Feeling grief long after you’ve healed from your divorce is pretty common.
For the first couple of years of my marriage, my husband noticed that I would get grumpy around Thanksgiving – despite having wonderful plans for the holiday. He finally brought it to my attention. And after some careful thought, I realized I was grumpy because I had married my first husband around Thanksgiving. I had been having a divorce grief relapse each Thanksgiving!
Divorce grief relapses are fairly common. They don’t necessarily mean that you’re not over your divorce. They just signal there’s still a little more accepting you can do to fully heal.
Acceptance is the final stage of grief. The others include denial, pain and fear, bargaining, guilt, and depression. To reach acceptance you experience most if not all these stages – sometimes multiple times.
And the thing about divorce is there is a multitude of things to grieve. Some of these things are obvious and some are less so.
It’s when you get through the known, obvious bits of grief that you’ll typically feel you’re over your divorce. Which is why it can feel so disconcerting to have a divorce grief relapse.
Instead of immediately beginning to worry that maybe you’re not really over your divorce and that you’re headed back to the misery of healing again, here are 5 things you can do to help you deal with an episode of divorce grief relapse:
- Recognize it for what it is.
We all grow and change based on the experiences we have and our reactions to them. When you find yourself grieving again over your divorce after you thought you’d fully moved on, what you’re facing is an opportunity to grow and appreciate yourself more.
It’s because you’re in a different place now that you’re able to heal something new. This new thing went undetected when you did all that hard work to get over your divorce.
Now you can heal the nuances of grief that were originally pushed to the side.
Now you can deal with your divorce grief relapse and release baggage you didn’t realize you had.
And when you do, you’ll feel much lighter.
- Be patient with yourself.
Just like with the grief you experienced when your marriage ended, you can’t force yourself to get over the grief you’re feeling now. You must choose to go through the hurt and find acceptance again.
The good thing is that this time your entire life isn’t needing to be reorganized while you’re working to find acceptance. Now you can be patient with yourself and focus a bit better. Which will make learning the lesson waiting for you much easier.
- Take care of yourself.
Dealing with grief takes effort. Remember how exhausted you felt when you were dealing with your divorce?
Make sure you take care of the basics. Eat well. Drink enough water. Exercise. Get enough sleep. Doing so will help you to manage your life and give you the physical support you need to process your divorce grief relapse.
- Write about it.
Research has shown that journaling about your emotions and how you interpret them can help you process them more quickly and lower your distress about them. This can be a powerful tool for you to more quickly come to a new level of acceptance about your divorce.
- Get support.
But don’t think you have to do all this work on your own. There are plenty of other people who have been through divorce and a divorce grief relapse or more.
And that’s the key. You want to talk to a friend, family member, or divorce professional who has been through this themselves. They’ll know what it’s like and have practical suggestions for how you can find your way through this blip of grief you’re experiencing.
Having a relapse of divorce grief is a natural part of continued growth and healing after a divorce.
When I dealt with my Thanksgiving-triggered divorce grief relapse, I realized that I felt sorry for the 19-year-old woman/girl who made the decision to get married. She was doing the best she knew how, but she surely didn’t know enough.
Chances are, as you work through your divorce grief relapse, that you’ll discover another facet of yourself too. One that you can feel good about acknowledging and accepting so you can let the grief pass. And get back to living the new, wonderful life that you’ve created for yourself.
I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a divorce and life coach, who works with people just like you who are in search of support discovering things to do when dealing a divorce grief relapse. For free weekly advice, register for my newsletter. If you’d like to explore working with me, you can schedule a private 30-minute consultation with me.