When your marriage ends – no matter who asked for the divorce – you’re both going to hurt. Maybe not because you miss your ex per se (or maybe you do), but because your life is completely up in the air, nothing is “normal” anymore, nothing is familiar. Suddenly, (although it’s usually not-so-sudden) you’re single after years of being in a serious relationship, in a completely different living situation, making it work on half the income, with no life partner and unable to see your children every day of the year… You’re divorced, and will forever have that label as part of what defines you.
It’s a scary thought, not to mention a scary path to take. Experts have often equated divorce to the death of a loved one. And it is a “death” – of a lifestyle. A relationship. A team. And while everyone goes through their 6 stages of grief in different ways and to different extents (oh and in different orders), there are 4 major phases you’ll go through as you heal after your divorce.
While the length of time in each phase varies, most experts say 2 years is the golden number for when you’ll finally be “okay.”
4 Phases of Healing after Divorce
Phase 1: Working through the sadness.
Of course, you’re going to be sad. Maybe not the stereotypical “cry all the time rolled up in a ball” sad, but sadness will envelop you. Everyone deals with this phase differently. Some may be depressed, others immerse themselves in social life, and others work as much as possible… No matter who asked for the divorce, the fact that such an important relationship has ended is life-altering. Emotional. Shattering. Transformative.
For me, this phase was entirely about my bitterness surrounding the idea of marriage. I was convinced that if marriage was supposed to be the way my first marriage was, then it wasn’t for me. I vowed to myself (and to all my friends) that I would never get married again. (Whoops! I was wrong!)
Phase 2: Figuring out what you want.
The “what do you want” phase was rebound central for me. In diving into the wrong relationship, I learned what I really wanted the hard way. And I’d venture to say that if you’re jumping right into a relationship before you’ve fully processed your divorce – you’re rebounding too. There may be exceptions to the rule, but many times when you get out of a marriage, whatever relationship you jump right into before fully healing won’t be what you really want. It takes time to figure that out. If I had known then what I know now, I would have been much more cautious with relationships.
The truth is, I jumped into a serious relationship within the first year my ex-husband and I separated – and it was a mistake. I fell hard, but he wasn’t the right guy for me – or the right stepfather for my daughter. He was also a single parent but our parenting styles, goals in life, and standards were all so different it was never going to work. Yet I welcomed him into my home and my daughter’s life all too soon. If I could go back and at least take things slower, maybe K wouldn’t have been hurt when he and his son walked out of our lives.
Phase 3: Finding yourself.
This is one of the most important phases – where you find your true self and figure out what the hell it is you want. I found myself at the top of Pike’s Peak in Colorado. Alone, bundled up in the cold, a single woman listening to music on the way up. My divorce had been final for almost a year (separated for nearly 2) and I had ended another relationship a couple of months prior. The day before, I had hiked up the Manitou Incline – 2000 feet of elevation in less than a mile stretch. I was tired. Not just from the climb – but because of my life. That is, until I looked across the Crystal Creek Reservoir…
It was beautiful. And at that moment I knew I was going to be okay. I was single and happy – an independent woman. I truly believe that by implementing these 10 Ways to Rebuild Confidence After Divorce is what got me to that level of self-acceptance so quickly.
Phase 4: Time will heal.
The only true cure for grief is time. So take all of it you need! After you and your spouse call it quits, focus on your children and yourself. Work on rebuilding your confidence, finding your new “normal,” and balancing blended family life. Over time your hurt, your anger, depression – all of it – will pass. Just remember that life’s a journey and what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. 😉 (Cheesy to say, but still so true.)
Until next time,
PS: If you’re having a hard time after your divorce, have thoughts of suicide, or wishing you weren’t alive anymore – please seek help. There is nothing to be ashamed of when seeking counseling. Remember that your ex does not define you. Focus on being there for your children, and contact a health professional as soon as possible.