Grieving a divorce isn’t exactly fun. People want you to hurry up and get over it already. That or they’re married and don’t understand that it isn’t a breakup — it is a death when you lose your spouse. Your family, your dreams, your effort, your money –you name it, you have lost it all. If only there was a proper burial to get through it and start to move on. Well, there isn’t, but I did make this nifty little checklist in hopes of helping other people grieving a divorce.
From the Trenches of Grief
• Watch your social media use: You don’t need to log on constantly to see photos of happy families, couples, people making babies and growing their families. Those things are the kiss of death to someone grieving a divorce. We think, “Look at Jane and John! They look so happy! Why am I not happy? Why am I going through this?” You start to viciously compare and feel terrible. Everyone on the planet is loved and you are not — except that’s probably just a myth.
• Allow yourself to feel like crap: Don’t let the crappy feelings tread on, but accept that right now you feel awful. You’re getting a divorce, not celebrating your birthday. If people want sunshine and unicorns, they can watch cartoons. You are feeling crappy, and that is okay.
• Monitor your social circle wisely: If people bring you down, cut them out. Ask people for their company when you need it. Reach out for help.
• Date — or don’t: If dating makes you happy, do it. If it becomes a headache, put it off. It’s not easy to get back in the ring and when you do, you will remember how much of a pain in the butt it was in the first place. If however you loved dating, you’ll probably benefit from the experience!
• Watch out for rebounds: If you do date and find yourself head over heels very quickly, most likely this is a rebound. Back up and ease up the gas on the romance pedals because a rebound will only end in disaster.
• Major events: Major events like holidays, weddings, baby showers, etc., may put you back a few steps. This is okay and to be expected.
• There is no timeline: There is no timeline in which you will finally feel better. This isn’t a legitimate list of steps you must do in order to finally feel happy again. Everyone grieves differently and for most of us, it’s a roller coaster, although some people feel a steady stream of bad days only to move into continuous better days. For me, it’s been a roller coaster and I am just now 15 months later entering the worst grieving period I have had, period.
• If you divorced with children, consider this: Did you meet someone and now you’re dying to make a new family? Hold on and back up. Be sure this isn’t a rebound and that who you are choosing is indeed worthy of bringing your kids around. It’s nice to have a family, but making up one very quickly with the goal of making it “all better” for you and your child/children is one that will backfire and hurt your kids. Take it easy and wait for introductions.
• Medication (or not…): I had a friend suggest medicating because I was sad for so long during the divorce process. I ignored that piece of advice. I am not pro-medication for myself and felt I needed to go through the emotions, no matter how tough. For others though, it’s a worthwhile choice, especially if you’re so depressed and cannot get out bed, eat, socialize, etc. It could be a temporary solution to get you through, although therapy in my opinion is an absolute must if you can afford it. It’s not something I have the ability to afford to do for the most part, so I touch base with a counselor as needed. If you can, invest in yourself to get through the roughest few months and talk to someone.
• Find trench buddies: Find people who are going through divorce or have been through it and can help you. Sometimes you really just need someone who has already been in those trenches to help you navigate land mines.
• Be cautious about what you say about your ex. Grieving is tough, and you may not always feel lovey dovey towards your ex, which is really only a problem if you have kids or interact. Either way, if you’re having a bad day and need to speak to your ex, keep it brief. Your hurt emotions and anger won’t allow for happy conversation.
• Exercise: When in doubt, move. It will be good for you. It can’t hurt certainly.
• Vices: Grieving should not mean drinking or drugging or sexing every single moving thing. You want a drink or two? Sure. Getting out of a sexless marriage and now want sex? Okay. Just be sure your pleasures don’t turn into vices.
Grieving a divorce can take six months for one person and six years for another. It’s a personal journey and no one really has all the answers. Just do your best to keep your head above waters and hope for the best. It’s all we have sometimes — hope.
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