Could you really have control over when your happy life will begin?
If you’re in the throes of a divorce or have recently divorced, your world is understandably topsy-turvy. Up is down, and down is what you are all the time. And you’re probably wondering when your happy life will begin (assuming it ever will).
Confusion and worry are your familiar (and constant) companions. What do I do? What do I not do? Should I…? What if I…? Am I going to make it financially? Will the kids be OK? Am I ever going to feel better? Will I ever have love in my life again?
Validating the normalcy of this emotional chaos is an important part of accepting your new reality. It’s not a license to stay in this state forever. But it is an essential step toward letting go and not clinging to a reality that simply no longer is.
Validating these uncomfortable, even unfamiliar feelings is also a way of standing in faith that your happy life will begin. Your life is in transition, so a lot of feelings are going to come up as you’re forced out of your comfort zone.
You can either fight the process or embrace it. In the end, your happiness will come down to this choice.
Your time of struggle and wondering when your happy life will begin is also a good time to reflect on what happiness means to you.
Whether or not you chose your divorce or even participated in the decision, “happiness” was obviously an issue.
When you walked down the aisle, you and your now-ex had a concept of what happiness looked like. But somehow, for whatever reason, that changed.
Perhaps you expected life to “go as planned,” and it didn’t. Perhaps you and your spouse expected the other to stay the same, and at least one of you didn’t.
So now, in the early post-divorce days, you’re craving happiness. You hunger for contentment — to simply smile and laugh again, to feel connected, to have a sense of normalcy.
The critical thing to remember about happiness, especially after a divorce, is that you are responsible for defining it…and creating it.
It’s not something that everyone else gets while it eludes you. Those periods of feeling out-of-touch with your happiness are really times of growth. Lonely, awkward, painful, out-of-your-comfort-zone times of growth. And growing pains come with the territory.
One of the light-bulb moments in healing from divorce comes when you assign meaning to your (chosen or unchosen) aloneness.
Marriage requires that you create a “third party” – the marriage itself. You have your individual thoughts, feelings, needs, yearnings, and dreams. But you contribute them to the definition of who you are as a couple.
The risk is that it becomes easy to lean into the marriage and one another so much that individuals forget how to stand alone. And if you recognize yourself in that scenario, you know how quietly and unknowingly you can lose your own sense of happiness.
And now, thanks to a divorce, you can’t remember if you left your happiness with your spouse or buried on page 20 of your divorce decree.
This is the danger of leaning so much into the union. You can forget to stand alone so that, when your world is pulled away from you by divorce, you are still standing.
It may sound too simple to say, but it’s true….
Your happy life will begin when you decide it will begin. How your life changes is entirely up to you.
There are ways to know if you are moving forward or staying stuck. You will feel the movement or the resistance. But having the awareness beforehand can ensure you are able to choose progress.
For example, if you are obsessed with your ex and his/her life, you are choosing to stay stuck. It’s natural to be curious — even angry and jealous. But it’s a sign of great self-discipline and self-love to shift your focus away from your ex and onto yourself.
Resist the urge to scour your ex’s Facebook page for signs of his/her happiness. Don’t stalk your ex’s home, work, and favorite places.
Intentionally resisting the urge and replacing it with something proactively self-fulfilling will propel you forward into your own happiness.
You’ll literally feel the “tugging of wills” as you choose the right thing. But you’ll also feel the growth, release, and personal satisfaction when you choose what can be over what was.
It’s very easy to get stuck in a pattern of waiting to feel better before taking action. You can conquer the world when you’re happy/healthy/rich/popular/loved, etc. Anyone can.
Unfortunately, that habit wouldn’t make the list of Steven Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.
The truth is that action precedes emotions – at least when it comes to the emotions you seek. So if you’re wondering when your happy life will begin, your answer lies in the actions you choose to take to be happy.
Two principles from Covey’s list that surely must have been written just for you are the following:
- Be proactive.
- Begin with the end in mind.
Perhaps you forgot your dreams in your marriage. Or perhaps you just cast them to the wind when life took its own course. But now it’s time to dream again – to have an end in mind, a vision to inspire your choices.
And being proactive can be as simple as starting. Simply start. Today. Now. This moment.
Today you forced yourself to try a new coffee shop so you wouldn’t risk running into your ex? Awesome! Stepping away from the past allowed you to step into new possibilities.
Tonight before bed you’re going to research local classes in a subject you have always loved? Now you’re on a roll!
Tomorrow you’re meeting with someone you met at your new coffee shop who said he has some connections for your business? Life is already looking up!
And next week you’re joining a Meetup group for a volunteer project in your community? Now you’re stepping outside yourself to help someone else have a happy life.
By taking action – moment by moment, one foot in front of the other – you tell your Higher Power that you are ready to receive. You’re done asking when your happy life will begin…because you’re in the process of living it.
I’m Dr. Karen Finn and I’m a divorce and life coach. Schedule a 30-minute private consultation for support in putting together the pieces so you can begin living your happy life.
Looking for more information about how you can have a happier life? You’ll find what you’re looking for in Building A Happy Life.
These 7 tips can help you find your new happy life.
When you’re the victim of an unexpected divorce, you feel lost at best and destroyed at worst. Just about everything you thought was true about your life is suddenly a lie. You weren’t happily (or happily enough) married. And now, as the dust on the bomb that wrecked your world is starting to settle, you wonder if you can live a happy life ever again – or if you are doomed to wandering around living the miserable shell of a life you’re started to accept as the new norm.
And the truth is that you can live a happy life after divorce – even an unexpected one.
However, to be happy again, you will have to do a few things to help happiness along.
You’ve lost a lot. Divorce is about losing your lifestyle, your security, your kids, your status as a spouse, your dreams for a shared future, and, of course, your spouse. But those are only the obvious losses. There is a myriad of losses that are less obvious, but no less painful.
Suggested Reading: The Secret Grief Of Divorce You Never Talk About
And each of these losses needs to be grieved. Some will require more grief work than others, but they will all require your attention.
The challenge is that grieving after divorce – especially an unexpected one – can become a habit. You can actually get stuck in the grief and/or get stuck feeling sorry for yourself – neither of which are conducive to knowing you can live a happy life again.
You also don’t want to attempt to numb the pain away. Some unhelpful coping strategies to be on the lookout for include: drinking too much, shopping too much, inappropriate sex, eating too much, eating too little (aka the divorce diet), and taking drugs inappropriately.
So how do you appropriately deal with grief after a divorce?
- Learn more about what to expect from grief. A good place to start is with Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’s seminal work on grief.
- Accept that your marriage is over. Much easier said than done when your divorce was unexpected, but it is possible.
- Consider professional, expert help.
- Create a support system of friends and family members who are supportive and have your best interest at heart.
- Avoid trying to think your way through the pain. You’ve got to feel it to release it even if it is incredibly uncomfortable.
- Look for the lessons in your pain. You can view emotions as guides. They guide us toward things we like and away from things that hurt if we pay attention to why we’re feeling what we feel. They can actually help us to become better versions of ourselves. (And isn’t that exactly what you need when you’re wondering if you can live a happy life again?)
The opposite of forgiving is blaming. And it’s oh so easy to blame your ex for the destruction s/he has perpetrated in your life. After all it is because of his/her decision that you’re divorced and that your life has been destroyed.
Yet, blaming, no matter how much you can justify it, keeps you stuck. It keeps you tethered to your ex and to the past. It prevents you from being happy now.
So, forgiveness is necessary – not because you agree with what your ex did, but because you want to be happy again.
Then there’s the little voice inside your head that blames you for the divorce. The one that says if you’d only said or done this or that, then you wouldn’t be in the situation you’re in now.
You need to forgive yourself too. By doing so you’ll free yourself from the past. You’ll give yourself the opportunity to discover the lessons in the past, so you can do differently going forward.
Allow yourself to start imagining what being happy again would be like. What would you do? What types of people would you spend time with? Where would you live? How would you spend your free time?
When you first start dreaming, you probably won’t know what being happy again would be like. And that’s completely OK.
Just begin by imagining what happy feels like. Then, as you take time again and again to dream about being happy, you’ll slowly start discovering your answers. With them, you’ll be able to begin building your plan for creating a happy life for yourself.
Right now is the best time and place to be living your life – even if it isn’t ideal.
You can’t change the past. The more you try to do that, the more at risk for depression you become.
You can’t fast-forward to the future. The more you try to do that, the more impatient and stressed you become.
Now, right now is all that any of us have. The more present you can become to what’s real for you in this moment, the more ability you’ll have to change your circumstances and to have a happier life.
Love isn’t necessarily about finding another partner. When it comes to creating and living a happy life after an unexpected divorce, love is first about appreciating and valuing yourself. It’s about self-care and being kind to yourself.
Love is also about enjoying what is. That doesn’t mean you have to pretend that everything is great. It just means you can cultivate the ability to find joy and/or beauty in what is.
The only way to grieve, forgive, dream, be present and love is by being courageous. Moving forward into the unknown is scary. Yet, divorce gives each of us who faces it the opportunity to be more than we were before and bravely create a new vision for our lives.
Choose to be happy
Implicit in each of these suggestions is the desire to be happy and at least a small belief or hope that you can live a happy life again. (You definitely have this desire, belief and/or hope or you wouldn’t have chosen to read this article.)
Choosing to be happy will make each step of your journey easier. It will help you to remember what’s truly important to you.
Within each of these suggestions for creating a happy life for yourself is effort. It won’t necessarily be easy to forgive or choose to be happy. But the effort and struggle are worth it.
By putting in the necessary work, you will stop being the victim of an unexpected divorce. Instead, your divorce can become something that happened. And, it can even become the event that gave you the opportunity to create a different vision for yourself and a new happier life.
I’m Dr. Karen Finn and I’m a life coach. Schedule a 30-minute private consultation for support in discovering how you can live a happy life.
Looking for more information about how you can have a happier life? You’ll find what you’re looking for in Building A Happy Life.
Simple and meaningful ideas to help you help them.
When you see someone you love struggling with the pain of divorce, it’s natural to want to help them get over their pain. Yet knowing how to help someone dealing with grief after divorce isn’t something that anyone naturally knows how to do. That’s because, unlike when someone is grieving the death of a loved one, we are without cultural norms for how we grieve the death of a marriage.
However, there are some clues to knowing how to help someone dealing with grief over divorce in our understanding of grieving a death.
You can expect anyone who is divorced or divorcing to be operating at less than their best – just as if they had suffered the loss of a loved one. Knowing that they may not have the energy or presence of mind to take care of some of the basic necessities, this is one area in which you can offer to help them.
They may need help with meals. They may need help with getting their children to and from school. They may need help doing yard work or housework. These are all little services we automatically think of doing or offering to help with when a friend loses a loved one to death. These are also the little services we can offer to help our friends and family who are grieving the death of their marriage.
Just as we can sit and listen to our friends and family talk about their sadness in losing a loved one as a way of showing we care. You can support your friend or family member dealing with grief after divorce by listening to them talk about their sadness and confusion about losing everything they thought their life was and all the dreams they had for the future with their ex.
Think about the rituals you and your family have for supporting someone who is grieving a death. How can you translate those rituals to support your friend or family member as they grieve the end of their marriage?
Another way to discover how to help someone dealing with grief after divorce is to think about what they will have to do to truly move on with their life.
Some of the strategies that people dealing with grief after a divorce are encouraged to employ include:
- Accept that your marriage is over.
- Consider professional, expert help.
- Create a support system.
- Don’t intellectualize your divorce.
- Let the grieving begin.
- Look for the lessons in your feelings.
- Let go of negative emotions.
- Rise above blame.
- Take great care of yourself.
- Don’t fill the void with another relationship.
- Envision a new future.
When you look at this list of strategies, what comes to mind? How might you support your friend or family member as they work through these strategies?
Perhaps you can let them know that you’re there for them. By doing so, you are helping them create a support system by volunteering to be part of it.
Perhaps you could let them know that you’re OK with them feeling however they feel. That they don’t need to pretend everything is OK when they’re around you.
Perhaps you could, when they are ready, encourage them to begin dreaming of how they would like their life to be in the future. And then that might allow you to encourage them as they begin reaching for their new dreams.
When you first think about how to help someone dealing with grief after divorce, it can be confusing because it’s natural to initially assume that grief after divorce is completely different from grief after a death. However, grief is grief.
And when you know that your friend or family member is hurting and needs your support to work through their pain and create a new version of their life, you can use the ideas above as a guide to offer your help and show your love.
I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a divorce and life coach, who works with people who are searching for support dealing with grief after divorce. You can register to download my free e-book “What You Need To Know To FINALLY Start Healing From Your Divorce” and free weekly newsletter. To explore working with me, schedule an introductory 30-minute consultation.