A divorce is one of the most difficult and painful events that you will ever experience. You grieve the death of your marriage, feel as if you’ve failed in your role as husband or wife, and may even carry a great deal of anger and resentment toward your former spouse. The silver lining is that you have an opportunity to redesign your life, but unfortunately, you're going to have to work through the emotional aftermath before you can successfully move forward.
Grief, Guilt, Acceptance and Moving on
Acknowledge your feelings of grief and guilt. Relationship expert Dr. Tammy Nelson writes, “You may have had a fantasy that the marriage would work out better than it did. You now have to grieve that possibility.” You may also feel a significant amount of self-blame, and it’s natural to ask yourself where things went wrong. Divorce coach Dr. Karen Finn recommends examining the information you gain during this period of transition and using it as feedback to help you discover what works and doesn’t work for you in a relationship so that you'll be better prepared next time.
Talk to someone. Working through your feelings after a divorce can be raw and painful, and it’s best if you don’t try to tackle it alone. You’ll need a strong support system in place to get through this. It helps a lot if you can rely on friends or family, but you may encounter issues you aren’t comfortable discussing with people who are close to you. If so, you might want to consider seeing a therapist or psychologist who can help you work through this difficult period.
Forgiving your former spouse is an important step in the healing process, but it isn’t always easy. Author and forgiveness expert Janis Abrahms Spring, Ph.D. says that forgiveness is an interpersonal experience that involves an expression of repentance and a desire to make amends. Acceptance, on the other hand, is something you can do on your own to help yourself heal. She suggests giving up the desire for retaliation, letting go of your preoccupation with the pain you’ve experienced, and forgiving yourself for your part. Most importantly, she recommends “reengaging with life.”
Start reengaging with life by taking baby steps toward building the life you want to live. Get back in touch with the person you were before you were married, and become acquainted with the person you have become. Have fun with it. Explore your interests, take up a hobby, make new friends, or try a new look. This is your time to figure out who you are and what you want out of life.
- Don't beat yourself up for your mistakes, but acknowledge that a failed marriage isn't usually the fault of only one person. Learn from the mistakes you made and use that information to determine what will help you become a better partner in the future.
- Don't fall into the trap of self-pity. You are not a victim, and you have power over your own situation.
- Avoid the impulse to jump into another relationship or make any major life changes too quickly. When you're first divorced, your emotions are all over the place, and it's easy to mistake emotional need for love. Wait until you've worked through the grieving process before you start making major changes.