In short, no. Here’s why and what you can do about it.
Getting served with divorce papers out of the blue is without question a WTF moment.
Seriously, how could you ever be prepared for it? Sure your marriage wasn’t perfect, but whose is? And what gives the person who promised they’d love you forever the right to just quit? These and a million other questions are probably running through your mind right now.
Your thoughts are swirling with trying to make sense of the fact that your spouse or soon-to-be-ex wants a divorce and your emotions are just trying to catch up. One minute you’re in shock, the next you’re pissed and then you’re sad. All you’re left with is WTF.
The brutal truth is your spouse has betrayed you – well, at least they’ve betrayed your expectations. We all build our lives on expectations because it’s how we’ve learned to make sense of the world. The problem is we base our expectations on assumptions about other people. And, unfortunately, our assumptions aren’t always correct.
That’s why when an experience challenges or simply proves wrong one of your fundamental assumptions – that your marriage is going to last – your entire world perspective goes into WTF mode. You’re in shock because if this one assumption is wrong, that means others could be too.
It’s way too much to handle all at once. So your brain safeguards you by not letting all the information and pain in at once. And you’re left with your spinning thoughts, feeling overwhelmed, and not sure what to do about anything.
As horrible as it all feels, it’s also perfectly normal. But that doesn’t mean you’re stuck here.
So, WTF can you do about it when you’re feeling like all is lost?
The first thing is to find a way or two to comfort yourself so you can feel safer. (Yes, safer. Because getting served divorce papers has shaken if not entirely broken one of your basic assumptions about life, it’s very normal to experience fear and confusion.)
Some of the things you can try to immediately feel safer include:
- Confiding in supportive family and/or friends about what’s going on. If you don't have family or friends you want to confide in, the DivorceForce discussion forum is an amazing place to do this. It’s filled with people who really understand what you’re going through because they’ve either been there or they’re going through it themselves right now too.
- Giving yourself a hug. It might sound silly, but it really works. And seriously, what do you have to lose? Hugging increases your sense of security and positive feelings – even if you hug yourself or just imagine it.
- Taking deep calming breaths. Did you know that your breathing has a direct impact on how you’re feeling? When you’re feeling under stress you breathe more shallowly. And when you breathe more shallowly, you increase your anxiety. It’s a horrible cycle to be in, yet really easy to break. Just make an effort to breathe deeply whenever your distress kicks in and you’ll be surprised at how quickly you’ll start to feel more calm.
- Saying a prayer. Getting connected with your higher power can provide tremendous support and perspective. (When I got divorced and was going through my own WTF phase, my go-to prayer was the Serenity Prayer.)
- Meditating. If you’re already a believer in meditation, you know how powerful it is. Meditation allows you to draw your focus off all of the chaos you’re experiencing and purposely place it on something else – like your breath, or counting, or a mantra, or even a visualization.
- Talking with a helping professional. Sometimes the experience is too overwhelming to tackle on your own even with the help of family, friends and DivorceForce. It is for many (if not most) people. If you’d like more personalized guidance from someone who’s had more experience with divorce, then reach out to a helping professional like a religious leader, a therapist, your doctor, or even a divorce coach.
- Exercising. It’s amazing what getting your body in motion can do for your thoughts and emotions. In fact, the Mayo Clinic recommends exercise to help alleviate depression because it releases feel-good chemicals in your brain and reduces immune systems chemicals. And the thing is the exercise doesn’t have to be intense. Even taking a walk will help tremendously.
- Working. If your work is something you can lose yourself in, then it will be easy to “forget” about what you’re going through – at for least a little while.
- Cussing. Yup, sometimes a good old f-bomb or two can really help you express what you’re feeling. And it’s really important that you express what you’re feeling because it allows you to process it instead of just ruminating on it with no outlet. It’s when you hold on to things that they fester and you stay stuck. So if you feel the urge to express yourself with colorful language, go for it!
Even though it might not feel like it now, you WILL find your way through this haze of WTF and the tips on this list will help you do it. (All of us who have gone before have made it through our divorces by doing at least some of these 9 things.)
And as painful as it is to think about, the fact that your spouse has served you means your divorce journey is just beginning. So keep this list handy.
There will be other things that come up along your divorce journey that could through you back into feeling overwhelmed. Just put these tips back into practice and you’ll make it through.
I know things seem otherworldly and overwhelming right now and that you’re not sure you can make it through your divorce. But I want you to know that no matter how dark things seem right now, you can make it through your divorce.
I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a divorce coach and personal life coach helping people just like you who are struggling with divorce and don’t know how to move forward with their lives. You can join my anonymous 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.
Looking for more support and ideas for feeling better after your divorce? You’ll find what you’re looking for in Healing After Divorce.
This article originally appeared on DivorceForce.