No one stands at the altar and expects to one day get divorced. So when it happens, it becomes a major life event for everyone involved. While the process of getting divorced and starting over is often filled with pain, anger and sadness, it’s important to focus on finding joy. If you’re new to this journey, take heart. Here are some things you can do right now to set the tone for a brighter tomorrow.
- Mourn. Mourning is an important step in the healing process. While you might not be mourning the loss of your relationship, chances are you’re mourning the death of a dream – a dream in which you grow up, fall in love, have children and live happily ever after. It’s important to come to terms with the fact that life did not end up as you thought it would. It’s okay to cry about that and to spend some time processing it.
- Own what you need to own. While placing blame on your ex might initially make you feel better, you’ll have to face the music at some point. Even if you didn’t deliver the final blow, there were hundreds of moments – both conscious and unconscious – that led to your divorce. Take ownership of your mistakes and apologize for them. If your ex chooses not to forgive you, it’s still important to recognize where you fell short and implement steps to correct that behavior in your next relationship.
- Seek counseling. There may be no better time to seek counseling than while going through a divorce. For starters, it’s important to have someone in your corner who doesn’t have a stake in the game and who is solely focused on your mental health. While it’s wonderful to have the support of loved ones, a counselor can provide a fresh and completely unbiased perspective on your situation while offering advice that might not be well received among family or friends.
- Focus on your children. In addition to staying on top of your own mental health, realize that your children need some tender loving care as well. Hug them, remind them how much you love them, listen to them, read to them, talk openly about your changing family, and encourage them to share their feelings. Children are intuitive and often feed off the emotions in the room. Whenever possible, try your best to remain positive.
- Discover the new you. Instead of immediately jumping into a new relationship, reserve some time for yourself. If you’re sharing custody with your ex, you’ll likely have more free time than you used to. Use that time to do something for yourself. Reconnect with friends, start a new hobby, exercise, cook a nice meal, read a book or work on the house project you’ve been neglecting. By investing in yourself now, you’ll have more strength to invest in others going forward.
Divorce can be painful, but with time, your life can and will begin again. It’s up to you to chart that course.
David Lowenstein, Ph.D. is a psychologist and the clinical director of Lowenstein & Associates, Inc. in Columbus, Ohio. In addition to providing therapeutic services to individuals and families, he offers training and consultation to numerous associations, schools and agencies around the country. Additionally, he is a frequent radio and TV guest and a resource and contributing writer for numerous newspapers and magazines nationwide. Contact Dr. David Lowenstein at 691 South Fifth Street, Columbus, Ohio, 43206, or call 614.443.6155 or 614.444.0432.