By Amy Barnes, MBA MA LMHC
Why is healing from a divorce necessary? Divorce can leave you feeling devastated in a way that many of your single and married friends do not understand no matter how hard they try. Being divorced is like a death. Like a death, a divorce needs time to be grieved. You need not only time but also must be willing to do the work of healing. Time alone does not heal. Until you have completed the healing process, you may be incredibly vulnerable and easily hurt again or you may have hardened your heart so much that you are unwilling to let anyone in.
Neither place is healthy emotionally. I am certain you have each met someone who is bitter over a divorce that happened many years ago. This does not have to be you. You can heal and life can be good!
The healing process is different for each person but generally includes the five steps listed below:
1. First is denial. This is really not happening to me. You may wish to think everything will be fine – nothing has changed. Accepting that the marriage is really over may feel devastating.
2. Dealing with the emotional pain. Not just denying it. You may feel like you are on an emotional roller coaster. Feelings may include sadness, anger, fear, loneliness plus dozens of other feelings. You may feel like your heart is breaking. It may even be hard to get to work or to take care of daily tasks. Unfortunately this is usually also the time that all the legal work and finances and child custody issues need to be taken care of.
3. Discovering who you are all over again. As a single person you are not the same person you were when you entered this relationship. What do you like to do now? What do you like about yourself? You may even need to rediscover simple things like what type of food you really like to eat or rediscovering hobbies or trying new activities. What do you like to do now?
4. Understanding your part in why the marriage did not work. At this time, this may not seem necessary or possible to you. This is not about blaming yourself or your spouse but about learning and growing as a person and improving your chances for a better relationship. You may wish to restore relationships with your family and children if necessary. To make peace with the past and forgive yourself and others. Forgiving does not mean forgetting or allowing yourself to get hurt all over again. Forgiving is for YOUR benefit.
5. Moving on!!! Finally after you have dealt with the past and the pain and understood your part in what happened and know who you are and what you want to do in life and you’ve actually started to feel good about yourself (Yes, this can actually happen!) It’s time to move on. It’s time to put the past behind you and move forward to look ahead to the life that awaits you.
Many people would like to move straight from step 1 denial to step 5 putting the past behind. Failure to complete the healing process could be why the divorce rate for second marriages is estimated at 60% or higher than the divorce rate for first marriages.
As a divorce counselor and coach, I have led many divorce recovery programs. I also work with many individuals who are in the process of healing from a divorce. We heal best with the support of others. The healthier you are and the more you know about yourself the more likely your next relationship is to succeed or you may find that do not wish to be in a relationship and that is ok also! Being divorced does not have to ruin the rest of your life. If necessary seek help and be willing to do the work of healing. What you do with the rest of your life is up to you.
Until Next Time,
Amy Barnes, MBA MA LMHC
Amy is a relationship counselor and coach with over 15 years experience, specializing in supporting individuals and couples in transforming pain into joy.