When a couple marries, they essentially form a supportive new community of two, and then add to that community as they build a family. When a marriage ends, regardless of the reason, each spouse agrees to leave behind the tight-knit community they’d formed and face a new reality. While some divorcing spouses might relish the idea of beginning anew, either with an intention to move into new relationships or to focus on their individuality, others may deeply grieve the love, security, and safety they felt as part of the marital community.
If you’re still reeling from the divorce process, it’s important to examine your feelings so you understand when you need help dealing with powerful emotions.
How do newly divorced couples begin the healing process so they can move forward after divorce?
Processing the End of the Marriage
The initial stage of healing from a divorce is getting through grief and anger. Whether you chose to end the marriage, your spouse made the decision, or it was a mutual “decoupling,” ending a marriage is painful. Your feelings could range from grief and loss to rage and bitterness depending on the circumstances that led to the divorce. Before you can begin the healing process, you have to allow time to feel these emotions. You can’t go around them but must work your way through them.
According to Psychology Today, you should expect to feel surges of emotions and should eat and sleep as well as you can so that you have the strength to process these surges.
While there may be many decisions to make during this time, and some of them may require the advice of your divorce lawyer, you should also discuss them with someone you trust to ensure that you aren’t making decisions based purely on raw emotions. Turn to a close friend, a family member, or a counselor for advice or support during this painful period.
Adjusting to Change
Once the dust settles from the contentious aspects of divorce, you might find yourself struggling to adjust to a new routine. If you have children, you’ll also have to help them through their own emotions and the change in their routines. You may have to deal with custody and visitation schedules for the first time, and you also have major changes in your home environment whether you’ve retained the family home and your spouse has moved out, or you’ve left the family home for a new residence. Your financial situation is likely to also have changed. Divorce brings many changes to your daily life all at once.
While everything may feel new and challenging, the key is to remind yourself that you’ll soon adjust to a “new normal” and won’t always feel like you are suddenly living someone else’s life. As the weeks pass, you’ll find new coping skills and can begin to look ahead to a more stable life beyond the whirlwind of changes.
Developing New Interests
One of the signs of healing after the ink dries on the divorce papers is developing new interests or rekindling old ones that you might have put aside while focusing on the marriage. Whether it’s new exercise routines, taking your artist’s brushes and canvases out of the closet, or spending your downtime working on the novel you’ve always had in the back of your mind, once you’ve adjusted to your new life, you may find you enjoy stretching your wings and rediscovering who you are apart from your ex-spouse. Always remember to prioritize your mental health.
While it’s important not to begin a new relationship before you’ve discovered more about who you are apart from a relationship, you may find that you can finally consider a future that could one day welcome the fun of dating and the promise of a new relationship ahead.
Acceptance, Family, and Friendship
Once you begin to feel relaxed and at home with your new life and you’ve developed new interests, you’ll find the acceptance and peace that only months ago felt impossible.
While some divorced spouses will never get over the hurt and anger enough to be friends—and in cases of leaving behind abusive relationships it’s best to NOT be friends with an ex—but if circumstances allow, being able to rekindle a friendship or at least civility with an ex-spouse is the best case scenario and the ultimate indication of completing the healing process after a divorce. Once the rancor is put aside, you may find that your shared history—and in some cases, shared children—means you’ll always have a special role in each other’s lives that may mellow into kindness toward each other.