Divorce is painful. There’s no getting around it. Whether you were the one who initiated it or not, it is still likely be one of the most painful periods in your life. These tips are for getting through the first month or two after it’s decided that you’re getting divorced.
1. Be kind to yourself and don’t overdo
You’re getting divorced and it feels like a shock. It seems like life is moving on, carrying your body along with it, but your brain and heart are stuck in limbo. You’re still in shock over the realization that your marriage is over and the future you had imagined with your spouse will never happen. Don’t make yourself do too much, i.e. work or social activities. You may have to take some time off from work, ranging from days to weeks. Each day you’ve accomplished something if you can get one thing done, whether it’s the grocery shopping or getting to one appointment, and that’s great.
2. Lean on your support system
If they don’t already know, then tell your closest friends and relatives that you are getting a divorce and let them help you by taking care of some things that you can’t quite handle yet. Get a therapist, or contact one you saw in the past. Family can be wonderful, but the fact that they knew your soon-to-be ex can make them less than impartial and unfortunately some “helpful” remarks may even blame you. Get a therapist in place, who can help you get through this in a non-judgmental way at the pace that you need.
3. Stay in the present
It’s inevitable that you’ll be sad, after all you’re grieving over the end of your relationship. There’s no pretending that it isn’t over or that you’re not devastated. But try not to add anxiety to the mix. There is nothing that causes anxiety more than jumping into the far-off future with thoughts like, “Will anyone ever love me?”, “Will I ever get married again?”, or “What’s my life going to look like?” As soon as you start thinking like that you’re going to feel that tight vice-grip around your stomach and be overwhelmed by anxiety. Stay in the present. That means get yourself through the day. Take things a day at a time and at the most, a week at a time.
All of those questions will get answered in the future. There’s no use torturing yourself with them now when you can’t possibly answer them. Just stick to the present day with questions like, “What am I going to have for dinner?” (By the way, almost everyone I’ve worked with in this situation has lost their appetite and had a period of barely eating. This is completely normal as deep sadness tends to rob people of their appetites. But this will most likely pass within a month.)
4. Accept current reality but have goals
People often balk at the Buddhist tenet of practicing acceptance. They mistakenly think it means to not have goals or want to achieve anything. What it really means is that we have no choice but to accept what currently is, i.e. you are getting divorced. But you can accept the present while still having goals for the future. They are not incompatible.
Give some thought to what dreams you’ve had about your life and what you’ve wanted to achieve, even if they seem far-fetched. Now is the time to start thinking of them seriously. Your life is about to have a lot of space in it, which was once filled with a spouse, marital obligations, and possibly a home to maintain. What are you going to fill that space with? Don’t fill it with mediocrity or things that you are expected to do but feel uninspiring.
I’ve worked with people who have created entirely new and more fulfilling lives after divorce. It usually helps to fill the emptiness with something creative. Do you love to write, dance, or paint? What have you always wanted to be or do or learn? Perhaps you’ve wanted to learn to speak Italian or to cook French cuisine? It’s your choice. You’re at a point where life is giving you both the burden and the opportunity of recreating your life.
So these are a few points about how to survive divorce, which I hope will help you. There is a lot more that I could add, but these are some basics to get you through that initial, “Oh my God, I’m getting divorced,” period. You’re in a lot of pain and probably think it will never end. But you’ll notice after a few weeks that you’ll feel a little better, then in a few weeks you’ll feel a little better still. It happens little by little and it takes time. There are no shortcuts, but you’ll get through it. Then one day you’ll find that you’ve gotten through most of the day and you’ll realize, “Wow, I haven’t thought of him/her all day.” You may even feel a little sad at this realization that the person who was once so important in your life is no longer in your thoughts, but that’s what will happen. Life goes on and so will you.