by David W. McGalliard, Ph.D.
The depth of emotional suffering of the newly separated or divorced is not generally realized. While society allows the bereaved years to adjust, the divorced are frequently expected to "pull themselves together" in a matter of weeks, unaided. Divorce results in the death of a marriage, but does not have the finality of a physical death. The vestiges of a former way of life remain to remind and overshadow a present existence. It's a hurt that goes deep and is accompanied by the doubt that it will ever heal.
Mediating your divorce normally is less destructive psychologically than going through a contested divorce. Even so, research indicates that it takes from two to five years for an individual to fully recover emotionally from a divorce.
Things to do for facilitating divorce recovery:
1. Don't expect yourself to feel happy, just because the divorce papers are signed. Emotional healing only really starts after the legal process is fully settled.
2. Take care of yourself physically. Exercise; attend to your diet.
3. Attend to your emotional needs. For help, develop your own support system -- a therapist specializing in divorce recovery, close friends, extended family, neighbors, etc.
4. Attend to your interpersonal needs. If you are not already in a new relationship, resist the temptation to jump into the first relationship that becomes available. These "rebound" relationships have a much higher probability of not working out.
5. Attend to your spiritual needs.
6. Attend to your financial needs.
7. "Keep your eyes on the prize"- keep your long-term goals primary; the well-being of your children, finances, your new life, etc.
8. Learn to live in the here and now - don't live in the memories of the past or the possible wreckage of the future.
9. Take the high road - you will feel better about yourself as a person and you will have a better life.
10. Don't express feelings/emotions-- anger, rage, guilt, anxiety, depression, love, hate, etc. directly to your former partner. Don't let them express feelings/emotions to you.
11. If you are the leavee, don't go to your former love partner - who is no the source of your pain - for comfort. If you are the leaver, don't try to comfort your former love partner.
12. While indulgence in revenge fantasies may feel good, you must never act on them. They will only come back to haunt you. Anger and hostility toward your former love partner whether through children, finances, attorneys, etc., will ultimately hurt you in the end.
13. Don't fool yourself with plans for reconciliation -- after the initial honeymoon period both parties will very likely return to their old ways of behaving.
14. Remember... it takes two to fight.
15. Develop your new life - now is the time to do the things you have always wanted to do. Become an expert at letting go of many aspects of your former life... over and over again.
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