Divorce is never easy, but what can make it feel damn near unbearable is when you didn’t initiate it. You may begin to feel as though you have somehow lost control of your life because you had virtually no say in such a life-changing decision. You believed that when you exchanged vows, you were in the marriage for the long haul, but unfortunately, your partner decided that they wanted out and you are now left to deal with the aftermath. You may have tried to contest the divorce or get your partner to change their minds and fight for the marriage, only to be rejected over and over again. Now that you have accepted that things are over and your divorce is finalized, you may be wondering how you can begin to put your life back together and heal from the unkind curveball that life has thrown your way. In many ways, mourning a divorce — especially one you didn’t want — can feel like grieving a death.
“It is the end of a life promised. What you thought was going to be true for the rest of your life is not true. And the gaping hole left in your future can feel overwhelming and unfair,” explained licensed psychotherapist Dr. Lavanya Shankar. “It doesn’t matter if the decision to divorce was the right one. Or whether it comes with a measure of relief. Where there was once love, trust, and belonging, there is likely now, too, some sense of emptiness and disappointment that accompanies the process of disconnecting permanently.”
The good news is that there is life on the other side. According to the experts, including Psychology Today writer Dr. Ann Gold Buscho, who authored the book The Parent’s Guide to Birdnesting: A Child-Centered Solution to Co-Parenting During Separation and Divorce, it can take one to two years to recover from the emotional impact of a divorce.
1. Give yourself permission to mourn
Many times, our egos will make us want to be okay before we’re actually okay. So we put on a brave face and tell ourselves that we’re good and we’re over it when we’re really not. It’s okay to not be okay and it’s fine to be sad when it seems as though your soon-to-be-ex is living his best life. Allow yourself to fully mourn the death of your marriage the first time the grief hits so that you can properly heal.
2. Reclaim control of your life
As previously stated, enduring a divorce that you didn’t want can cause you to feel out of control in a lot of ways. So it’s important to regain your sense of control and accountability for your life. If not, you run the risk of seeing yourself as a passive bystander in your life while adopting a victim’s mentality.
3. Get to know the new you
You may have lost yourself in your relationship or you may have simply evolved throughout the marriage. Be sure that you take the time to get to know and fully embrace the new you.
4. Seek to settle unresolved anger
You may be harboring resentment and anger towards your ex for failing to invest more into your marriage or for not wanting to stay and fight. Perhaps they even betrayed you in some way. Connect with a counselor who can help you to work through releasing that pain and anger. Holding on to it will only hinder your healing.
5. Rebuild your self-esteem
A divorce that you didn’t want can trigger immense feelings of rejection and unworthiness. Remind yourself that divorce does not measure your self-worth. Chase after the things that make you happy with fervor and seek to rebuild the self-esteem that you may have lost along the way.