Divorce is tough. In terms of stress levels and recovery time, it’s comparable to losing a loved one or facing a major health crisis. A quick Google search will tell you about the stages of grief and how you’re going to experience them, one at a time or all at once. When you’re freshly wounded from separation or divorce, it’s hard to imagine the time and effort it will take to recover.
That’s the bad news. The good news is, it isn’t all bad news. Recovering from divorce can give you moments of joy and fulfilment you couldn’t imagine while you were living in a bad relationship. Practice some or all of these tips to find that joy and rediscover yourself along the way.
Reinvest in friendships
When you’re married, your social life often revolves around your spouse and family. It’s easy to let your friendships slide. But you have friends out there-- old friends, new friends, work friends, online friends… and don’t be afraid to say, “Hey, let’s meet up for lunch.” Your friends want to help you through this, and a sympathetic ear is a wonderful thing right now. You’ll find that you value your friendships more than ever during this time.
One of the best things I did after my divorce was travel to see old friends. Not only did I get a nice vacation out of town, but I got to reconnect with people I hadn’t seen in years. Traveling solo and re-kindling those friendships was tremendously healing.
Pursue Your Passions
Maybe he liked bird-watching, but you hated it. Maybe she always wanted to drag you to museums when you’d rather be at a ball game. Guess what? Divorce means you don’t have to compromise with your hobbies and passions anymore.
Always wanted to take an art class? Do it. Want to spend your free time binge-watching Netflix without arguing with someone about what to watch? Want to move into the city or out to the country and change your entire lifestyle? Why not? Enjoy your freedom. The choices you make on your own will help you find yourself again.
Don’t Be Afraid of Dating
“Wait six months.” “Wait one year.” “Wait three years.” Well-meaning people and websites will tell you not to put yourself out there too soon. I’d agree that it’s not the best time to look for another life partner. You need to give yourself time to heal completely from your marriage before jumping into another serious relationship. Rebound marriages (and second or third divorces) are all too frequent. But what’s wrong with a little fun and romance?
Dating is one of the craziest, most exciting wagers you can make. You never know what you’ll get with someone new. It can boost your ego and shift your perspective. And the world of online and app-based dating makes it easy to date casually (though be smart and don’t put yourself in danger).
It’s very freeing, especially after a long or very difficult marriage, to connect with someone romantically that you’re not legally bound to. If it doesn’t work out, it doesn’t work out. Your new relationship doesn’t have to end in financial or custody battles. You can walk away with your self-respect and checking account intact.
Practice Self Care
It’s way too easy to self-destruct when you’re grieving. People often drink too much, eat too much, stop exercising, or become workaholics during this time. Remember that you are healing from major damage and be patient.
Imagine that you’re recovering from major surgery. Would you make choices to make your body feel worse and your recovery harder? I doubt it. Right now, you’re recovering from something painful and life-changing, too. Eat well and get some exercise but don’t obsess-- just do what makes you feel good about yourself. Get enough sleep. Take vitamins. Learn meditation. Take care of yourself the same way you would if your pain was physical and not just emotional.
Whether your separation or divorce was last week or last year, be kind to yourself. Healing takes time. But you can still find ways to love your life, even during major change.