Healing from divorce is a process, and recovery usually involves a slow but steady slog as you pick yourself back up again and reestablish your life. It doesn’t happen overnight. There are, however, several things we would suggest you do that can help this process along.
Does healing from divorce require therapy?
Therapy may help many people overcome the divorce, but it isn’t always necessary. A well-qualified and competent therapist is certainly a valuable asset to have. But therapists are not miracle workers, and most people can heal from divorce without the need for professional help, usually in about the same amount of time. Self-taught therapy by way of reading books and educating yourself on the principles of cognitive psychology can often be just as beneficial as the traditional kind. That said, the following people might want to consider seeking professional mental help:
- If you are well-off financially and would have no problem affording it, then a competent therapist would surely be a benefit.
- If you’re the type of person who needs to talk to someone when frustrated, and your other persons of support either don’t have the time or the willingness to listen to you voice your problems, then a therapist can help.
- If after 6 months you find yourself stuck in the same negative pattern and aren’t seeming to make any strides to recovery.
- If you have a pre-existing psychological disorder, such as borderline personality disorder, depression, or if you are having suicidal thoughts.
Before you hire someone, make sure you read our online information on Choosing a Therapist.
Healing from divorce: Steps you can take to aid the recovery process
Healing from a divorce involves finding ways to overcome the bruises it caused to your self-identity and sense of purpose in life. Here are some ideas that will help you recover in both of these aspects:
1) Divorce healing through creative outlets
Try to establish new hobbies or leisure time activities. Not only can such pursuits provide an outlet for stress, but they help you establish a new identity that is separate and apart from your spouse. Whether it’s taking up art classes or starting on a book you’ve always wanted to write, any type of creative pursuit will help you recover from divorce. With the creation of the Internet, it’s also quite easy to show off these creative pursuits to others, simply by posting a poem online, setting up a gallery for your photography, or taking a picture of that wonderful art you created. The process of pouring your effort into creating something unique and then potentially getting positive feedback from others is extremely therapeutic. In fact, some psychologists believe that the decline in things we make and create ourselves may be one of the factors fueling depression rates, since our brains are wired to want to build or create things with our bare hands. So finding a creative hobby to indulge in can go a long way towards helping you heal from the trauma of divorce
2) The power of exercise in healing from divorce
As elementary as the advice to “get exercise” might seem, it is given for a very important reason, and most laypeople don’t realize just how valuable physical exercise is, for both mind and spirit. First, physical exercise causes the release of endorphins and helpful proteins in the brain. In other words, it’s nature’s built-in antidepressant, without all the downsides of pills. The psychological benefits from exercise are one of the most established phenomenons of neuroscience, and any strenuous activity where you break a sweat and get your heart pumping – whether it be running, swimming, or cycling for at least 15 minutes at a time – causes biochemical changes in the brain that can last for as long as 24 hours afterwards. It won’t erase painful thoughts, but it’s every bit as good as medication in changing your brain’s chemistry and staving off depression.
The second benefit of exercise is that you’ll likely find you feel better about yourself afterwards and have more self-confidence – two things that are especially important in the process of healing after divorce. So find activities that you enjoy, and then get on a schedule so that every day or every other day you’re getting this exercise in.
“I never had time to exorcise while we were married. I guess I really never made the time to exorcise. I started taking early morning walks after my wife’s divorce announcement because I was so uncomfortable and sad being in the house with her, knowing it was over between us. I found that when I returned from my morning walk I felt better, so I started walking in the evening, too.” – A divorce dad (Freiman, 2005, p.13)
3) Better yourself
Finding ways to better yourself is a surefire way to recover self-esteem and heal from any type of trauma. Go back to college or start taking online courses. Start studying a second language. Read up on a subject to develop some new skills. Even something so simple as getting yourself a makeover can help. It doesn’t matter what outlet you choose or whether the improvement is big or small, the very act of setting ideals and working to better yourself in whatever areas you choose can provide a renewed sense of purpose in your life. It also provides an outlet where you can focus all of this negative energy and turn it into something constructive in your life.
- Set (realistic) goals
Just as you do on New Years, pick several aspects of your life you’d like to improve on in the post-divorce years or things you want to accomplish, and then set out to do them. Divorce is a juncture that redefines your life; taking a little bit of time to reflect on where you want to see things go from here and outlining a plan for how to accomplish this will give you something to focus on when times get difficult.
- Stop blaming yourself
As important as it is to stop blaming your partner, it’s even more important to stop blaming yourself. It doesn’t do the slightest bit of good to sit here and beat yourself up over could have, should have, would have’s.
- Make your amends
At some point, we would suggest apologizing to the other parent for any hurt caused, especially if your indiscretions played a role in causing the divorce. It doesn’t have to be right away – usually the emotions are too raw. But you should at some point. Not only can this help to bury the hatchet so to speak, but it can matter as far as your kids are concerned, too. One child, who suspected her father’s affair is what led to the divorce, asks many years later: “Why doesn’t he say that a long time ago he hurt my mom a lot and that he’s sorry?” (Wallerstein, Lewis & Blakeslee, 2000, p. 286)
Of course, in divorce there’s always a lot of hurt and blame to go around, regardless of who is more at fault. So at some time in the future once things have settled down, it can help bury the hatchet simply to say that you’re sorry for whatever hurt you caused each other.