Step One: Accept The Divorce
When you’re trying to figure out how to get over a divorce, you often obsess about these questions:
- Why did he stop loving me?
- Why didn’t I see that he wasn’t happy?
- How could I have done better?
- What are he and his girlfriend doing now?
- I wanted the divorce, why am I so sad?
- How can you deal with divorce when you’re still in love?
- How do I accept a divorce I don’t want and didn’t cause and never thought would happen to me?
We keep obsessing: “This isn’t fair! I hate being divorced! This is not how my life is supposed to turn out!” Those thoughts and emotions may be true, but the first step toward healing after divorce is fully accepting our divorce. We have to get clear mentally: “I am getting divorced,” or “I am divorced.” That is our new reality.
Most women try to desperately deny that truth as long as they can. We know in our heads that our divorce is really happening, but it takes our hearts longer to catch up. We sometimes try to deny the divorce by keeping ties to our ex in unhealthy ways.
When we are focused on how to get through a divorce emotionally, our ex-husband may try to keep his foot in the door of our life by wanting to be our friend, or offering to fix the sink, or as one RADiCAL woman revealed, by sending her flowers and candy saying that he still loved her.
Many men, out of guilt or wanting control, mess with our hearts like that. Another word for that is abuse! Being divorced means you both have to accept the natural consequences of divorce. Women say to me, “This divorce is killing me emotionally!” Getting your ex or soon-to-be ex out of your life as much as possible helps you heal after divorce. Don’t let him take up emotional space in your head and in your heart that should be focused on you, your children, and your future.
If you have children, managing relations with your ex is almost always a challenge. My advice is usually the less interaction the better. Communicating through text or email helps. Keeping the boundaries clear and following the court-ordered parenting plan helps, too. Of course, flexibility is always good when it comes to working out the minefield of kids’ stuff after divorce.
Acknowledge Feelings & Mourn
Part of accepting your divorce is being honest about painful feelings and how much this hurts and giving yourself permission to grieve. Our culture doesn’t have any rituals to grieve divorce. Hollywood and the media pretend it’s “no big deal” to divorce. Movie stars do “conscious uncoupling” and they are “better friends than ever!” Real-life divorce doesn’t usually work like that. In overcoming divorce there is usually psychological and emotional stages that include sobbing, screaming, fear, pain, and you do your best to end up in one piece!
Regardless of how long you were together or how the divorce happened, you still have to grieve you lost what you wanted your marriage to be, what you hoped your marriage would be, and how much time, energy, and love you committed to your marriage. Those are huge losses worth grieving!
Friends and family who encourage you to “Just forget about him!” Or say, “You’re better off without him” Or “Just get over it!” have most likely never been divorced and don’t know how complicated and devastating divorce can be.
Have Self Compassion & Remember You Are Valuable
Often during divorce, our ex-spouse is busy trying to make everything wrong in the marriage our fault. Even bad choices on his part are somehow our responsibility. “If you had been more of this or less of that, I wouldn’t have had to do what I did.”
Don’t buy into that! We each have to take responsibility for our own actions. Do not be bullied into taking responsibility for your ex’s destructive relationship decisions. Don’t let anyone destroy your confidence and self-esteem.
Also, give yourself some grace as you go through the healing process. Don’t expect yourself to be “on top of your game” during divorce. At times, most of us are a mess and full of self-doubt, so be kind to yourself, and be patient with the process of healing and moving on.
Recognize What’s Done Is Done
Everyone who is trying to answer the question, “How do I get through a divorce?” has to realize that the past is past. At some point, you have to say to yourself the same thing my older brother said to me: “I know this isn’t fair. You didn’t want this. You tried to prevent this. But this is where you are. Are you going to stay in this pit of despair or are you going to let God show you what he has planned for you moving forward? It’s your choice.”
Step Two: Ask For Help To Move Forward
Divorce is a very isolated, lonely journey. After the divorce and our last child left for college, it was the first time I had ever lived alone. I felt like I was all alone at home in my sweats while everyone else was at a party. Everywhere I looked, I saw families and couples together. During and after divorce those intimate connections were gone.
Especially during midlife and late-life divorce, so many other things are changing for us. Our bodies and mental health are changing; our careers may be slowing down; our kids are leaving home; our parents may need us more. All adding to the loneliness and isolation after divorce. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
Talk To Friends
During divorce, I’m sorry to say, we ourselves have to reach out to friends, family, church groups, neighbors, mutual friends, and anyone else…even old friends we haven’t talked to in a while. But remember this, too: If any person or group makes you feel worse after being around them, take a pause until you are ready for their company again.
Maybe you need someone to get your mind off of the divorce, and you don’t want to talk about the divorce at all. Tell your friends and relatives who are supportive exactly what you need when you’re going through a divorce. They want to help, but they usually don’t know how.
Talk To A Therapist
Divorce is a huge life disruption on so many levels. Divorce creates more change in our life than just about anything else that could happen to us. All of those major life changes coming at once are terrifying, exhausting, and difficult to process alone. Finding a helpful therapist or counselor can be a solid place to start figuring out how to get through a divorce emotionally.
Find A Divorce Support Group
Finding a support group is also often recommended by therapists. Find a group of people who actually know how your heart is hurting. Since my first RADiCAL group, I have realized how important it is to have soul sisters who understand. In our MDR community, you can say anything without fear of it getting back to friends or family. And it’s available 24/7 365 days a year! Read below what women had to say about being in our group of RADiCAL Women:
“Just having a safe place to vent is a Godsend. Little gems of truth from the MDR sisters have helped me with my healing – I don’t know where I’d be without them.”
“Having this forum has truly been a lifesaver for me. I’ve come here happy and sad when I’m the latter, my fellow sisters have picked me up and talked me back to reality. They are the backbone of my road to healthy.”
“Glad you are here, I specifically came here just now because I am having a sad day, crying my eyes out. No need to be sorry, so very glad we can come here and express our feelings. This too shall pass…”
Step Three: Take Action To Move On
I know getting through a divorce is a torturous, confusing road. Start with baby steps. Don’t look too far into the future. Ask yourself, “What can I do today to get closer to the life I deserve? In the beginning, take small concrete actions that will start you on the road to your best life after divorce.
When you first wake up every morning, be thankful. Say, “I’m thankful that I made it through the night.” Add five new things to your list every morning, “Thank you for my eyes. Thank you that I can walk into the kitchen and have something good to eat. Thank you for coffee.” This simple attitude of gratitude is profound in bringing about healing in your heart.
All through the day, focus on taking small (but really, really important) steps forward. Before you do something, ask yourself, “Will this move me forward or does this keep me stuck in the divorce pit of bitterness and pain?”
Invest in yourself. Get the resources you need…like coming to this site. That’s a positive step in the right direction. You’ll get help and encouragement and tools to keep getting RADiCAL (Rising Above Divorce In Confidence And Love!). Having a road map to guide you on the “next steps” takes the pressure off of you trying to figure it all out yourself.
Maintain A Routine
Your number one priority: Taking care of yourself. Divorce is mentally and physically exhausting and overwhelming. When divorce first happens, most of the time you are barely getting through the day, so making the commitment to take care of YOU during and after divorce is job #1!
Start with our Survival Six – the six things you need to be doing to get your feet on the floor every single day. Put that “Survival Six Morning Action Plan” on your bathroom mirror and do those six things every day! We’ve had people tell us that Survival Six literally saved their life!
Take Care Of Yourself Physically
Do the basic things you need to do to stay healthy physically. Simple things our mothers told us to do. Since most of us find ourselves on the ‘The Divorce Diet, we don’t eat like we should. We aren’t sleeping well. I ended up in the E.R. once because I was dehydrated. It helps to have healthy, easy-to-fix, simple-to-eat foods around that you can snack on all day.
Celebrate the small victories. Try to get out in the sun every day. Get your heart rate up every day for at least 20 minutes. Breathe deeply, Stay connected. Practice good sleep rituals. Smile. Stand up straight, put your shoulders back, and stride. Remember, you can do things that make you feel better. DO THEM!
While we’re in it, divorce dominates our thinking. It’s in our face all the time. All of the huge decisions, records to gather, figuring out the money, deciding where we’re going to live, staying focused at work, and being there for the children…can add up to getting physically sick or having a nervous breakdown.
Try the “Stop and Swap” model. I love the way it’s explained in the book, Enough Dammit! by Karen Salmansohn. When your divorce takes you to a place of misery, emotional pain, and fear, immediately send your negative feelings and thoughts elsewhere. Pray. Imagine your favorite fishing spot. Clean something. Get outside. Get totally in the present moment…the only moment you can do anything about.
During divorce, it is important to learn or re-learn about The Power of Positive Thinking, a concept made famous by Norman Vincent Peale in 1952. The book is one of the most widely read books of all time. As difficult as it is to be positive about anything when you’re going through a divorce, you can learn to do it. When we think positive thoughts rather than negative thoughts we attract more positive things in our lives. Negativity breeds more negativity.
Tread Cautiously With New Relationships
Often when we are struggling with low self-esteem and loneliness during and after divorce, some people might suggest that we start dating or trying to find someone new. Do not feel pressured to start any new romantic relationships until you have done the grieving and healing work you need to do after divorce! Period!
Rushing into new relationships when we are vulnerable and feeling unloved can lead to all kinds of problems. Women who are struggling to make themselves feel better after divorce often turn to food, shopping or sex. I would add another temptation to that. Alcohol. Trying to solve your problems with any of those four things often brings more pain than pleasure in the long run.
Get yourself strong in your new life before you start dating again!
How To Get Over A Divorce – How long does it take?
It takes different people different amounts of time to get over their divorce. You can’t get through your divorce issues today. In fact, one psychologist told me to count on one year of recovery after divorce for every five to seven years you were married! I said, “I don’t have that long! I might be dead by then!” Other professionals say that you need one month of recovery time for every year of marriage. That still seemed too long to me. (Read more about how long it should take to get over a divorce).
Will I Ever Get Over My Divorce?
Yes, you will get over your divorce, but my honest opinion is that divorce takes at least one year of serious work to get through successfully. I say a year because part of the grieving process includes mourning all of those occasions that happen over a year: Holidays, birthdays, seasonal changes, and other personal/ couple or family anniversaries.
Allowing yourself time to fully grieve is necessary to move forward. You simply cannot, and should not avoid mourning this loss. Only then can you really move forward. Grief has its own schedule. Be patient.
The most important step to divorce recovery is when you realize that YOU CAN get over your divorce. Your ex-husband doesn’t control you. He is not in charge of your happiness. You are. Whatever happens in the rest of your life is your choice. You decide whether to spend your days being bitter and angry or to find things to celebrate and be thankful for every day.
Surviving Divorce After 20 Or 30 Years Of Marriage
When we have been married 20 or 30 or more years, it usually takes us longer to accept the reality that our marriage is over. Most of us thought if we made it that long, we would be good to go for the rest of our lives. Or we expected a miracle of reconciliation that never happened.
Getting over a midlife or late-life divorce is not easy. In fact, it may be the most challenging and frustrating experience you ever face in life. But the truth is, learning the painful emotions and lessons involved in getting over divorce can also be the most powerful and positive life lessons you ever learn. (Read about the stages of divorce recovery).
You Can Do It!
If we don’t accept our divorce…and refuse to get help…and don’t take action to move on from an unhappy relationship, healing after divorce will never happen. The best way to get over a divorce is to embrace the life you have at this very moment and surround yourself with people and resources that will help you make the journey to your very best life.
We just have this one unpredictable, but very precious, life. After divorce, If you keep taking those steps forward, you can have a new life, beyond your wildest dreams, REALLY!
So when you ask yourself, “How do I get over divorce?” Remember that getting over divorce is completely up to you. Decide to shine your unique and beautiful light in every way you can after divorce. You can make your post-divorce life amazing and wonderful and every other glorious thing you can think of! We’re here to help.