Healing From Divorce: Overcoming Your Loneliness

Bearded man wearing a hooded coat struggling with overcoming loneliness.

No matter how horrible you feel, there is a simple way out of the loneliness of divorce.

One of the toughest parts of healing from divorce is the loneliness which can feel like it’s sucking your soul right out of you. You wind up feeling as if you’re just a shriveled husk of who you were.

When you’re in the throes of loneliness, your mind wanders down a treacherous path. You begin by wondering if you’re destined to be alone for the rest of your life. Then you realize that of course you will because of the long list of your “flaws” that you remind yourself of over and over again. It doesn’t matter right now that those imperfections are just part of what makes you wonderfully you. You get stuck on a downward spiral of misery which leaves you feeling horribly trapped.

Yet being stuck isn’t doing you any good when your real goal is to heal from your divorce.

What I want you to know is that no matter how lonely you feel right now, you’re not really alone. I promise. Everyone who gets divorced experiences gut-wrenching loneliness. (Some people even experience it during their marriage before they divorce.) The difference is that not everyone deals with their loneliness in the same way.

Some choose to ignore it and immerse themselves in activities like dating. Some will use their loneliness to fuel their anger at their ex. Others, like you, know that despite how miserable the loneliness feels it’s just part of the process of getting over their divorce.

The loneliness is really just part of the grief – saying goodbye to so much including a sense of belonging (which you also wonder if you’ll ever feel again). Knowing that it’s part of the process doesn’t necessarily make it easy to get through though, does it?

Luckily, there is a simple way to start feeling less lonely. Begin with feeling a sense of belonging to yourself.

Yeah, it might sound a bit strange, but usually a sense of belonging is about feeling complete, whole and cared for. And that’s definitely something you can achieve all on your own.

How? Well, the easiest way is to start logically and then allow your emotions to shift naturally as you begin caring for yourself. It might sound complicated, but it really is simple.

Logically, you know there’s a big difference between being alone and feeling lonely. Being alone is a situation. Feeling lonely is an emotion that is crying out for soothing.

And believe it or not, you can soothe yourself by doing simple things that indulge your senses (sight, taste, touch, sound and smell). Here’s a list of some sensory experiences you can experiment with the next time you’re feeling lonely:

  • give yourself a hug and feel the warmth of your embrace
  • drink a cup of fragrant tea or coffee and enjoy both the aroma and the taste
  • listen to uplifting music and be carried away by the sounds
  • light some candles and watch how the flickering flames create amazing shadows
  • turn on the TV so it sounds like there’s someone at home with you
  • snuggle with one or more pillows (I use 4) in bed at night
  • treat yourself to your favorite meal savoring every bite
  • pet your pet (or someone else’s) and notice how wonderful their fur feels and how beautiful it looks
  • hug a tree and notice the texture of the bark against your chest and cheek

There are a million different things you can do to soothe yourself and engage your senses. The key is to focus on the sensations, smells, sounds, tastes and sights. You’ll find that by indulging your senses you’ll experience a catharsis which lightens the heaviness of your loneliness.

The more you can comfort yourself when you’re feeling lonely, the quicker you’ll start to realize that your soul can stay right where it is and that you don’t need to remind yourself of your “flaws”.

Before you know it, you’ll come to appreciate having some alone time. It’s then that you’ll know you’re well on your way to healing from 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 adviceAnd, if you’re ready, you can take the first step toward working with me as your personal coach by scheduling a private consultation.

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

Hurt Because Your Spouse Is Dating During Divorce?

Man looking at his ex as he's dating during divorce.

Sometimes all it takes is a small shift in perspective to help you hurt a little less.

When your marriage ends and you start working toward getting divorced, it’s not like there’s some switch you can flip to stop feeling married or even to unlove your spouse. It’s more of a process. And all processes take time to complete. That’s why it is so infuriating, humiliating and painful if your spouse starts dating before you’re legally divorced, much less before you feel unmarried.

You do have another option. You can learn to put some distance between what they’re doing and you. It all starts with changing your thoughts (which, believe it or not, will give you the space you need to allow your feelings to change).

To give you an assist with changing your thoughts, here are some facts for you to consider:

  1. It’s all about them – Yup, their behavior is all about them. It’s a reflection of how they see the world, who they want to be and what they want to experience.As painful as it is to make the shift from thinking about you and your spouse as a couple to being individuals, it’s part of moving on from the end of your marriage. It’s part of the process and you’ll be able to move on too.
  2. If your spouse decided to end your marriage – Usually the spouse that decides the marriage is over began working through their grief before ever announcing that they want a divorce. Because they’ve been doing their healing for a while, they may be more ready to date than you are right now (at least from an emotional standpoint).Just because they’re dating doesn’t mean that they haven’t hurt over the end of your marriage too. It just means that they’re further along in their process than you are in yours. (And it doesn’t mean that you need to start dating too. Remember their behavior is about them just like yours is about you.
  3. You’re dating, but you’re not ready for your spouse to date – Yeah, this can seem a bit hypocritical at first, but it’s also pretty normal. Healing from a divorce is a process and it happens in pieces. Even though you might be ready to date, the thought of your spouse being with another person can make your stomach churn because you don’t quite feel like your souse should unlove you yet.The reality is that your discomfort isn’t going to prevent your spouse from dating. After all, what’s good for the goose is good for the gander!
  4. Your marriage ended because your spouse cheated with the person they’re dating now – Cheating to end a marriage is really a chicken’s way out. A spouse will cheat because they don’t believe their needs are being met within the marriage. Instead of being willing and able to discuss what’s wrong with the marriage, they choose to have an affair to make it “obvious” that the marriage is over and can’t be saved.Feeling furious, betrayed and humiliated as you’re watching your spouse date the *@#$&* they cheated with while you’re going through the divorce is pretty natural. The key to getting through it is to remember that their behavior is all about them and that your life WILL be much better without them (even if it doesn’t always feel that way right now).

Getting more understanding about why your spouse is dating now, before your divorce is final probably won’t make you feel immediately better, but it will help you to think a bit differently about the situation and their behavior. Sometimes it’s only a small change in perspective that will enable you to get on with healing from your divorce instead of staying stuck in a dead relationship.

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.

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

Thank You, Pope Francis

Pope Francis’ statement is too late for me, but I’m OK with that now.

In August 2002, my divorce was final. When the judge signed the decree my immediate reaction was happiness. I thought I was free! I thought I would be happy (finally) because of a little ink on a piece of paper. Oh, the silly things I used to believe…

It didn’t take long before I started to feel suffocated by guilt. I was sure that God was going to punish me (by death) for getting divorced AND that I deserved it.

A bit irrational? Maybe. But, seriously, how many people make it through divorce without at least one irrational thought?

For this particular thought though, I had help in coming up with it. You see I was raised pseudo-Catholic.

My parents were both raised Catholic and went to parochial schools. However, outside of the baptisms for my younger siblings and attending funerals, I don’t remember us attending church as a family. Despite this, Catholic-ish teachings certainly made it into my psyche and one of those teachings was that if you got divorced, you committed a serious sin. So serious a sin that as a result you weren’t allowed to be a part of the church anymore.

But, it wasn’t only Catholic guilt that I felt after my divorce.

You see, shortly after meeting my first husband, I decided to embrace his religion and became a Southern Baptist. And guess what…. They didn’t look too kindly on divorce either.

My beliefs of this double-religious guilt produced tremendous fears and I was so stress out that I developed hives. To help me relax and hopefully shed some of my guilt, I decided to take a vacation. But instead of looking forward to the trip, I found myself actually dreading it because I figured this would be God’s chance to get me in a place crash. (Yeah, OK, I was pretty irrational by this point.)

As you probably guessed, God didn’t take me out with a plane crash or in any other deathly way because I got divorced. (Unless you consider me ditching the guilt-ridden woman persona a death.) What did happen as a result of my divorce was that I explored religions and my relationship with God.

I think that if back then I had had some reassurance that my divorce was OK in the eyes of God, that I wouldn’t have been so miserably distraught with guilt. So, from that standpoint I’m extremely grateful that Pope Francis made the statement:

“People who started a new union after the defeat of their sacramental marriage are not at all excommunicated, and they absolutely must not be treated that way. They always belong to the church.”

I sincerely hope that his message eases the pain that many divorced and divorcing Catholics feel.

However, if I had had his reassurances 13 years ago, I doubt that I would be the person I am today: confident in my place as one of God’s most loved children – just like everyone else.

I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a divorce and personal life coach 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.

This article originally appeared on YourTango.

The Only Real Shortcut To Healing From Divorce

Man walking past a mural of courage as a reminder that's what healing from divorce requires.

All it takes is a bit of courage and determination.

There’s very little that’s easy about getting divorced. And just about all divorcees are on the lookout for shortcuts so they can move on with their life as quickly as possible and hopefully avoid some of the pain.

The problem is that when it comes to truly healing from your divorce you need to experience the pain so you can free yourself from it.

Yes, you read that correctly. You need to feel the pain so you can be free from it.

But feeling it doesn’t mean wallowing or drowning in it. It also doesn’t mean beating yourself up with thoughts of what you coulda, shoulda, or woulda done differently. It just means acknowledging the emotion and releasing it.

So how do you acknowledge an emotion and release it? Well, it kinda depends on the emotion.

If you’re feeling sad, you might acknowledge and release the sadness by crying or by getting busy and doing something productive. I find that when I’m sad crying helps until I can shift my thoughts toward being appreciative about what I’m sad about. Kinda the whole “every adversity … carries within it the seed of an equivalent or greater benefit” thing that Napoleon Hill is famous for saying.

Let me give you an example. A couple months ago my sweet cat Jewel died. I was very, very heartbroken about losing her and cried a lot. Yet it didn’t take me long to realize that my tears weren’t doing Jewel any good and they’d already done all they could for me. So I starting changing my thoughts to remembering all of the joy that Jewel brought into my life. Yes, those thoughts make me a little wistful, but remembering the joy helps me to look for more joy in my life now.

If you’re feeling angry, you can search for what’s under the anger. Usually anger is covering up fear. This is especially true when you’re healing from divorce. Divorce anger can be almost rageful and it usually covers some big fear of loss – loss of all the time you invested in a relationship that has failed, loss of love, loss of the dream of “happily ever after”, loss of being with your kids every day, loss of control of your life, and on and on and on…

If you can identify at least one of the fears that your anger is covering up, you can then shift your anger to addressing how to feel less fearful.

When I got divorced, although I was happy to have all three of our pets, I was also angry about all the responsibility and that my ex got to avoid dealing with the challenges of a geriatric dog. When I dug beneath the surface of my anger, I discovered that I was afraid I wouldn’t’ be able to take care of all my pets’ needs on my own. And that was a fear I could do something about. I hired a pet sitter to help care for my pets during the day while I was at work.

If you’re feeling lonely, you can embrace the alone-ness and get to know yourself a little bit better.

You might start off with a little crying and acknowledge the fear of being alone for the rest of your life. (Yes, that’s usually a big piece of why we feel lonely after divorce.) And then you can start remembering some of the things that you loved to do when you were a kid. (I know that probably sounds strange, but stick with me for a minute.)

Now, here’s the question you need to answer: How can you go out and do some of those things with a group?

My favorite way to find a group of people who like to do fun things is to visit www.meetup.com. You’ll find all kinds of groups that get together to do a whole bunch of different things from reading groups to adventure travel groups. Once you get out and join one of the outings, you’ll be absolutely AMAZED at all the fun you can have with a bunch of strangers doing something you love to do (yup, even if you’re an introvert like me).

Acknowledging and releasing your feelings isn’t an easy thing. It takes courage and determination. But by being courageous and determined now, you’ll be taking the only real shortcut there is to healing from divorce.

I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a divorce and personal life coach 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.

WHY??

At some point in your divorce, you’re going to ask yourself, “WHY?” Your why may show up as “Why did our marriage end in divorce?” Or it might show up as “Why can’t we make it work out?” At the core of your question is a quest for understanding the cause of your divorce.

More often than not, these questions of why turn into blame. Blame because it’s so much easier to put the blame on them for making us hurt so much. And in a way it makes sense because they’re the one that had the affair, or they’re the one that wouldn’t be open about their feelings, or they’re the one that kept nagging, or they’re the one with the addiction, or they’re the one that fell out of love, or they’re the one with the mental health problems, or they’re the one that’s so selfish, or …. And you know what? These are all FABULOUS reasons to be upset with the other person and to know that the end of the marriage really is THEIR fault.

But if you really want to move past the hurts, pain and blame and be happy again, there’s another side to the story of the end of your marriage. The other side is your part. What was your part in the ending of your marriage? This is where the real understanding of the end of your relationship lies and what you’ll need to know before your next relationship if you don’t want your personal history to repeat itself.

In addition to giving your next relationship an even better chance of surviving, understanding your part in the end of your marriage has another important benefit. The other benefit of doing this work is that you’ll likely develop a deeper sense of self-love because you’ll know and appreciate yourself even more.

So I’ll bet you’re wondering how to start identifying your part in the ending of your marriage when it’s so obviously THEIR fault? Well, the first step is to become clear about what a good, healthy marriage is. I believe the easiest way to explain it is with the diagram in the upper right of this blog. (I wish I knew how to put the image here, but I’m word press challenged.)

The diagram shows two people each in their individual bubbles of healthy boundaries and their own interesting lives. These two independent people choose to be together inside the larger bubble of the marriage.

If you’re getting divorced, it’s highly unlikely that this diagram represents your marriage.

Now that you see what a healthy marriage looks like, getting down and dirty with the truth of what your marriage diagram would look like is the next step. In the diagram representing your marriage, maybe only one of you had your own personal bubble. Maybe one of you left the marriage completely up to the other person. Maybe neither of you had personal bubbles. Maybe the kids were part of the marriage instead of part of the family. Maybe neither of you had personal bubbles. Hopefully, you’re getting some ideas of what your marriage looked like and are able to draw a diagram representing it.

After you have created the diagram that represents your marriage, I believe the next step is best described by the Serenity Prayer.

Serenity Prayer

God, Grant me the serenity

To accept the things I cannot change,

The courage to change the things I can,

And the wisdom to know the difference.

This simple prayer is jam-packed with meaning.

First, it says there are some things you just cannot change – things like the weather or the past or another person. The best you can do is to accept those things.

Second, it says that for everything else, everything that you can change that you have the courage to change it. The funny thing is that just about the only thing that you have the truest ability to change is you. You can change what you do and you can also change your thoughts. Beyond that, you don’t have a whole bunch of control or ability to change. But, believe it or not, changing your thoughts is probably the most profoundly powerful thing you can do.

Finally, it says that it takes wisdom to know the difference between the things you can change and the things you can’t. It really does! How often do we confuse what we think someone else should do to make us feel better as something that we can change? Pretty often, in my experience.

Now that you’re clear on the fact that you can only really change you, take another look at your marriage diagram. What can you do differently in the future to change that diagram to be more like the ideal, good marriage diagram? What different thoughts might you have in the future to create a new diagram in the way you want?

Once you have those answers, you’ll know what your part in the failure of your marriage was. You’ll understand why.

Your Functional Divorce Assignment:

Assess your readiness to do this work. Just because you’re reading this doesn’t necessarily mean you’re ready to do the work. This is deep work and it’s completely fine if you’re not able to do it right now. If this is you, save this and revisit it when you are ready. Maybe you’re only able to do part of the work now. That’s great because you’ll be part of the way to understanding why. Or you might ready to do this work now. If so, get to work and be sure to be gentle with yourself.

Be willing to ask for help. This work is so deep that it’s easy to get lost or confused while doing it. If that happens to you, don’t worry, it’s not your fault. It’s just part of being human and hurting. Just ask for help. You can find help from all kinds of sources – even from blog posts.

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.

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