One of the most critical steps in any life transition, including divorce, is allowing yourself to grieve.
It truly is a loss, but unlike a death there is nothing in place to officially close that chapter of your life. It is a process that may start with a traumatic event or even a clear-minded decision, but can take years to actually be complete.
The transition to being divorced is a unique beast, and there are many other feelings and emotions that might be dominating the situation and masking the sadness. This often causes us to keep marching forward taking action in our life so that we just skim the surface in the grieving process, or skip it altogether.
Or, we numb ourselves to avoid these uncomfortable feelings and turn to alcohol, drugs, food, sex, or work-a-holic behaviors as a means to avoid the grief.
No time is built in to grieve– you need to make that time on your own.
In my own situation, one month after I left my marriage my son was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. On top of the everyday care of kids, I then had to navigate this disease and its management. This included a 3 day hospital stay, learning to be my son’s nurse, and many, many sleepless nights.
Between the marital trauma and the diabetes, I couldn’t focus on much else, let alone carve out grieving time. I would find myself bursting into tears when driving in the car. A situation would just hit me hard, and the tears would roll down my face. One time, after a particularly toxic interaction with my ex, I had to pull the car over into a parking lot. I was shaking and ugly crying uncontrollably.
My grieving process seemed to come in spurts. Even today, something might happen and the release of crying needs to happen.
Crying is a release that allows you to feel your feelings.
The beautiful thing about a good cry is that you feel better because you let go of the emotions.
Unfortunately, the societal messaging is to remain strong and in control. While this is well meaning, it can push us past our feelings without acknowledging them. When we keep our feelings inside it only hurts us. It prevents us from processing them and moving on.
To combat this outlook, I think we need to cultivate an awareness that grieving is a necessary part of the process. Then, we need to consciously make the time for it. Perhaps we could develop some sort of ritual around the closing of this chapter of life. Given that every person and situation is different, I don’t think there is a one size fits all solution.
Here are some ideas to facilitate your grieving process.
- Don’t ignore your feelings! Acknowledge them, and allow yourself to truly feel them.
- Let yourself cry. You will feel better.
- Journal honestly about your emotions, then burn the pages to release the sadness. Check out this previous post for how to dump journal: https://transformyourtruth.com/2019/03/12/transforming-your-truth-3-steps-to-finding-awareness/
- Find a peaceful place in nature. Immerse yourself and allow the feelings to come to you.
- If you can, give yourself the time to grieve. One woman I interviewed took a two week vacation when she separated from her husband and said it was the best thing she did for herself. If you don’t have the vacation time, perhaps setting aside an evening to process your emotions in whatever way works for you will be helpful. Just do it!
- Acknowledge the events of your transition. When you make a decision, you move out, or papers get signed, take a moment to look inside and see what feelings come up for you.
- Talk to a therapist, coach, or friend to help you process your feelings. Sometimes a person outside of us can see the things we do not see.
In my opinion, grieving is an essential first step to moving forward in life after divorce. If we skip this process, we bring the heavy emotions along with us into the next chapter.
Grieving allows you to release your emotions, enabling you to move forward without the baggage. You become light and free and then truly open the door to your next chapter.
Did you make the time to grieve during your transition?