How to get Divorced and not want to Die - Liz Theresa
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How to get Divorced and not want to Die

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This piece was originally published at elephant journal right here. The unedited, original version appears below. 

If you’re reading this, you’re likely just embarking on the super weird, potentially unexpected, and horrifically awful (you wouldn’t wish this on your worst enemy) path of divorce.

No matter where you are at in the process – whether the very beginning or the very end – you might feel upset, frustrated, a little angry (perhaps), and/or you are having a sort of identity crisis. Or you’re doing totally fine — in which case, you are the person who probably should have written this article in the first place.

I want to start by setting the scene a little and writing some of the thoughts and feelings I had when I was in the thick of it. You may relate to one or two… Of course, if you don’t, that’s totally okay, because no two divorces are the same.

  • You feel suddenly miles and miles behind of where you thought you would be (or should be) in life.
  • You can no longer relate to your friends who are all married, live in nice houses, and have perfect children.
  • You feel a sense of failure in some regard (whether large or small) which gives you feelings of guilt and shame in small (or large) doses.
  • You can’t think of anything else but the fact that you’re no longer married. You wish so badly you could just be married again because being married was great. You know, except for when it wasn’t.
  • At the moment of the breakup, you were filled with many conflicting emotions — relief and devastation at the same time.
  • You’re always crying because you’re tired or you’re always tired because you’re crying.
  • You were so “good” at life up until this whole mess. You were the person people came to for advice – and now you’re the one seeking it.
  • You suddenly have a ton of time on your hands – time you used to spend with your ex. And you really don’t know what to do with yourself.
  • You wake up hating Saturday – because that was the day you spent quality time with your ex.
  • You have a hard time going to Barnes and Noble because you and your ex used to go there together. In fact, you have a hard time doing a lot of things you used to do with your ex.
  • You realize being married was a large part of your identity. And now not being married feels like a death.
  • You’re tired of telling people you’re divorced – and worse – retelling the story. But you also can’t resist or avoid talking about it.
  • You’re doing something unrelated to your divorce and suddenly break down into tears. It feels out of nowhere and you just sort of learn to ride these moments out.
  • You’re traumatized by the actual breakup conversation – you keep replaying it in your head and it stings every time.
  • You wish you could wake up from this awful dream. You actually have moments where you wonder if you’re *actually* dreaming.

It’s unlikely ALL of the above applies to what you’re going through – but even if one does, I hope it makes you feel a little validated in what you’re going through. Because bottom line – divorce totally sucks. It’s heartbreaking and terrible. The worst pain in the world, as far as I’m concerned.

I’m now nearing the one-year anniversary of my divorce being finalized so I wanted to make a list of all the things that helped me in my journey. I hope they help you too! Of course, not everything that worked for me will work for you – so even if you take one little piece of advice from the list below, I will be so happy if it eases your days!

  1. See a therapist. This was actually my first phone call when I saw divorce as a potential thing on the horizon of my life. I saw a therapist almost immediately after my ex and I separated and it was the best thing in the world. Make sure you find someone you feel comfortable with. It feels good to talk to an objective third party who can help you sort through all of your emotions. Because you’re likely feeling a lot of feelings that seem to contradict each other. And that’s why a therapist really comes in handy.
  2. Make a list of all the things you didn’t like about your marriage. This is HUGELY helpful. Do not share this with anyone. This is JUST for you. It will help you see things objectively and validate why the relationship didn’t work. You’ll be surprised how quickly you make the list and how easy it is to add to it over time. I kept this in the Notes app of my iPhone for easy access if I was feeling weak or unsure. (Because those feelings will come very naturally.)
  3. Talk to someone who is going through the same thing. When I was getting divorced, there was a trusted colleague of mine who was going through it at the same time. No divorce is the same. They’re all like really sad snowflakes. But, it’s good to have someone to talk to and you know they get it.
  4. Prepare for sleepless nights. If you consider yourself a human who has trouble sleeping anyway, you should prepare yourself. I’m actually the type who can sleep through a hurricane. But, the anxiety and depression that ensued during my divorce made it impossible for even me to get some shut-eye. I stocked up on Melatonin to help me through those times. Now, I don’t need to take it anymore. But, I’m grateful I had it when I needed it. If you don’t like Melatonin, I highly recommend trying Valerian Root which is pretty potent, but it doesn’t make you quite as groggy in the morning (at least in my experience.)
  5. Feel the feelings. I’m a very emotional person anyway – so when this happened – man oh man… I had many feelings. What you need to do is let them wash over you – let them have their moment. Express them however you need to — which means crying, whimpering, or tossing and turning on your sofa — but get that energy out of your system.
  6. Download Headspace. Headspace is this incredibly helpful meditation app. It’s a series of guided meditations for people who don’t meditate under normal circumstances. Meditations can be as short as 10 minutes or less or much longer depending on how deep you are comfortable going. Personally, I did the 10 minute ones and it made a huge difference in how I was able to cope with all the feelings that came with the divorce. It helps you practice mindfulness in real-time. Mindfulness goes from being a weird abstract concept you’ve only heard about to becoming like this totally normal thing you can train your brain to do. Headspace also does these really cool animated videos that teach you about your thoughts and how they actually work. Fascinating stuff. Headspace REALLY changed the way I process and behave with regard to my feelings and I’m so grateful I found it.
  7. Get back in touch with old hobbies. Part of getting used to being on your own again is being with just yourself again. For me, it’d been a little while. My world revolved around my family and my husband (as I wanted it to!) but so much so, that I’d forgotten the things I used to do with just myself. One day, and this is a real-life story, I went to Barnes and Noble. This was really a place I used to go with my ex – but it was also how I’d spend a normal Saturday. So I went along anyway! There I was, wearing my sunglasses inside to hide my tears. I was circling table after table. Picking up books. Not really looking at them. Then, I saw the bargain table. My inner shopper cannot resist the discount sticker tags. I found this book called Something Borrowed by Emily Giffin and bought it on a whim. Then, of course, I was worried it would be about a happy couple getting married. And then I realized it’s a totally different story… I read this book in less than 3 days and picked up the sequel immediately afterward. This book turned on a new light inside of me and revived my love of reading. After these two books were 4 more… and then I got a library card to save some money. Now, I’m reading nonstop! If reading isn’t your thing, I highly recommend diving into podcasts or TED Talks and just seeing what’s out there. Those have also been hugely helpful for occupying my mind during the rough times too.
  8. Read The Art of Imperfection by Brene Brown. This book was HUGELY impactful to developing my relationship with myself. To be more specific, I actually had this weird issue where I didn’t feel comfortable posting anything on social media after my divorce. I felt afraid of what people might say. This book helped me accept myself, love myself, and see this whole thing as a stopping point on my journey – not the WHOLE journey. Stopping points in your life don’t have to define who you are for the rest of your life. The Art of Imperfection is also only 150 pages or something so I read it in a day. YOU CAN DO IT, TOO.
  9. Talk to your friends. There is admittedly weirdness if you share friends with your ex, but I do think it’s important to say something to everyone you love. There is no need to slam your ex to anyone – even those close to you. (Let your friends do that messy stuff for you!) But it’s important for you to feel connected in your own world. And that means opening back up to your friends. Even if it seems like they have big wonderful lives with perfect babies and McMansions, and that they wouldn’t have time to relate to you, or that they don’t care about you anymore, or that they feel awkward around you – ALL OF THAT IS ALL IN YOUR HEAD. The truth is that if you haven’t heard from someone about what you’re going through, they either don’t know yet (because you haven’t told them) or they don’t know what to say because they don’t know if you’re ready to talk. So I’m telling you. Get ready to talk. Your friends want to be there for you! You had more in common with your friend than just the fact that you were both are married people. They like YOU for who YOU are. You are special and wonderful. You’re the one who decided that no one wants to hear from you. And that’s silly. Okay?
  10. *See* your friends. Remember those people? So… not only do I want you to talk to them. But I challenge you to have one friend date per week. That’s not a very tall order and it will be enough to get you out of your house or away from your office enough to keep you from turning into a total hermit. This part takes effort, but will pay for itself in dividends.
  11. One more thing about your friends for you to learn. You may think they have perfect lives – but the truth is that you are getting out of a relationship that was no longer serving you. You are very strong for doing so! You should be proud of yourself. And just because you didn’t think you’d be where you are now doesn’t mean you’re not where you are supposed to be. (Hint: you are.) Just because your friends seem happy, it doesn’t mean that they are. They might not be in the right place either. The grass is always greener, so take off your rose-colored glasses.
  12. Throw things away. Getting rid of things (like people) that are no longer serving you is one way to do this. 😉 Another way to do this is that you need to clear a new space for yourself to sleep. I actually bought a new mattress when I got a divorce! But, even if you just got new sheets, I think it will make a world of difference. Donate old clothes that remind you of your ex and make a fresh start for yourself wherever you’ve decided to stay. Also – it’s a great excuse to go shopping for new things.
  13. Decide what you want now that you’re free. If you never want to hear the wedding march again, that’s fine. If you know what you want in your next relationship, that’s good. If all you know is what you DON’T want, then that’s great. Be clear in some way and this will help you feel a million times better. Accept that this part doesn’t always come easy – but when this one does, it will feel really good.
  14. Consider hypnosis. So this is a thing I tried during the last leg of my healing process. You eventually will hit a point where you’ve tried everything and you’re waiting for that last big “AHA” or breakthrough moment to take you the rest of the way in your healing. For me, it was seeing a hypnotist. My mom actually encouraged me to do so as hypnotists can help with self-confidence (not just addiction.) Seeing the hypnotist was definitely a pinnacle moment in my journey. It got me to the finish line and I can honestly say I feel a lot of inner peace after going. Hypnotism, of all things, isn’t necessarily right for everyone. It’s definitely something shown to have varying success person to person. But it’s something I’m extraordinarily grateful for. So I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention it.
  15. Take everything one day at a time. This is the tough one. You will want all this feeling-nonsense and emotional pain to be over MUCH more quickly than it actually will be. So please take it easy. Take things one day at a time. Be gentle with yourself.

Take it from me, Reader. Life is a series of learning experiences. Every horrible thing that flies in your face is an opportunity to grow and become better. I believe we are here to learn to be kinder, gentler, and more empathetic beings. So, keep looking ahead and put one foot in front of the other.

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