5 Things To Do When Your Divorce Grief Attacks You

Divorce grief can strike anywhere.

You can’t predict when your grief will hit and that’s scary. Use this plan and stop feeling scared.

It’s not surprising that divorce hurts or that part of the healing involves grieving. But knowing this intellectually does nothing to prepare you for the reality of the pain or the way your grief attacks you out of the blue.

Grief is merciless. It can hit you full force anywhere and at any time. It demands to be felt or at least acknowledged until you’ve worked through the pain of all you’ve lost.

Your grief will change you. If you allow yourself to feel and work through it, your anguish will change you for the better. However, if you ignore or stuff your sorrow, it will fester and change you for the worse.

When your losses are recent and raw, you’re more susceptible to being unexpectedly overcome by tidal waves of hurt regardless of whether or not you’ve been working through your pain. But the waves of anguish aren’t confined to when your divorce wound is new. They can hit any time and you don’t have a choice about when or where these grief attacks happen.

So what do you do when your grief ambushes you at an inopportune moment or place?

    1. Accept what’s happening and be kind to yourself. There’s no rule book or time frame for grief, so you certainly don’t need to judge yourself for what your soul needs to express. You’ve probably already sobbed so much that you can’t believe you have any more tears to shed, but when your heart aches so much you can feel it in your bones the tears will continue to come. Your tears are cleansing and by expressing your sorrow you lessen it. The more you allow the grief to flow through you, the less of a hold has on you.
    2. If at all possible, excuse yourself and find some privacy. But don’t apologize. It’s OK to admit you’re not OK, but there’s no reason to feel even worse than you do by believing you need to apologize because you’re upsetting others.
    3. Take all the time you need to compose yourself. The truth is you can’t be strong all of the time when you’re dealing with loss on the scale that you are. Sometimes you just need to be alone and let your tears out even if the sometime is in the middle of a meeting with your boss or in the middle of the cereal aisle at the grocery store.
    4. Understand that there will be those who don’t understand. People who’ve never experienced the grief of divorce will never get that you lost not just your spouse or your marriage. You’ve lost your life – the way it was. Your life will never, ever be the same and that’s absolutely heartbreaking. You’ve lost not only the now, but the future you thought you’d have together. It’s a lot to say goodbye to. Unless someone has had a similar loss they’ll never really understand so it’s up to you to ignore their personal judgments and ignorance instead of using it to further torture yourself.

Sometimes, carrying on, just carrying on, is the super human achievement. ~Albert Camus

  1. Carry on as best you can once the storm has subsided. Of course people will ask how you’re doing once you return. One of the kindest (to you and to them) ways you can respond is to thank them for their concern and let them know that your bad days aren’t a sign of weakness. They’re actually the days you’re fighting your hardest to work through your grief.

Having a game plan for what to do when your divorce grief attacks will help you to weather the onslaught a bit easier, but it won’t prevent the attacks.

The only way to prevent them is to experience your emotions. You can’t ignore the pain and heartache away. You need to feel it and then get into action to make your new now and future better than they seem right now.

I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a divorce coach and advisor helping people just like you who are dealing with the stress and pain of divorce. You can join my newsletter list for free weekly adviceAnd if you’re interested in taking the first step toward working with me, you can schedule an introductory private coaching session.

What Makes Grief After Divorce So Hard?

Woman hanging her head with her grief after divorce.

The surprising reason is happiness.

A divorce can feel like a tornado has come through and wiped from the face of the earth everything you thought your life was. You’re walking around in a state of shock trying to make sense of what has happened. And you’re just not finding much of anything to rebuild your life upon. The grief can simply be overwhelming.

Why is it like this? Why do divorces hurt so much?

As odd as it may sound, we experience such profound grief after divorce because of our search for happiness. The search for happiness is in our DNA. It’s one of our primal drives. We’ll find temporary highs of happiness through movies, TV shows, thrills, adventure vacations, and even songs. But none of these totally satisfy our drive. The real path to happiness is both much simpler and more complex than that.

Relationships — profoundly meaningful relationships — according to a 2012 AARP Survey, are a key enabler for happiness. Seligman, the author of Flourish, further states that positive relationships are not only key to happiness, but well-being in general. And yet different types of relationships provide us with different types of happiness. Obviously, this begs the questions: What are the most meaningful and powerful relationships of all? Which ones have the potential for providing us the greatest happiness?

Although our family and friends can provide us with a sense of belonging and happiness, they do not provide us with our greatest happiness. There is a more meaningful and profound relationship. The holy grail of happiness is our intimate relationship — our relationship with our significant other. At a gut level, we all know this is true. This innate knowledge leads us to hope that once we’ve found “the one,” we’re set. We’ve got exactly the relationship we need for happiness to flourish for the rest of our lives. We believe that somehow now all of our troubles are over too.

Unfortunately, not all intimate relationships last a lifetime. And when they end, we’re grief-stricken and often inconsolable. We find ourselves falling from bliss into hell on Earth. We feel lost, alone, and unlovable. We can also feel angry, betrayed and a myriad of other emotions as we deal with the grief and stress of losing what we thought was our key to sustained happiness and well-being.

We’re struggling not only with the loss of our partner, but our grief causes us to ask deeper questions: Who am I — really? Can I ever be happy again? Could anyone truly love me in a deeply meaningful and profound way? This is why the grief of a breakup is so difficult. It’s not just the loss of love and the other, but the loss of who we thought we were and our dream of ultimate happiness.

I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a divorce coach and advisor helping people just like you who are dealing with the stress and pain of divorce. 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.

This article was originally published on YourTango.

5 Steps To Get Over Your Divorce

Get over divorce by taking these 5 steps.

Getting over your divorce can be much simpler than you’ve heard.

Divorce is a life-changing event, but it doesn’t have to stop you from living. Here are 5 straight-forward steps to help you quickly heal from your divorce.

1. Don’t let your divorce disable you.

Healing from divorce is a grieving process. Everyone’s grieving process is unique. Because of this uniqueness, people sometimes think that they are grieving when they are actually wallowing.

There’s a big difference between grieving and wallowing. The difference mostly has to do with what’s going on in your head.

If you want to get through your grief with minimal wallowing, you’ll want to think of your divorce as either a message to redirect your life or a growth challenge. Both of these ideas have the potential to give you hope and to keep you engaged in the future. That’s the key to prevent yourself from getting stuck; focus on the future and making your future better even if you don’t know exactly how to do that right now.

2. You are not a failure.

It’s so easy to fall into the trap of believing that because your marriage ended in divorce that you’re a failure. (I fell deeply into this trap when I got divorced.)

But the truth is that your marriage was a failure – not you. Sure you played a part in your divorce, but your divorce doesn’t define you. You are still you regardless of your marital status. (And I’m betting that you’re a pretty wonderful person.)

3. Remember others have been through divorce too.

You need to remember that you’re not the only one to ever be divorced and your circumstances probably aren’t all that unique. It’s important you remember this because you can ask for help if you know someone else has been through what you’re going through.

So, get curious. Who do you know that’s successfully made it through their divorce? (No, it’s not that bitter friend who has sworn off men and has adopted her 10th cat.)

If you don’t know anyone personally who’s successfully healed from their divorce, search the web. There are lots of groups and individuals who provide specialized support for people going through divorce.

Once you find someone or some group, ask them for help. That way you don’t have to do it all on your own. You can use the wisdom of others to make your way through your divorce easier and faster.

4. Take the high road.

Taking the high road has to do not only with how you treat your ex, but also how you treat yourself and interact with the rest of the world.

Yes, it is incredibly easy to want to pay your ex back for all the pain as you go through the divorce process, but don’t. You’ll only regret your behavior over the long term. So, act from the strength of your highest self.

Taking the high road also means being good to yourself. Accept that getting through the grief of the end of your marriage may not happen overnight. Be patient with yourself.

Find joy (yes, it still exists) in the simple things that you still have. Maybe you can find joy in your kids or your pets or even in the beauty of the clouds. But find some joy every day. When you act from a more joyful place, the rest of the world will suddenly seem more joyful and it will be easier to interact with everyone else.

5. Get moving.

To get through your grief you need to take action. The actions don’t need to be big, grand, or immediately life changing. They can be simple things.

Here are some ideas of things you can do to get through your grief:

  • Schedule some time when you won’t be interrupted to just cry.
  • Spend 5 minutes being grateful for what you do have because it could always be worse.
  • Taking a walk to get a change of scenery.
  • Beat up a pillow to release some anger.

Do something every day to help you gently move through the grief of your divorce.

By following these 5 steps, you’ll be able to focus on healing from your divorce, prevent yourself from getting stuck in the pain, and get back to living a joy-filled life.

I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a divorce coach and advisor helping people just like you who are dealing with the stress and pain of divorce. You can join my newsletter list for free weekly adviceAnd, if you’re ready, you can take the first step toward working with me as your personal coach by scheduling a private consultation. 

You might also enjoy reading…

The 8 Keys To Trust In A Post-Divorce Relationship


If you’re looking for more help recovering from your divorce, read more articles about Healing After Divorce

Facts And Myths About Anger

Have you ever noticed that there’s all kinds of conflicting information “out there” about anger? You’ve probably heard that frequent anger is deadly. Maybe you’ve heard that anger is an important part of getting through your divorce. You might think that anger is bad and you shouldn’t express it. You’ve probably heard that anger needs to be expressed or else it eats away at you. You might have learned that girls and women aren’t supposed to be angry. Maybe you believe that only adults are supposed to be angry. You might have learned that boys and men are allowed to be angry. You might have learned that anger only leads to violence. There are just all kinds of confusing ideas we’re all taught about anger.

There are messages about anger being both good and bad. Then there are messages about anger being OK for only some people to express and not others. It’s just plain confusing!

Let’s clear up some of the confusion about anger and come to a healthy understanding about it – especially as it applies to divorce.

Frequent anger is deadly. FACT.

For people who experience frequent HIGH levels of anger, their anger can be deadly. Those of us who are “chronically angry or hostile adults with no history of heart trouble might be 19% more likely than their more placid peer to develop heart disease” according to WebMD.com (http://www.webmd.com/balance/stress-management/features/how-anger-hurts-your-heart). If you’ve already got heart disease and have an especially angry temperament WebMD.com states that you’re “24% more likely than other heart patients to have a poor prognosis.”

Anger is an important part of getting through your divorce. FACT.

There are two reasons anger is an important part of getting through divorce. First, part of healing from divorce is going through a grieving process and anger is a natural part of the grieving process. Second, anger in divorce is one way you learn to distance yourself emotionally from your former spouse. It helps to break that marriage bond or habit.

Anger is bad and shouldn’t be expressed. MYTH.

Anger is a normal, natural emotion that pops up when you need to know that something needs attention and that action needs to be taken. Last week’s newsletter shared 3 reasons why anger is good.

Anger needs to be expressed or it eats away at you. FACT and MYTH.

Not expressing anger can cause you to feel misunderstood, resentful, and angry! And having these emotions unexpressed for the long term can cause serious health issues. However, just expressing anger by exploding in a rage, screaming, throwing a temper tantrum and the like aren’t helpful for dissipating the emotion. Anger needs to be expressed in constructive ways in order to have it dissipate.

Girls and women aren’t supposed to be angry. MYTH.

Anger is a natural human emotion. All humans can experience anger. We all need to know how to recognize it and express it in constructive ways.

Only adults are supposed to be angry. MYTH.

Children are human too! Since anger is a natural human emotion, kids will experience it. It’s the role of the adults in their lives to help them recognize what anger is and to be able to express it in constructive ways.

Only boys and men are allowed to be angry. MYTH.

Again, anger is a natural human emotion. All of us need to be able to express it appropriately.

Anger only leads to violence. MYTH.

Goodness knows there are plenty of movies out there depicting how anger always leads to violence, but it’s not true that all anger leads to violence. Anger appropriately expressed is rarely violent.

Hopefully, this list of myths and facts about violence has cleared up some of the confusion about the conflicting messages we all get about anger. Perhaps it’s also caused you to think about some of the other things you think about anger.

Your Functional Divorce Assignment:

What do you believe about anger? List everything you think about anger. Then, go back through the facts and myths about anger and see if your beliefs are myth or fact.

Do you need more support to constructively express the anger you have about your divorce? I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a divorce coach and advisor helping people just like you who are dealing with the stress and pain of divorce. 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.

© 2013 Karen Finn. All rights reserved under all copyright conventions.

The 8 Keys To Trust In A Post-Divorce Relationship – Part 1

Couple on a cliff overlooking the sea kissing because they've each found the ability to trust after divorce.

You’ve probably heard recommendations from other experts about how long you need to wait after divorce before you start dating. These other experts recommend that you wait anywhere from just 1 year to 1 year for every 4 years you were married.

I disagree with these one-size-fits-all recommendations. I believe that the only requirement for you to be able to successfully date after divorce is that you’ve finished your time in the Divorce Pits. The Divorce Pits are where you experience the most painful feelings of divorce – grief, anger, guilt and rejection.

I hope you can agree with me that you wouldn’t want to date someone consumed with the Divorce Pits. So, if you’re consumed with them, you’re probably not going to find someone who wants to date you either. (You can find out if you’re still in the Divorce Pits by taking the assessment here.)

Once you’re out of the Pits, you’re cleared to date. There are all kinds of ways you can meet people to date and I’ll save a discussion of that for some other time. The point I want to get to here is that your dating should be helping you to determine what you do and don’t like about yourself and others in a relationship. There are all kinds of things that people do and don’t want in a relationship, but the one thing that EVERYONE WANTS is to be able to trust their partner.

Take It Slowly When You’re Re-Learning How To Trust After Divorce

For many of us post-divorce, our ability to trust another isn’t quite working ideally. That’s why I recommend you build your trust in yourself first (read more here), then build your trust in friendships (read more here), before trusting someone in a committed relationship. The question I always get from my clients about this is how do I know if I can trust someone?

You can feel pretty confident about trusting someone in a committed relationship by using 8 different keys. These keys are things that you need to examine both in the other person and in your ability to give to them.

We’ll start with the first four keys today and save the other four for next week’s article. (Read part 2.)

The first 4 keys to trust in a post-divorce relationship are

  1. Clarity – Clarity refers to the ability you and your partner have communicating with each other AND in the clarity you each have individually about being in the relationship. Are you both open and clear about what you want from the relationship? Are you both clear about what needs you’d like to have the other meet? Are you both clear about what you are and are not willing to do in the relationship? The important point about each of these questions is that you’re clear individually without any pressure from the other person or fear of losing the relationship and that you’re able to clearly communicate this to each other. (You should also be aware that after divorce we all change a lot, so just because you’re clear about what you want today, next month, next quarter, next year, your needs of the relationship may change and you both need to be willing to continue being clear for the duration of the relationship.)
  2. Compassion – Compassion refers to the ability you’ve each got to care for the other. Compassion in a healthy relationship MUST be two-way. There are times when one partner may need more compassion than another, but if the flow of compassion is only one-way, the relationship isn’t conducive to building the level of trust necessary for a long-term committed relationship.
  3. Character – Character is who you each are as individuals and in the relationship. It’s not unusual for people to behave one way in front of others and another way in the privacy of their relationship. If you find that you’re not behaving like yourself in a relationship, that’s not a healthy relationship for you. If you find that you don’t care for the way the person you’re dating regularly behaves, then they’re not the right person for you.
  4. Competency – Competency can sound like a funny criterion for trust in a dating or love relationship, but it’s really important. Would you want to be in a relationship with someone who is simply incapable of meeting your needs of the relationship? I doubt it. That’s why I believe it’s critical that you get some clarity on what you want in a relationship and what you’re willing to give to a relationship. Once you know that, you’ll have an idea of whether or not you’ve both got the competency to be in a relationship together.

I know that this is only half of the list, but it’s a lot of information! These aren’t necessarily simple keys. They require careful thought and a deep awareness of your feelings. But armed with these first keys, you’ve got a great starting point for figuring out if the person or people you’re dating are right for you to enter into a deeper relationship with.

Your Assignment For Learning How To Trust Someone Again:

Get clear about what you want in your post-divorce relationships. You might be looking for your next great love or you might be looking for someone to hang out with and just have fun. It’s important that you get clear about what you want so you’ll be able to know if dating someone is in your best interest or not. AND so that you’ll be able to have clarity telling the other person what you want.

How might you determine if the other person is compassionate? In my experience, this is one of those keys that takes time to evaluate. You might be able to tell enough about someone’s lack of compassion quickly. However, if it’s not glaringly obvious that the other person isn’t compassionate, then seeing how you both act in stressful situations is probably the quickest way to determine your level of compassion for yourselves and each other.

If you’re in a relationship with someone, do you like who you are when you’re with them? For most of us who divorced, when we take an honest look back at our marriage we can usually find something about ourselves in the marriage that we’ve since changed or are in the process of changing. There was something about what our marriage had become that caused us to be less than ourselves. It’s so very important that you not enter into another relationship that might cause you to not appreciate yourself 100%. So, if you don’t like whom you are when you’re with someone, it’s time to end that relationship. If you do like who you are when you’re with someone, the relationship just might be working and you might be closer to building trust.

Is the person you’re in relationship with capable of meeting your needs? Are you capable of meeting theirs? If your answer is “yes” to both questions, you’ve got another key for building trust in this relationship. If not, then this relationship probably isn’t in your best interest to continue for long.

Don’t worry; you don’t have to go through this alone. I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a divorce coach and advisor. I’ve been divorced and I know what you’re going through. My specialty is helping people just like you who are dealing with the stress, pain and uncertainty of divorce. You can join my anonymous 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.


If you’re looking for more help with putting together your post-divorce life, you’ll want to read more at Life After Divorce.