I’ve worked with a few women recently who are either going through a divorce or wrestling with making the difficult decision. In all these cases, they are hurting badly. It’s almost like the prospect of divorce has opened the floodgates for many other previously suppressed emotions about other, completely unrelated, stuff to come flooding in as well. It is, therefore, no understatement that coping with divorce can be truly overwhelming and life draining. So, if you’re struggling to cope with divorce, I want to give you four steps to consider that can help.¹
Before we look at four steps that can help you cope with divorce, we need to realise that coping with divorce can be difficult because it typically comes with feelings of grief, despair, and fear about your future.
But feeling these different emotions is completely normal.
And even though it might be true that your marriage is over, a new life beyond your old relationship is possible.
Research has indicated time and time again that people are, as a rule, very bad at predicting how much something will influence their future.
And, specifically, in the context of relationship breakups, people tend to overestimate how bad the breakup or divorce will be.
But the truth is that it’s not the end of the world and you can pick up the pieces, recover, and emerge stronger than ever.
Like countless others before you.
Now, this is not to say that I endorse divorce or see it as a way out.
That’s not the point here.
No, I merely stating a proven reality that is very easily distorted because of the emotional impact that typically goes with divorce or breakup.
So even though it might feel like your world has come to an end as you’re going through a divorce, and for some time after, the truth is there are hope and a new life awaiting.
In fact, we know that in some cases some people even experience breakups as positive. But that would be contextual.
With all that being said, you will still need a helpful process to cope with divorce in order to get through it.
And looking at what many experts say, there seem to be four steps that can help you get through it well.
Now, depending on how you’re feeling, chances are that you won’t necessarily have the motivation or energy to do all of these at once, which is why I’ll encourage you to just start with one and see how you go.
Once you feel ready to add one more, you can do so.
They do have the potential to build on top of one another and strengthen you on various levels.
Let’s look at them one by one …
Nurture your mind and spirit.
There are many ways that you can nurture your mind and spirit as you’re going through the process of coping with divorce.
Depending on your spiritual beliefs, some people resort to prayer or meditation.
Others simply make some time to reflect.
Yet others find spending more time in nature feed their mind and spirit.
Personally, I support any of those, but also encourage two other specific strategies:
- writing about it
- spending time with like-minded people
There is a body of literature that shows writing about an emotional or upsetting experience can lead to improvements in mental and physical health.²
In other words, journalling.
Writing about our thoughts and feelings as we’re processing any emotional and upsetting experience has huge benefits for the overall recovery process.
There was also a study people who were single after experiencing a recent break-up, participants were randomly assigned to write either about the negative or positive aspects of their break-ups.³
Compared to a group that wrote about a neutral topic, both the positive and negative writing groups felt better about the break-up.
But perhaps most importantly, the group that focused on the positive aspects did the best and reported the fewest negative emotions and the greatest number of positive emotions.
Furthermore, seeking out like-minded people and spending more time with them, will further nurture your mind and spirit by lifting you up.
Some experts talk about the concept of “emotional contagion” which basically refers to the idea that we “catch” the emotions of the people we surround ourselves with – like a flu virus.
The more time we spend with uplifting like-minded people, the higher our chances of “catching” their positive vibes.
Sometimes, as we are processing a difficult experience or emotions, all we need is to get out of our own heads.
And spending time with people that feed our mind and spirit can do just that.
When faced with the heartbreak of divorce, you may be very tempted to stay under the covers or on the couch.
But you need to resist that temptation.
Instead, do exactly the opposite – get out and get moving!
Pick any physical activity you enjoy and commit to doing it regularly.
World-renowned life coach, Tony Robbins, teaches that “e-motion” is literally “energy in motion.”
The moment we shift our physiological state by, for example, movement, we start generating a different emotional state.
It is very difficult to feel disempowering emotions when you’re exerting your muscles or putting your body in a comfortable situation, like sprinting flat-out, or getting into a cold shower or ice bath.
By radically shifting your physiological state, you’re inducing a massive pattern interact which essentially short-circuits any disempowering emotions you might be feeling.
And when that happens, it gives you a window of opportunity to explore different options.
So, keeping it simple – start moving more as you’re coping with divorce, even when the temptation is to hide from the world under the covers.
In addition to that, force yourself to maintain a healthy diet as you will most likely also experience increased cravings for shitty foods, especially sugar.
When you do this, you’ll have more energy, self-confidence, and strength to overcome the challenging emotions you’re facing.
We also know that exercise releases endorphins (“feel-good” hormones).
So get moving.
Get some distance.
As you’re going through the process of coping with divorce, some of the feelings you might be craving for could include things like peace and a sense of balance.
It’s almost like you’re spinning out of control and you desperately need to regain some sense of peaceful balance.
Equilibrium if you would.
The only way you might be able to get that, however, would be to get some distance.
In other words, space.
Coping with divorce while staying in the same situation or environment, will only intensify the feelings of chaos you might be feeling.
So, perhaps it’s wise to consider how you can get away from all the places that remind you of the years you and your spouse spent together.
Now, depending on your situation, doing this might force you to become fairly creative.
Maybe your current financial situation doesn’t allow you to simply move out and rent another place.
Perhaps you don’t have any immediate family or friends who live close by that you can press on.
This will definitely complicate things.
But, regardless, you will have to find a way to create some space in order for you to take care of yourself and as you’re working through things.
Change your focus.
The last step we’re going to touch on if you want to learn how to cope with divorce better is to change your focus.
There is a saying that “we live where our attention is,” meaning we tend to experience more of what we choose to focus on.
I know that sounds overly simplistic, but the truth is that what you focus on becomes your reality.
You can instantly start changing your emotional state by shifting your focus – both ways.
When you shift from focusing on something negative to something positive, chances are you’ll experience more positive feelings.
Conversely, shifting from focusing on the positive to focusing on the negative will induce more feelings of negativity.
But, I truly believe that you (like most of us) deserve to be happy, and you, therefore, need to decide to settle for nothing less than your best experience of life.
It starts with what you choose to focus on.
I completely appreciate how difficult it is to shift your focus from something “bad” to something “better,” but it’s truly where it all starts.
It is very difficult for us to make good decisions when we are in a disempowered state fueled by a distorted or unhelpful focus.
Begin to take action today in the direction of your dreams by simply shifting your focus towards your dreams.
Avoid focusing on what you don’t want and start focusing on what you DO want.
That’s a great start.
And if you’re struggling to do this because of your self-confidence, then seek out positive friends who can help you see the forest for the trees.
Let them help you focus on your strengths and how you can use them to forge ahead in creating the life you want.
Coping with divorce doesn’t need to be a completely lonely journey.
There are ways to get through this and be stronger on the other side.
Lastly, also remember to …
Be Patient With Yourself.
Allow yourself some time to heal from the pain and grief of coping with divorce.
Chances are high that healing might take some time.
But it will come.
Just start to take positive steps in a new direction, and give yourself permission to feel the hurt from your divorce when you feel like it.
Over time, you’ll notice the hurt becoming less and less as you take action toward a new direction and a bright future.
¹ Full Disclaimer – I’m happily married to my first wife and have never been divorced. I’m, therefore, by no means in any shape or form implying that I fully understand what any divorcee is going through. I have, however, been through a dramatic breakup after a 5-year relationship, studied a fair amount of research on relationship breakups, and coached many divorced individuals, which all contributed to a fairly good perspective on the topic to be able to provide some helpful insights.
² Pennebaker, J.W. (1997). Writing about emotional experiences as a therapeutic process. Psychological Science, 8, 162–166.
³ Lewandowski, G. W., Jr. (2009). Promoting positive emotions following relationship dissolution through writing. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 4(1), 21-31.