“Waves of Emotion: Coping with the Emotional Aftermath of a Divorce”

Breakup of a couple with a sad man in the background and the wife leaving him in the foreground

       The day you finalize your divorce may bring about a mixed bag of feelings, some or all of which you may not have expected. You may feel relieved (that the process is over), excited about being finally able to move forward, regretful for how things turned out. Chances are, you will also feel sad and even a little blue.

       Divorce is a loss. It’s a loss of a dream for a happy and “forever” marriage, a loss of a family identity and structure, a loss of relationships with some extended family and mutual friends, a loss of a parental unit. Like any loss, divorce can bring about a sea of emotions. One of the major feelings that often rolls in is grief: a feeling of deep sorrow or distress. Even when one has accepted the divorce and is ready to move on, negative emotions can arise and halt the healing process. So, what, if anything, can a person do to deal with the emotional aftermath of a divorce? The answer is complex yet simple: ride the waves. 

Embrace the Emotions

       In a previous blog, we discussed the four emotional stages of deciding on divorce. Many times, after the dust settles, the disillusionment and dissatisfaction felt during the process is replaced by sadness, anger, confusion, frustration, and even exhaustion. The worst thing that you can do is ignore these feelings or try to force them out. Although you may be “sitting pretty” on the outside, on the inside you will be bubbling with fear, resentment, and anger. Feel every single emotion, letting the sadness and anger wash over you like a wave. Also keep in mind that the presence of these emotions, while normal, will lessen as time goes on. 

Take of Your Cape

       In the meantime, give yourself permission to function at a level that is less than normal. You probably won’t be as productive as you once were. You may not feel like taking on any extra responsibilities. This is okay. Instead of forcing yourself to be “Superman” or “Wonder Woman”, take off your cape and take the time to heal and regroup. Work on self-love. Embrace growth and getting to know yourself. Seek therapy. Take things day by day, hour by hour, minute by minute. Just don’t give up. 

Focus on Other Relationships

       During a divorce, many relationships can be affected in a negative way. These include parent-child relationships as well as communication with other family members such as parents and in-laws. Children are especially vulnerable to the effects of divorce and this is one of the reasons mediation is recommended early on in the process. Instead of focusing on the hurt and loss that has surfaced after the divorce, work on rebuilding and strengthening connections with others that are still around. Talk on the phone, go on family outings, and make new memories together. Just make sure to keep all interactions as positive as possible.

Seek Support

       Family and friends can be a real source of support in times of need, but some divorcees find themselves feeling alone and abandoned by the people they expected to always be there. Family and friends may feel “caught in the middle” or refuse to “take sides”, leaving both sides of the conflict feeling isolated.   For this reason, support groups can be a great source of assistance and encouragement. Just knowing that you are not alone in your journey and that there are those who are going through a similar situation can speed up the healing process. 

If you are still struggling after embracing all of the advice above, consider professional counseling.  Lee Miller specializes in relationship, mediation and divorce issues. Contact her at leemiller.therapist@gmal.com or call her at (310) 879-5630.