According to the Holmes-Rahe Life Stress Scale, divorce is the second biggest stressor that people experience in their lives, following closely behind the death of a spouse.
Given that divorce is such a painful event, it is no surprise that people who are going through the process report feeling myriad negative emotions including anger, depression, anxiety, hopelessness and uncertainty.
I divorced my husband three years ago and while the divorce was necessary, losing my husband was the most painful loss of my life. That pain has slowly receded over the last three years and I experience more joy and peace all the time.
My experience through this painful loss mirrors the experiences of other people I’ve counseled post-divorce.
There is no magic pill you can take to make the pain of loss go away but there are things you can do to make things easier:
Maintain personal relationships to the extent this is possible. Continue to see friends and family. Surround yourself with positive people who love you.
Make a concerted effort to engage in activities that bring you joy. If you don’t have any hobbies, consider taking up a hobby that you may have had interest in, but never pursued.
Deal with stressful issues head-on. Worrying endlessly about things you can’t control will increase your anxiety and depression.
Do small things to reclaim your life, separate from your spouse. If you live in your previously shared home, move the furniture and invest in small decorative changes. Even on a tight budget, with access to sites like Craigslist, you can buy and sell furniture to make your space feel uniquely yours.
Pay attention to your inner dialogue. If you catch yourself saying things to yourself that you wouldn’t say to a dear friend, stop and consider the validity of your thinking.
Each day force yourself to do at least one loving thing for yourself or someone else.
Ask the people close to you for help. You might be surprised how many people will help you with errands, household chores or babysitting if you tell them you are overwhelmed and could use some help.
Allow yourself to grieve while challenging yourself to find moments of joy.
If you are anything like me, you are tired of the people in your life repeating platitudes that are meant to make you feel instantly better. People will tell you that time will heal your wounds, that you’ll meet someone new, and that your life is going to be better in the long-run.
While these things are difficult to hear when we are grieving, they are all true. If we take small steps each day to move in the direction of peace and joy, we find ourselves constantly healing.
Do not lose heart; life can and will feel good again.