way that allows you to flourish?
One aspect of life after divorce for some is that it is a time of grieving loss. Even in the most difficult marriages where their end comes as a relief, there is still a sense of loss. Sharing a life with someone isn’t an easy thing; you form emotional, physical, and other ties to one another, and that includes whatever hopes and dreams you shared with the person you married.
When you get divorced, all of what could have been, all that you’d hoped for and desired from a shared life must be laid to rest. The relationship changes in profound ways, and that’s something you must come to terms with, whether you’re happy, feeling regret, or lost because of what’s happened. Grieving is about giving yourself the room you need to feel your feelings, whatever they may be, and not gloss them over or pretend they aren’t there.
One avenue for this important work is through therapy. Group and individual therapy might be helpful as a part of your process of coming to terms with what’s happened and addressing issues in your soul.
The work of regaining your sense of self can happen in a therapy setting where you have the support and understanding of others. And if you need to heal, take time out for that to happen. The point behind grieving is not to wallow in self-pity but to acknowledge that in getting divorced, something profound has happened in your life, and you need to come to terms with the full scope of it.
Being able to take care of yourself is important no matter what stage of life or experiences you’ve gone through. Divorce is one of the most stressful things a person will ever experience. Stress has many negative impacts on one’s health, and that includes comprising the immune system, something that many studies have shown.
Going through a divorce and dealing with the aftermath of it can have a significant impact on your overall health, which heightens the need for practicing self-care. There are several ways to deal with stress and make sure that you’re staying healthy.
Get some sleep. Good sleep allows the body to recover from whatever wear and tear it has experienced during the day. Not only does it help with energy, creativity, and emotional intelligence, but sleeping well also helps with what you eat.
Poor sleep has been linked to the consumption of foods that aren’t good for you because they are too refined, are high in sugar and the fats your body could use less of. You make better eating choices when you sleep well, and when you eat well it also impacts your sleep positively.
Eat well. As pointed out above, eating well by eating foods that help with your digestion, boost your immunity, and improve brain health not only keeps you physically and mentally healthy, but it aids good sleep and the emotional benefits from that. So, eating good fiber, taking in nuts, citrus, fresh vegetables, oily fish, and other sources of omega-3 fatty acids all help to boost your health.
Move. Whether you’re a runner, swimmer, cyclist, dancer, or walker, do whatever you enjoy doing that gets you moving and that has your physician’s backing. Not only does exercise reduce stress, but it keeps your body healthy, and your mood elevated.
Deal with the negative self-talk. In some situations, there may be negative talk from the people around you about your divorce, but also from yourself. You may be blaming yourself, calling yourself names, or feeling unworthy of love. Practicing self-acceptance and speaking gently with yourself are effective ways to counter this negative self-talk that only serves to paralyze and disempower you.
Lean on your circle
At all times, community matters. Life after divorce is no different, even if your community might shift a little during and after the process. Divorce may cause your circles to change – people can take sides about your divorce, and friends can be lost in the process.
However, you need your people – whoever they may be – in your life after divorce. This may be to help with chores that your partner used to do or to take the kids when you can’t, or just to come alongside you in support.
As mentioned before, group therapy can function as a supportive community to help bear some of the load of a new situation. Your spiritual community, as a community of people also on the way, may also be a bastion of support. Instead of shying away from the community, drawing nearer towards others who are safe is vital for emotional and mental health.
Dealing with the new you
Life after divorce doesn’t stop, and neither does your growth as an individual. God has built us in such a way that even the devastating events in our lives aren’t the end of us, and the evil that comes upon us can be used for good by God (Genesis 50:20; Romans 8:28), though it’s hard to tell at the moment how pain can birth anything good.
Part of life after divorce is to deal with the new you and come to terms with the changes your new status brings. Being married shifts not only our self-understanding but how other people relate to us. Getting divorced can have the same impact, and that sense of who we are and how people treat us can shift because of the new status.
Where you may have gotten used to going certain places because of and/or with your spouse, including the people you mingled with, you now must figure out doing life without them. The things you liked, and indeed the entire trajectory of your life may have changed because of your contact with your ex, and rediscovering who you are again away from that relationship becomes a whole new adventure. Take your time in figuring out what comes next for you.
Continue living your life
Divorce is not the end of your life, but a new chapter in it. If you have children with your ex, continue being present for them. They need to be reassured and know that their parents love them and that though things have changed for the adults in the room, how they are loved hasn’t.
Whatever may have happened between you and your ex, being present for your kids is important, as is protecting them from whatever issues you may have with your ex. They don’t need to be read in on the messier points of the relationship, used as spies to find out what your ex is doing or as messengers to communicate with your ex.
Go to work, keep enjoying your relationship with God, your hobbies, your church community, your friends, and continue developing yourself as a person. Though you may not be ready for love again just yet, it’s a possibility that may lie ahead in your future, and something that you can remain open to.
“Broken Heart”, Courtesy of Kelly Sikkema, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Pensive”, Courtesy of [ik] @invadingkingdom, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Lego Lady”, Courtesy of Jackson Simmer, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Barrier”, Courtesy of Eric Ward, Unsplash.com, CC0 License