These practical tips will ease the struggle you face in coping with grief after divorce.
Coping with grief after divorce is not unlike coping with grief after death. Both death and divorce are “loss of life,” whether life in the physical realm or life as you know it.
In terms of coping with grief after divorce, it really matters very little who initiated the split. Even the reasons for the split have little bearing on the journey through grief.
Sure, there are situations and violations that will naturally cause greater pain and more intense feelings than others. But the stepping stones of grief will be the same, as will the recommendations for coping with grief after divorce.
First and foremost, acknowledge that there is going to be a grieving process. By giving yourself permission to experience grief — with all its ins and outs, ups and downs, messiness and unpredictability — you can come through with a new and hopeful lease on life.
So get ready to feel, and trust that the feelings themselves carry sage insight and benevolent gifts for your future. You are entitled to your feelings — all of them — just as you are entitled to the blessings stored in them.
Let’s review the stages of grief so you know what to look for and how to respond. Note that you may see lists of five to seven stages, depending on the source of your information. Here are the seven signs of grief I outlined in a previous article:
- Pain and fear
And here are 12 tips for coping with grief after divorce:
- Accept that your marriage and relationship is over.This level of acceptance is really just a starting point for all the work of grief en route to the final acceptance of a new reality and the ability to live into it.
- Expect the grief process.Allow it. There are a lot of individual losses contained in the one big loss of your marriage. There is the loss of physical companionship, the loss of emotional and financial support, and the loss of your hopes, dreams and plans for the future.If you have children, there will also be an enormous shift in your family paradigm. You and your ex will likely have to split the time with your children, creating a new sense of ‘home’ and ‘family.’ This, too, will carry its own grief.
The stages of grief are necessary and ultimately inevitable. Embrace them and trust that they are there to guide you through the darkness and into a bright future. The pain of grief will help you with the next tip.
- Let go.Even though you will experience a rollercoaster of emotions, make it your goal to release negative emotions like anger, resentment and vengefulness. When you experience the same feeling coming up again and again, make it your goal to shave off a little more of it each time and release it. The goal here is not to get stuck in the negative emotions.However, if you do find yourself getting stuck in the negative emotions, reach out for help in processing them so you can let them go.
- Skip the blame game.There is nothing to be gained from dwelling on blame, whether for your ex or for yourself. It is important to examine and acknowledge the role you played and the choices you made that contributed to the end of your marriage, but only for the purpose of learning and growing.Having a mindset of blame will find its way into your attitude and language. And it is especially damaging to children who are going through divorce with both parents.
- Forgive.Forgive yourself and — if only in your heart and for your own ability to go on — forgive your ex. Forgiving your ex doesn’t mean you condone anything that has happened. It’s just an acknowledgement of the fact that things happened and that you’re not going to let those things control you any longer.
- Create a support system.Surround yourself with people who value, support and energize you. You are already living a big downer — you need people who are going to lift you up. And if you have children and/or are having to re-enter the job market, you are going to need the proverbial village to help you.Family, friends, church, support groups, neighbors…. Yes, it is common for connections to fall away as a result of divorce, but you might be amazed by the new and lasting connections that show up.
- Take care of yourself.Be as kind to yourself as you would be to a dear friend coping with grief after divorce. Monitor the voice inside your head. Make sure it speaks gently and compassionately to and about you. Eat healthful foods, get plenty of rest, exercise, do things you enjoy, be creative, say “no” when you mean “no.” And look for reasons to smile and laugh every day.
- Establish a routine.Divorce turns your life upside down, inside out and all kaddywampus. At a time when you are likely to feel tossed around blindfolded, every bit of regularity can be a stronghold. And if you have children and/or pets, predictability and routine will provide an anchor for their adaptation and healing too.
- Get it out.Keep a journal…or two…or three. The practice of doing Morning Pages is a wonderful way to “dump” everything waiting for attention when you wake up. Write a minimum of three pages upon waking, without thinking or editing. The idea is to “get it out” — feelings, hopes for the day, dreams you had during the night, reminders. Just. Write.A gratitude journal is one of the loveliest ways to balance the negativity in your life with an awareness of all you have in your midst. It also provides an ongoing, subconscious current of trust in the Universe or God or your Higher Power or whatever supports your beliefs.
- Go pro.Having a therapist or divorce coach you trust can be one of the greatest gifts you give yourself while coping with grief after divorce. Knowing that you can safely talk through your conundrum of feelings can be both liberating and validating.Someone who specializes in divorce will know how to guide you through the emotional stages, while compassionately directing you back to self-love and self-confidence.
- Write good-bye and hello letters to yourself.This ritual will provide both catharsis and hope. Writing a parting letter to all the expectations, dreams and plans that will never manifest with the person you married will open space for all that now can be. Remember to say good-bye to what didn’t serve you, as well, and use that as inspiration for the qualities you will welcome into your new life.
- Don’t rush romance.Give yourself the powerful, healing gift of time spent regaining your sense of self. There is no rule that says an adult has to be attached to a romantic partner at all times (or ever, for that matter).Over 45% of adults are single, so not only is there no rush, there is no shortage. There has even been a shift toward elective singlehood. And the statistics boast a boost in happiness and health because of it. So allow this time to be about you — and if you are a parent, your children.
Coping with grief after divorce is a commitment to your faith in the promises imbued in loss. You may think for a long time that all grief promises is pain. But if you embrace it as necessary and temporary, you will one day look back at a person only a fraction as strong and wise as s/he is today.
I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a divorce and life coach. I help people make it through their divorce journey and create a happy post-divorce life. You can join my newsletter list for free weekly advice. And if you’re interested in taking the first step toward working with me, you can schedule an introductory private coaching session.
Looking for more about information about getting over your divorce? You’ll find what you’re looking for in Dealing With Grief.
Here are 12 of the most important characteristics of healthy co-parenting.
Parenting children is challenging. Co-parenting after divorce can be especially challenging…and anything but healthy.
So what is healthy co-parenting? And how can two people who couldn’t get along well enough to stay married be expected to co-parent like adults?
The norm for child custody used to be that one parent was the custodial guardian and the other parent had limited visitation. This might be every other weekend with extra time during vacations from school, or a similar but limited arrangement.
Today, however, it is common for parents to share custody of the children after divorce. The giant dry-erase board in the kitchen will be filled in according to “Mom’s week,” “Dad’s week” and a slew of co-mingling events defined by the kids’ active lives.
Co-parenting is greatly influenced by the reciprocal interactions of each parent. In other words, if you as the parents are inconsistent and ununified in your parenting, your children will be the ones to suffer.
When it comes to communication, if you don’t know or practice what is healthy, co-parenting will be unnecessarily difficult for everyone involved. It is a commitment that requires empathy, patience, honesty and open communication.
More than anything else, healthy co-parenting is focused on the kids. If you can keep that in mind as you read on — and as you consider your own circumstances — the prospects of continuing to have your ex in your life won’t seem so daunting.
What is healthy co-parenting? Let’s look at the prominent characteristics and practices of those doing it successfully:
- Clear boundaries.
You understand what you have control over and what you don’t. No matter how right you may think you are about something, the only person you can control is yourself, and the only thing you can control is the example you set.
- Co-parenting is an open-dialogue between both parents.
You may really hate the idea of having to talk to your ex. But remember, your involvement is now limited to the kids and their well-being.
If you aren’t ready to talk face-to-face or on the phone, utilize the countless other means of communication — email, text, voicemail, websites for sharing schedules. What is important is that you communicate openly and consistently…and with integrity.
- Consistency with rules in both households.
This can be a tough one when you are trying to create new rules for your life without the limitations of your spouse’s opinions. Children, however, need routine and structure in order to feel a sense of security and predictability. The unified front that is essential in an intact family is just as essential in a divided family — in some ways more so.
This means no effort to be the “fun” or “cool” parent at the other’s expense; no trying to be your child’s friend by allowing him or her to put fun before responsibility; no making up a separate set of rules for your time with your kids.
- A pre-determined, predictable schedule to reinforce for the children that they can depend on their parents and make plans in their lives.
- Willingness to be flexible.
This is only possible if respect for the agreed-to plan is the rule and requests for flexibility are openly communicated in a timely manner.
- No disrespectful talk about your ex in front of or from your children.Agree to positive talk in the household. You may still wonder how you ever married your ex, but you must remember that your precious children are 50% “each of you.” Talking badly about the other parent is damaging to your kids, and ultimately to your relationship with them.You can always find something positive about the other parent to vocalize with your children — something that reinforces for them that they have inherited wonderful qualities from both their parents.
- Amicable interactions at school and extra-curricular events.
Focusing on your kids is what is healthy. Co-parenting is about showing up for them, not for your own ego or needs. Children should never have to fear how their parents are going to behave if they are in the same room together.
- Talk about schedule/plan changes with ex before with kids.
This is about adults taking care of the adult stuff and sparing the kids chaos and worry. Again, unified front.
- Frequent updating.Communicate directly with your ex about changes in your life. Never communicate with your ex through your kids. Doing so creates feelings of helplessness and fear in them and can put you at risk of information being miscommunicated.If you are dating someone seriously or have a new job or medical condition, you need to communicate directly with your children’s other parent. Your kids are not messengers.
- Recognition of both parents as significant influences in their children’s lives.
You can’t possibly be all things to your children, and just because you are divorced doesn’t mean you should. Children need to experience both parents and to feel safe and supported as they process the influences from both relationships.
- Basic agreement on the most important things.
Whether or not you and your ex have a written parental plan, you should agree on fundamentals like healthcare, education, discipline and spiritual upbringing. Imagine the inherent confusion for a child who has to do homework in one home but not the other.
- Kids believe their parents get along pretty well.Think about how emotionally liberating it is for a child not to have to worry about his or her parents fighting! Even more liberating is knowing that he or she will never be used as a pawn or messenger between parents because they are acting like mature adults.Even if you and your ex have no intention of laughing over dinner and cocktails together, the consistency of respectful, cordial interaction will be grounding to your children’s security.
By now the question “What is healthy co-parenting?” should have a clear starting point for your own understanding and planning. Healthy co-parenting is about the kids. It’s not about the grievances and dissatisfactions that led to your divorce. It’s about the highest good of the greatest thing that came out of your marriage:
I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a divorce and life coach. I help people navigate co-parenting with their ex. You can join my newsletter list for free weekly advice. If you’re interested in taking the first step toward working with me, you can schedule an introductory private coaching session.
Looking for more information about dealing with parenting after divorce? You’ll find what you’re looking for in Coparenting.
Surviving infidelity requires that you make it though the emotional pain and rebuild trust.
The dagger of infidelity cuts deeply and scars in layers. It shreds your trust, hopes and dreams. It changes everything.
“Can I survive infidelity?” you may ask. If you are on the receiving end of your partner’s unfaithfulness, you probably feel as if you have been dealt a death blow. In one careless moment he or she has wiped out your marriage and ruined your life…forever.
If you are the unfaithful partner, you may be feeling an equal gravity, but for different reasons. “Can I survive infidelity?” may be a question more akin to “What have I done? And how do I get back what may be lost forever?”
Infidelity, without question, comes with heavy consequences. It can hit your life with the unexpected force of a tornado, and render equally disastrous effects.
A tornado doesn’t survey its target area before wiping it out. It doesn’t seek out victims based on income, home size or marital bliss. And, while infidelity certainly isn’t a random act of nature, it is equally non-partisan in its demographics.
Think infidelity is limited to unhappy marriages? Convinced you can see it coming for some and assume safety from it for others? You may be surprised to know that, while some marriages may be primed for cheating, infidelity happens even in the best of marriages. And it happens for many reasons, not the least of which are opportunity and context.
Feeling gut-punched by an unexpected devastation can literally take your breath away. And because breathing is essential to life, it is natural to wonder, “Can I survive infidelity?” as you struggle for every breath.
The question isn’t so much about physical survival as it is about emotional survival.
Cheating can ravage both partners with feelings for which they are unprepared. Anger, rage, hurt, disappointment, fear, guilt, shame, embarrassment, jealousy, mistrust, denial, blame — they can come in by the busload and set up camp in your life. And yes, as with any form of stress, they can lead to physical effects, as well.
While your first reaction may be “we’re over,” it is not a given that your relationship has to die. “Can I survive infidelity?” isn’t a solicitation for a prognosis, it’s a reflection that beckons a choice.
There are certainly relationships that need to end. Abusive environments and serial cheating are both examples of circumstances that are beyond the scope of this discussion.
First and foremost — impossible as it may seem in the early stages of learning about an infidelity — do not make any major decisions about the relationship while it is in crisis mode. Reason cannot function while stewing in a cauldron of rage and pain.
No matter what the final decision is going to be, you will need all your wits about you. And, in fairness to both of you and to any children you may have, you will need to reach a phase where you can communicate clearly.
It is natural to be obsessed with the details of the affair in the beginning. But if your marriage — and your emotional survival — stands a chance, you will both have to commit to an insightful exploration of your relationship.
People cheat for many reasons. Good people cheat on good marriages, and for reasons they may not even understand. Some have fallen out of love and have lost their sense of deep connection to their partners. Some may use cheating as a justification to end the relationship.
More often than not, cheating is a catalyst for conversation. A person who has been attempting to communicate something difficult and feels unheard or disregarded may turn elsewhere for validation. And the rest becomes a painful history.
The need to be heard and the ability to truly listen are so vital to intimacy and relational success that ignoring their importance can be the seed of a relationship’s downfall.
Repairing and healing your marriage after infidelity requires a full commitment from both partners. It starts with a choice to save, restore and revitalize what has been damaged, but which doesn’t have to be lost.
Just as with communities that rebuild from the rubble left after a natural disaster, saving a marriage damaged by infidelity is a choice to see what is both salvageable and worth saving.
Repairing your marriage requires tremendous patience, as well as ongoing discussions of ways to remedy the marriage. While you are both working on a common goal, your roles may seem to be polar opposites. The roles you will need to do away with, however, are those of victim and villain. The road will be bumpy, so expect the awkwardness and discomfort as you rebuild.
If you are the partner who strayed, you will have to be a safe place for your partner to voice her/his anger and hurt. It will not be enough to simply apologize for “all the hurt” and expect that to be enough.
You will need to apologize daily, then weekly, then monthly. You will need to listen with a courageous heart, knowing that you may rarely like what you hear. You will also have to be humble and transparent in an effort to regain trust by earning it.
It won’t be comfortable handing over your passwords and text messages to your offended spouse. You may feel punished and belittled for having to account for every little move. But hold onto the the idea that you are re-earning the trust of a beloved whose trust you have shattered. And keep in mind that your partner will be spending her/his days wondering, “Do I have reason not to trust my spouse today?”
“Can I survive infidelity?” The answer is an unequivocal, hard-earned “yes.” If you realize that you have something worth saving, and both of you are willing to do the work, you can get through this. You can even come through with a stronger marriage than you had before.
Three steps will be essential to the process:
- Rebuilding trust. This requires the expression of true remorse on one side and forgiveness on the other.
- Building honesty and transparency into the relationship and committing to talk about all the difficult stuff.
With the help of a professional who specializes in infidelity issues, you can get through this. One partner will have to provide a safe place for the broken-hearted spouse to land. And the other will have to give the unfaithful partner a chance.
I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a divorce and life coach. I help people make it through their divorce journey and create a happy post-divorce life. You can join my newsletter list for free weekly advice. If you’re interested in taking the first step toward working with me, you can schedule an introductory private coaching session.
Looking for more information about the repercussions of cheating? You’ll find what you’re looking for in Surviving Infidelity.
Nine realistic and practical tips to help you with your journey of healing from an unwanted divorce.
There is a saying in psychology that “All relationships end. Someone either leaves or dies.”
If you are wondering how to get over an unwanted divorce, this may be small, if any, consolation. Especially if you have been deeply invested in the relationship, it may actually sound dismissive.
In a general comparative sense, divorce is similar to death. Both are final losses, whether of people, dreams or both.
If you have been left holding the grenade of an unwanted divorce, you probably have some “yeah, but’s” to add to that argument.
“Yeah, but death doesn’t mean you still have to see the other person.”
“Yeah, but death isn’t done ‘to’ you.”
“Yeah, but death doesn’t leave you feeling unlovable.”
Being left to figure out how to get over an unwanted divorce can also leave you feeling shamed, isolated and rejected. Your emotions will run the gamut of anger, guilt and a willingness to do anything to save your marriage.
What you may not expect is the difference in the empathy and support received in the case of death versus an unwanted divorce.
While you feel the same degree of pain in both losses, your support system can be divided, even somewhat judgmental, when it comes to divorce.
Knowing how to get over an unwanted divorce starts with accepting that the marriage really is ending. Even though it is only natural to feel shell-shocked and to react out of anger or desperation when you learn your spouse wants a divorce.
Crazy as it sounds, you may want nothing to do with him/her again, while prostrating yourself before her/him in a plea to work things out. Heck, you may actually think that death would have been the better option.
The end of your marriage may not be your choice; but how you navigate out of it unequivocally is. So buckle up. Expect some turbulence…and set your sights on a new destination.
Tips on how to get over an unwanted divorce:
- Expect to grieve.The nature of the loss doesn’t matter. It’s a loss. Your dreams with this person have been yanked out of your heart forever, and the sting is real.Allow yourself to process through the five stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance), but give yourself a time limit. Pretending to be “over it” too soon will only suck you into stuffing your feelings and repeating old scripts. Putting no limits on your grief will keep you stuck in self-pity and isolation.
- Do not expect time to heal all wounds.
While it is imperative to embrace the grieving process, expecting to come out the other side with an “all’s forgotten” new take on life is unrealistic.
Yes, time does extend the grace of healing for many wounds. But some are always going to be there.
The gift of time is to diminish their sting so that you can shift your perspective on the pain. One day you will appreciate it as an opportunity to learn and grow.
- Love thyself.
Focus on self-love. Of all the expert advice you will receive, none will be as important as this.
So let me say it again: Love thyself. Remember that you are worthy of love.
Your self-esteem has taken a beating, and you may feel deeply scarred as unworthy and unlovable. But your life going forward has to reflect that you can find true happiness without relying on someone else. You do not need to be “completed” by another person.
- Remember who you were before your marriage.
It is easy and natural for spouses to surrender much of their individuality to the joint identity of the marriage. Go back and contemplate who you were before you did that.
What did you dream of doing for yourself? For the world? This is a ripe time to foster those interests in an assertive, enthusiastic way. Take classes. Travel. Redecorate. Make bold plans. Honor your individuality.
- Get reacquainted with yourself.
In addition to remembering who you were prior to your marriage, nurture your intimacy with who you are today. What makes you happy?
Perhaps your marriage helped you to discover new sources of joy. It is a wonderful element of healing to be able to identify those things and bless them as you bravely explore your new life.
Not everything has to be thrown out just because it grew out of a marriage that is now over. The important thing here is to respond affirmatively to the calling of your own spirit.
- Build a support system.
Surround yourself with dependable, compassionate, non-judgmental people to help you through this time. Turn to people (family, friends, a therapist, a divorce coach) who will motivate you to work on yourself, and stand by you as you do.
- Take care of yourself.
The magic of this otherwise painful journey is that you now have the fresh opportunity to become your best self. Experiment. Play. Pamper. Be kind to yourself. And remind yourself what it feels like to be loved and cared for…by the person who does that better than anyone…you.
- Focus on important life goals.
When you are navigating how to get over an unwanted divorce, it is natural to get stuck in the belief that there is no long-term future for you.
Instead, make the conscious commitment to goals that will benefit you in the long term and not simply provide temporary relief. Consider taking classes, working toward professional advancement, and/or taking up a new exercise program.
- Take your time with new relationships.The more you feel the craving to be connected again, the more you most likely need to focus on yourself. Rebound relationships serve no one, and can just confuse you and set you back. (Although transitional relationships where both parties know that’s what the relationship is can be extremely helpful.)Give yourself the time to “come into your own” again. Become your best self so that you have something to offer the next person and clarity when seeking someone new.
Divorce is a gut-wrenching time no matter what leads to it. But when your spouse initiates it, to your surprise and/or disappointment, it sweeps another set of painful emotions into the mix.
If you are experiencing this one-sided decision and don’t know how to get over an unwanted divorce, start with the tips above. You will notice that they all have a singular focus: you. And at a time when you can feel incredibly abandoned and rejected, you can experience the cumulative effect of love-in-action by being your own best companion.
I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a divorce and life coach. If you would like additional help in getting over an unwanted divorce, I can help. You can join my newsletter list for free weekly advice. And, if you’re ready, you can take the first step toward working with me as your personal coach by scheduling a private consultation.