Divorce can be devastating, but it can also come as a relief. This is your chance to start over, and whether or not you would have chosen this time or this method of starting over, a new start can be a good thing if you approach it the right way. You have to remember that no matter how you feel in the immediate aftermath of your divorce, you won’t feel that way forever. It’s a cliché, but time really does heal all wounds – in time, the loneliness, hurt, or anger you feel now won’t feel so fresh, and you’ll be ready to move on. It’s worth thinking about how you’ll approach your new life as a single person with an eye toward creating a new and better future for yourself. Take a look at some tips that can help.
Consider Keeping A Journal
If you’ve never tried journaling before, you may want to consider giving it a try now. Writing out your feelings is a good way to process them, and journaling is also a good way to remind yourself of the things that are positive in your life as well. Even on your worst days, there’s usually something that you can appreciate, celebrate, or feel thankful for – a beautiful sunset, a kind note from a friend, an achievement at work – and writing down the notable things that happen during your day can help force you to spend some time focusing on the good, not just dwelling on the bad.
What’s more, journaling is a good way to track your healing. In a month or two, you may be surprised to look back and see how far you’ve come. You may still be experiencing negative feelings and having bad days, and during those times it may feel like that’s all you have, but when you look back, you might realize that the bad times have lessened considerably and that you’re having many more good days than you had before the divorce. (And if looking back at your journals suggests something else – that you’ve remained stagnant or become more depressed over time, that’s important information too. It may suggest that you need more help than you’re currently getting to work through your feelings.)
If writing really isn’t something you enjoy, you could also try keeping an audio or video diary – just record yourself talking about your day for a few minutes every day. You don’t have to share it with anyone, but it can help to express yourself verbally in some way.
Find a Support System and Use it
Just because you no longer have a partner shouldn’t mean that you have no emotional or physical support, especially in the weeks and months immediately following a divorce. You need supportive people around you, and you need to lean on them during this time. You shouldn’t expect to get through this alone.
You may need a shoulder to cry on or someone who will come over to eat ice cream and watch movies with you. You may need someone to stop you from drunk dialing your ex or sending their new partner nasty messages on Facebook. You may need someone to encourage you to get out of the house and do something, or someone to tell you that you’re becoming a workaholic and you need to slow down. It’s difficult to know in advance what you’ll need – when people experience the kind of hurt that they feel during a divorce, they sometimes react in ways that are unpredictable and not necessarily rational. You need people around you to help keep you from going off the edge. That could be family, friends, or a support group, but you need someone who can give you support while also putting you in check if you need that.
Find a New Way to See Yourself
We often define ourselves in terms of our relationships with other people. You’re someone’s child, perhaps you’re someone’s sibling, perhaps you’re someone’s parent. When you were married, you were someone’s partner. And while it’s natural to fall into these patterns, it’s not good to define yourself entirely in terms of your relationships. This kind of thinking is what can lead you to rush into a new relationship because you’ve forgotten how to see yourself as an individual person, not just someone’s partner.
Instead, find a new way to see yourself and define yourself to the world. Buy new clothes, get a haircut or a makeover, take up a new hobby. Who are you when you’re happiest? Who do you want to be? What makes you unique? What aspects of yourself do you value the most? Be sure to consider what you value – other people might think you’re a great cook, but if you despise cooking and love gardening, nurture the part of yourself that loves to grow things and order takeout instead of cooking if you feel like it. Get in touch with what makes you happy and what you like about yourself, and figure out ways to develop and explore those parts of yourself.
Don’t Rush It
Don’t feel like you have to do everything all at once. You don’t have to create a whole new life overnight. Your life has changed drastically, and it will take time to build a new life that feels whole and functional. Some days, you may not feel up to doing anything. You might just want to draw the curtains, stay in bed, and cry. That’s OK – a divorce is a loss, and it’s normal to need to take time to grieve. Some days will be harder than others, and you don’t have to force yourself to be happy or busy when you feel like you’d rather just sleep in that day.
Of course, if you can’t get out of bed or stop crying for days or weeks at a time, that might be excessive. You may need to consider professional help or counseling. That’s OK too – there’s no shame in asking for the help that you need when you need it. Give yourself the time and space you need, and give yourself a little grace too. Don’t expect more from yourself than you would expect from your best friend if they were in your position. You deserve the same empathy that you would give to someone you cared about who was dealing with your situation.