Divorce. No one wants to go through it, but at times that seems to be the only option left to move ahead in life. The life after divorce is not easy especially if you are not financially independent or have kids or do not have a family to support.
The relationship you thought would last forever has ended. Suddenly, questions like “What next?” “Is there a life after divorce?” “How do I start a new life after divorce?” start creeping into your mind.
MomJunction brings you this post on the emotional stages after a divorce, how to rebuild your life, and the risk-taking behaviors and decisions to avoid after a divorce.
Is there a life after divorce?
Yes. There is definitely a life after divorce. It may not be the life you always pictured, but the power to change your life is in your hands. It is ok to feel directionless and to be immersed in grief right now, but eventually, you will get over this and learn to live a new life without your spouse. Now is the time for you to develop your own identity.
Emotional Stages After A Divorce
A person is likely to undergo the following emotional stages after being separated from their spouse:
- Denial: When your inner self is unable to accept the fact that this very large part of your life is ending, it is normal to resort to denial to escape from the painful reality that your marriage is over. You may not initially be able to accept the fact that you are divorced. You may keep on questioning yourself with, “Why has this happened to me?” or “What have I done to deserve this?” You may feel helpless that you cannot control your destiny.
- State of shock: When in denial, you continue living your life like nothing has changed. However, the periodic reminders that you are single may instead put you in a state of shock. The new information may cause you to freeze, chills running down your spine, numbness spilling through other parts of your body, and your mind left confused about what to do. If your spouse was the only person you have ever loved and you dreamed to live happily ever after with, then a divorce will be the biggest shock of your life.
- Conflicting heart and mind: Your mind says things like, “You are better off without them,” “You will definitely find a better life,” leaving you happy for a moment. Then the heart says, “You loved them,” or “You cannot love anyone else like you loved them”. Your mind and your heart may feel at war, breaking you down emotionally and physically.
- Desperation and anger: If you miss your partner, you become desperate to get back to them, feeling like you need them to be complete. You hope to see them next to you when you wake up one day. Out of desperation, you might be willing to change or do anything to make things right. But the wakeup call that your spouse will not come back to you may leaveyou angry afterwards. This anger may leave you thinking, “How could they have done this to me?”
- Letting go:After spending days in a dilemma, you will gradually accept that your marriage is over. Your thoughts become clear and you learn to live without your ex-spouse. You will do something other than constantly thinking about your marriage. Slowly, your career, friends, and hobbies start filling in the blanks of your life. Although the thoughts of your ex flash through your mind, you will be able to get past them. You finally let go and you may be fully present in your day-to-day life.
- Towards a better life: Once you let go of your ex, it is easier to become hopeful about the future. You will discover your inner strength and notice more about your surroundings. It becomes easier to open up to people and discuss both your pain and your happiness. Don’t be alarmed, it’s okay to both feel periodic sadness as you discuss your past and still look forward to life and plan things for the future. With the wisdom you acquired, you will look at life with a fresh perspective..
Even as you go through these multiple stages after divorce, you will have to collect yourself and be ready for otherchanges that come by in your life.
How Does Your Life Change After Divorce?
Getting divorced is a big change in life that brings about other changes as well. Here are some waysdivorce can change your life:
- You learn to be independent: You will not have your spouse’s support anymore, be it financial or emotional. If you were financially dependent on your spouse, then you need to find a job to take care of your expenses. You may have to do the budgeting and cut down on unnecessary expenditure. Maybe this is something you have never done before, but you are fully capable of taking ownership of your finaces.
- You will know who your real friends are: After a divorce, your friends’ circle might shrink because you may not want to socialize like before and some of them may be judgmental about your newly divorced status. Such tough times will show you the friends whom you can trust and depend on. Those who did not stay, they may not have been reliable anyway. However, people who stuck by you post-divorce will stay with you no matter what.
- You can focus more on your career: A failed marriage could lead to low self-esteem, and self-confidence. During such times, focusing on your work life can help counter those feelings and improve your self-esteem and confidence. Try to prioritize your work life. Work hard and excel in your career so that you may grow stronger than before.
- Your family will respect you more than before: It does not mean they did not take you seriously before, but post-divorce they will respect your ideas, support your decisions and try to be extra gentle with you because they know you are doing it all on your own. They might try to convince you to marry again but they will give you time to heal. You are strong, and they see that.
- Your views towards life change: You can divide your life into two parts — before divorce and after divorce. You will no longer be the naive person whose happiness depended on your partner. Instead, you will be practical in life; you will be more open, more patient, sometimes cynical and sometimes philosophical. But overall, you will gain the confidence that if you could go through a divorce and survive, you can face anything in life. You are now the agent in creating your own happiness.
- You will have to take care of your kids: Divorce involving children can be tougher as you have to explain to them the situation and soothe their pain when you yourself do not know how to go on. If the kids are staying with you, then you need to take up the dual role of becoming the mother and father, which can be quite challenging.
- Get used to being alone: When scared, in doubt, in pain and when you were happy, you had your partner to share. But now you will have to get used to being alone and introspect. In this process of newfound self-awareness, you will get to know your strengths and weaknesses, and find your interests and hobbies.
You will go through an emotional upheaval after divorce, and would not know if happiness will ever come back into your life.
[ Read: Signs That Your Marriage Is Over ]
Can You Be Happy After Divorce?
Whether you arehappy or not depends on you. To ponder in the past and feel sorry for yourself or to move on and be happy, the choice is in your hands. Sure, the journey after divorce will be difficult, but it is not the end.. You can let the sadness swallow you or rise from the ashes like a Phoenix.
Of course, you will be depressed and hopeless⏤but in times like these, you have to remind yourself that the relationship you once thought was your everything, is no longer a part of your life. Only then will you be able to move forward and find happiness.
To be happy, you have to start focusing on the good parts of your life, such as career, your kids, or a hobby.
Ways To Rebuild Your Life After Divorce
Here are a few ways to make your post-divorce life better.
- Take time to grieve: Court proceedings, shuffling kids, adjusting to a new lifestyle, taking care of finances… the life after divorce can be pretty busy. Amidst all this, you might be neglecting your feelings. Once in a while, pause and grieve the loss of the relationship.This natural process helps in releasing and relieving emotional tension.
- You cannot expect to be alright overnight:Healing post-divorce can take years, do not force yourself to be happy or assume that you should be happy all the time. It is ok if you feel like staying in bed all day or crying out loud. These feelings are normal and all part of the healing process.
- Maintain a journal: As a teenager, you might have had the habit of writing down your feelings. It is time to revive that habit. Journaling could help you gain control over your emotions and improve your mental health (1) Whenever you feel scared and doubtful of the future, write down your feelings. Whenever you feel joy, hopeful, and fierce in conquering your future, write that down too. This is also a way to keep track of your healing and stay motivated.
- Keep friends and family close: After a divorce, you might not be a happy person to be around, but this does not mean you lock yourself in a room. This is when you will need your friends and family the most. With their support, you can get your life back on track. They will also prevent you from doing crazy things like getting addicted, calling your ex, stalking your ex’s lover and lashing out online. Also, try to make new friends who will help you stay away from negativity.
- Take it slow: If you just got out of a long-term relationship, then being single will be new to you. You might make mistakes such as picking up a wrong job or messing up things at home. Do not get depressed with such happenings but take them as a learning experience. These minor setbacks teach you how to handle life.
- Focus on finances: You might have been dependent on your spouse for financial support. Now, it is time to work on your career and build a steady source of money. Take financial advice from friends and family and start earning and managing. If you have kids, plan for and secure their future.
- Happy to be single: The first rule of being happy after divorce is to accept and love being single. Your friends and family will be able to support you for some time but it is you who have to get going in life. After you are strong enough, move-out and get a place of your own, take charge of your life and learn to do things alone.
- Seek professional help: If you are unable to find the answers all by yourself, get some professional help. Go to therapy as they can guide you in restarting your life. Therapy is very normal and an important tool that can help you realize your self-worth and empower you in decision-making..
- Like yourself: Do not let one mishap define the rest of your life. You might be at the risk of self-rejection as you blame yourself for the unfortunate event. However, it takes two to build a relationship and two to break one. Take this time to work on your self- confidence by thinking about your life before you met your ex. This is the time to take care of yourself. Pamper yourself with new clothes, give yourself a new look, and try to make new friends.
- Design a whole new life:You will have the freedom to build your life on your terms. Chase your dreams that were otherwise compromised because of your relationship. Pick up a hobby which you could not pursue because your spouse was not into it. Get to know yourself better.
For example, if you suppressed your urge to travel because your spouse was a homebody, then now is the time to pack your bags and explore the world. But be careful not to use it as an excuse to run away from responsibilities.
[ Read: Signs Of An Emotional Affair ]
- Introspect and change:It is good to love yourself but you should also be aware of your shortcomings. Take time and think about what you can change in yourself or how different you want your life to be. Take steps towards it. When change is coming naturally, do not oppose it. Physical changes such as a makeover or a wardrobe change can help you. Instead of repenting over what is lost, look for what you can gain.
It is hard to be positive when all your dreams have shattered, but if you hope for something better, then your life will become easier. Above all, resist the temptation to engage inself-inflicted risky behaviors .
5 Risky Behaviors/ Decisions To Avoid After Divorce
People tend to engage in risk-taking behaviors out of grief or anger that are detrimental to your emotional and physical health. Here are five risk-taking behaviors/decisions to avoid making after getting divorced.
- Making permanent changes:While it is good to get a new haircut or hit the gym, do not make any eternal changes to your body such as piercing or tattooing. If you make such decisions out of anger and frustration, you might regret them later. Also, do not resort to mindless spending to fill the void in your life with worldly things. They will not take the pain away and ultimately you may not be able to change your body back or get a refund.
- Stalking your ex: Do not go snooping around your ex. This will only pull you into the past and make you feel more miserable. It is natural to be curious to know how their life is post-divorce, but resist that urge. Do not talk to common friends about them; instead, focus on yourself and try to be the best person you can be.
- Getting into another relationship too soon: Being divorced does not mean you have to remain single forever. But it also does not mean you start dating the next person you spot. You might crave for intimacy and attention, but without completely getting over your ex, it is not advisable to get into another relationship. Wait until you are ready for a new relationship, and are clear about what you want⏤or don’t want⏤from the next partner.
- Bad mouthing your ex: They might have cheated on you or abused you but that is a thing of the past now. Talking about it will only prevent you from moving forward. Make peace with all the negative feelings regarding your ex and try to forgive and move on. If someone brings your ex up as a topic, show maturity and politely change the subject. It is okay to create those boundaries.
- Searching for ways to take revenge:Suppressed anger can make you resentful and want to take revenge on your ex. It is ok to have negative feelings towards them, but seeking revenge will further damage both yours and your children’s lives.
[ Read: Negative Effects Of Divorce On Children ]
Life after divorce is not going to be easy, but you must not let the divorce it define the rest of your life. Try to look for positives and have faith in yourself. Eventually, wounds heal and this will only remain as a speck in your memory. Until then stay strong and fight against all the odds. Always remember, after a hurricane comes a rainbow.
What is your take on life after divorce? Let us know in the comments section below.
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1. Journaling for Mental Health ; University of Rochester Medical Center