How do you heal and feel whole again after getting divorced? Several years ago, I was divorced after ten years of marriage, with three small children. No matter how much it was the right decision for me, it was still cause of great heartache and turmoil. I had to pull it together for my kids and show them that we were stronger than this. The kids needed to heal too and figure out their new center as well. (Look for a future article on helping kids through a divorce.)
Here’s 10 tips from someone who has been there, with ideas that helped me get through it and helped me find myself again. Things are looking great on the other side. You can get there too.
1. Don’t give time or energy to those that don’t understand or who say things in ignorance or mean-spiritedness. Try not to take negative comments or prying questions personally. Think of simple, non-specific answers to the prying questions of “Why did you get divorced? or What happened?” and recite them like a broken record. You could say, “Things just didn’t go the way we had planned.” Or “We just decided this was the best decision.” Some people have “foot-in-mouth” syndrome and don’t realize what they are saying is hurtful. If they are a toxic person and what they say and do hurts, dump them. You don’t need friends like that. Surround yourself with friends and family that support you.
Don’t listen to your negative self-talk either. Playing the blame game or “if-only” will not help and will get you stuck in that state. Focus on the amazing person that you are and strive to become the person you want to be.
2. Find quotes and affirmations that uplift and inspire you and put them around your house. I found a framed picture of “The Serenity Prayer” and another quote with the background of a boardwalk extending out to a peaceful ocean to hang in my bathroom. It says “Open your eyes to the beauty that surrounds you. Open your mind to the wonders of life. Open your heart to the world around you.” These affirmations were like friends telling me to embrace the day and to keep going. I also liked reading affirmations from books like Melody Beattie’s “The Language of Letting Go.” She has another one called “Journey to the Heart: Daily Meditations on the Path to Freeing Your Soul” that also looks fantastic. Print off your favorite uplifting messages and stick them on your bathroom mirror, your kitchen cabinets, your fridge, anywhere you’ll see them often.
3. Let yourself cry when you need to and then pick yourself back up again. Some days, especially the first couple months, it was all I could do to hold myself together in front of my young children (ages 4-9 yrs). I tried hard not to cry in front of them because I didn’t want them to be scared, but occasional tears leaked out sometimes. If they asked I would just say that Mommy was a little sad but I knew we were going to get through this. Usually I’d wait to have my breakdown until after they went to bed. But I couldn’t let myself wallow there. Remember that tomorrow is a new day and each day WILL get easier.
4. List all the good things that came out of being divorced and focus on them. Were you surrounded by contention and yelling before the divorce? Enjoy the peace and serenity now. Breathe it in. What else has changed for the better? Writing them down is very cathartic. Use 3X5 note cards, write one per card, and keep them in your nightstand. When you’re feeling down, pull the cards out and remember all the good things about your life now.
5. Fill your heart with joy and gratitude. Start a gratitude journal. As you are trying to fall asleep, think of three things that are positive that you are grateful for that happened that day. On the hard days, it may be simple things like “Today was sunny.” “The kids all liked what we ate for dinner.” Or “My friend called me today (or I called her) and we had a good talk”.
6. Start a new hobby or get back into a hobby you haven’t found time for in awhile. I threw my heart back into gardening. My first place as a single mom was an older home that I rented which had a terribly unkempt rock garden in the front of the house. It was filled with rocks of varying sizes; some were huge boulders and it was filled with weeds. The rock garden hadn’t been loved for a very long time. So, I put my heart and soul into that garden. I moved nearly all the rocks (some with help from my Dad) into a spot in the back yard, weeded the entire thing, and then planted some flowers that made me happy. I planted bulbs that would come up in the spring and a couple other small plants. The next year, I planted a box garden by myself for the first time and I planted a couple of rose bushes along the side with help from a friend. I also got a bird feeder and put it near the front window so I could watch the birds from the couch and meditate. It was only a rental house that I stayed in for two years but beautifying the yard made me happy and releasing negative emotions and energy into yard work was very healing.
7. Make playlists of happy, positive, upbeat music and music that helps you release and process your emotions. I’ve put together an uplifting and empowering music list that you might enjoy. 33 Songs that will Uplift and Inspire You There’s something amazing about music that pulls me out of a funk and gets my mind and emotions back on track.
Music that speaks to your heart and helps you feel the emotions is very healing as well. Beautiful sad music can help us process what we are going through, move through it, and then move on. How Sad Music can Heal Your Broken Heart A good music list is here: Songs for Broken Hearts This is one of my favorite healing songs:
8. Put your heart and energy into serving someone else. I lived near my grandparents so I was able to walk over to their house once or twice a week after work and had the dual benefit of socializing with uplifting, loving people and of serving someone else. I helped my grandmother with projects around her house and loved feeling needed. I also became the room mother for my daughter’s kindergarten class and kept busy helping out in her classroom. If you don’t have family around, find a neighbor or friend that you can help or sign up for community service. Look for a need and you will find it.
9. Take a class, start a new project, exercise, learn something new. I enjoyed going to education week, which was a week long afternoon/evening conference at my local college, and stimulating my mind again since I had been a stay-at-home mom for ten years. Maybe you could learn a foreign language at home or take a community college evening class on something that interests you. I also did a “Couch to 5K” program I found online. I was able to do two 5Ks in a few months after working up from walking to jogging 3-4 miles most days. This was a big deal for someone who had always hated running. Exercise was great for my mood and energy as well.
10. Be spiritual. Pray, attend religious services, read scripture or other uplifting spiritual messages. Put your trust in God and have faith that all things will work out in the end. Out of all the things I did, this one helped me the most. When no one else seems to understand, when there’s no one else to turn to, God and Jesus Christ understand it all and can take your pain away.