by Emily Vener
No matter what circumstances brought you to divorce, whether initiated by you or by your spouse, the emotional pain you experience takes a toll on your life. It’s obviously painful for couples that are so hostile that they never speak to each other again. Even in cases where the couple remains friendly with each other and the new spouses, there is an emotional fallout. Recognizing and anticipating the emotional currents can help you navigate toward emotional rebalancing.
There are all sorts of timelines for estimating how long it will take to get over a divorce. For example: one year of recovery for every decade of marriage. Some people (granted, a minority), after an initial period of anger and hurt, remain close friends. Others may never get over it. For most, it just takes as long as it takes.
Remember that the method in which you divorce affects the time and quality of your recovery. Alternatives to litigation, such as divorce mediation—which significantly reduces the time spent in the divorce process, financial burden and stress on all family members—offers a healthier alternative and a faster healing process.
Even with excellent support from divorce mediation professionals, you can expect to feel overwhelmed, swamped by grief, fear, anger or guilt. You’re suddenly facing the future alone. You have to make decisions, but it’s equally important to give yourself the time and space to make the best choices. Try making a detailed list of areas of concern: physical and mental health, finances, housing, health insurance, childcare and employment. Figure out what’s most important and enlist professional help, if you need it.
Self-Care — Why It’s Vital
The Social Readjustment Rating Scale, sometimes known as the Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale, ranks divorce as the second highest life stressor, preceded only by the death of a spouse. When we factor in some additional events on this scale (changes in residence, financial state, social activities, living conditions, eating habits, sleep habits, children not living at home, etc.), the strain on the human body can be quite significant.
First, make sure you get adequate rest, eat healthy foods and exercise. Scheduling time for exercise is important, since we know that regular movement reduces the risk of health problems. Yoga, in particular, is wonderful for physical and emotional health. If you have difficulty sleeping, which is not uncommon during divorce, maintaining a nightly routine offers your best chance at relaxing. Baths, meditation and refraining from “blue light” use, including computers, can also help.
Moving on to mental and emotional self-care, start with positive thinking. You can redirect thinking from negative, self-defeating messages to hopeful thinking. When you feel defeated or hopeless, make a list of positive qualities, accomplishments and blessings. Giving yourself the compassion and love you deserve will move you to a happier life after divorce.
Feeling lonely, blue, anxious or angry? Don’t isolate. Even one person—a trusted friend, a nurturing sibling, a hilarious colleague—can be enough to bring a smile to your face, talk you down from the emotional ledge or give you a belly laugh. Seek out and use a support system, talk with others in similar situations and consider professional help if your emotions are getting in the way of your ability to function.
Set a goal. Having something to work toward and look forward to is a great benefit. By this time next year, plan to have finished that novel, learned how to tango, taken the children on a camping vacation or started a business. Making progress, even the tiniest steps, is proof positive that you are moving in the right direction.
Forgiveness — The Start of True Healing
When trust is betrayed, the pain can feel so deep that you may feel forgiveness can never happen. On the contrary, this may be the perfect time to think about forgiveness and how it could change your divorce experience. Research has shown that when you forgive, the positive emotions increase in strength, and the negative emotions such as anger, hatred, resentment, sadness and contempt begin to decrease.
Forgiveness involves an internal change of heart and occurs at different time frames for different people. Remember, forgiveness is for you and your recovery. Simply developing empathy for your ex-spouse can begin the process.
Put yourself on the forgiveness list. Research has shown that as you begin to regain self-respect, you abandon self-resentment, paving the way to healing.
Emily Vener, Esquire, is an attorney-mediator for the Alpha Center for Divorce Mediation, covering their Bala Cynwyd, Media, Plymouth Meeting and Radnor offices. Vener holds a law degree from Temple University’s Beasley School of Law and Master of Science in Counseling Psychology from the University of Oregon. Connect with Alpha Center for Divorce Mediation at 800-310-9085 or Alpha-Divorce.com. October 2015.