How to Survive the Roller Coaster of Divorce
The process of divorce is like riding an insane roller coaster. Relationship issues build up until you are on top of an enormous mountain of stress and fearful for your life as you knew it. At the apex, you reach your breaking point and the relationship plummets with such terrifying speed that you feel like your life is going to become unhinged and run off the tracks. You hit rock-bottom, the divorce is initiated and then you are catapulted through various highs and lows, twists and turns. Then the crazy train stops and you have arrived at your destination—your “new normal” as a single person.
In my practice, clients process a variety of emotional issues that come with divorce:
- Depression (sadness, anger, apathy, difficulty sleeping or eating, hopelessness, even lack of the will to live.)
- Anxiety (worry, ruminating thoughts, second guessing, guilt, fear, panic, etc.)
- Stress (financial, legal, logistical, relational, familial, etc.)
- Identity Issues (shift from married to single person)
- Lifestyle Changes (in socioeconomic status, friendships, home, dating, schedule with kids, etc.)
Here are some tips for successfully coping during this extremely challenging time of life:
- Honor your feelings and understand they are normal responses to what you have been through in life. Feelings are waves of energy we experience in the body that ebb and flow. Understand you may have conflicting feelings and this is normal. If feelings become overwhelming, practice deep breathing, meditation, journaling, mindfulness techniques and/or talk with a trusted friend or therapist.
- Practice detachment. Detachment is the ability to zoom out and unplug from the emotional intensity of a situation and observe it from a neutral place of clarity.
- Let go of that which you can not control. Understand all things happen for a reason. Empower yourself to change what you can and let go of the rest. Don’t expend your energy trying to control others and focus on yourself.
- Bring your attention to the present. Honor the past, learn from it, accept it and let it go. Don’t obsess or worry about the future. The best decisions are made when grounded in the present.
- Discover the power of intention. As in sports psychology, positive visualization increases the likelihood of success. We largely create our own realities through our thoughts and intentions, so clarify them by writing out your vision for your new life post-divorce. We are both the protagonist and the author of our life stories. Empower yourself to create your new life vision.
- Develop your vision. Ask yourself, if you had a magic wand, what would you want? Aim high. As Dr. Phil said, “The most you get is what you ask for.” Use assertive communication to ask for what you deserve.
- Create work/life balance. For success and wellness, empower yourself to create a schedule that promotes balance and success personally and professionally.
- Practice self-care. Practice self-care, such as proper nutrition, rest, exercise, social support and leisure activity to reboot your mind and body. You must take good care of yourself first in order to effectively navigate this transition.
- Silence your inner critic. Pay attention to your self-talk and notice if you have negative thoughts that perhaps come from voices of the past (i.e. a critical parent, etc.). Rexamine negative beliefs about divorce and restructure those thoughts into positive affirmations.
- Practice positive thinking. Choose to be your best cheerleader rather than your worst critic. Cut yourself some slack and recognize we are all human and works in progress.
- Be resilient. Deflect or detach from negativity rather than absorbing it. Don’t let somebody tell you that you can’t do something as they are likely projecting their own fears and limitations.
- Appreciate that progress is not linear. We all go through setbacks. It’s how we respond to those setbacks that determines if we are going to grow and move forward or continue to cycle.
- Practice gratitude. If you focus on what you don’t have, you will be unhappy and attract negativity. Be grateful for what you have and you will be attract positivity, opportunity, wellness and success.
- Surround yourself with good people. Assess your support network. Let go of negative or toxic relationships. Establish and nurture positive ones–epsecially people who understand and support this transition.
If you would like support implementing these strategies, consider partnering with a friend, attending a support group, or seeking therapy. Seek immediate help if you are feeling so low you are suicidal.
Remember, all things happen for a reason. Change is a part of life. Relationships that end are not failures—people come into our lives for a reason and hardships are opportunities for growth. Although going through tremendous loss and change, you will grow and have the opportunity to create a new life for yourself. Make it good.
“It will be all right in the end, and if it’s not all right, it’s not the end.” ~Rumi
- The Good Divorce: Keeping Your Family Together When Your Marriage Comes Apart by Dr. Constance Ahrons
- Crazy Times: Surviving Divorce and Building a New Life by Abigail Traffort
- Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
- Bitter or Better by Dr. Deborah Kidd Leprowski
- Divorce Hangover: A Successful Strategy to End the Emotional Aftermath of Divorce by Anne Newton Walther
- He’s History, You’re Not: Surviving Divorce After 40 by Erica Manfred
- The Good Karma Divorce: Avoid Litigation, Turn Negative Emotions into Positive Actions, and Get On with the Rest of Your Life by Judge Michele Lowrance
The Psychology of Success, Free Webinar via PsychCentral
Marter, J. (2013). How to Survive the Roller Coaster of Divorce. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 1, 2015, from http://blogs.psychcentral.com/success/2013/09/how-to-survive-the-roller-coaster-of-divorce/