Working Through a Divorce
Unfortunately, 41 percent of first marriages end in divorce in the United States. Second and third marriages fare even worse, with rates at 60 and 70 percent, respectively. That’s a lot of heartache. For families with children, divorce can be even more of a treacherous emotional path to navigate.
If you’re among these statistics, keep the faith: Despite the impact divorce may be having on you and your family, humans heal. That’s just what they do. Here are some important ways to move that healing along.
Recognize the Need to Grieve
A divorce is the ending to a very major part of everyone’s life, and as such, requires closure, time and counseling to heal. During this time, it is helpful to have a neutral third party involved. Someone in a leadership role from your place of worship, a social worker or a marriage and family therapist are great options. It should be mandated that everyone in the family talks about their feelings about the past, present and future, even if it’s at all uncertain.
Mourning takes some people longer than others, and people deal with the hurt, confusion and emptiness of divorce in different ways. Be aware of how each family member is coping and how the divorce has affected their daily living and mental health.
Focus on Healing the Kids
Most parents are able to get through anything better when they have children to focus on; it’s only natural for moms and dads to feel more determined to make things work because the kids are depending on them to do so. Have extra gatherings around the dinner table, plan for two game nights every week instead of one and take the time to address each child one-on-one.
If your children are open to it, talk candidly with them about their feelings. Even if they express anger, hatred or fear, listen to them, and let them know that their feelings are valid. If your child blames himself for the divorce, take the time to explain why it isn’t his fault. When possible, involve both parents in these conversations, together or separately, so that the children understand they remain important to and loved by both parents.
Surround Yourself with Supportive People
No matter how amicable or not the divorce is, it’s important that you have people to listen to your feelings. Make sure there’s someone in your immediate life who can visit when you need or meet for coffee when you feel overwhelmed. Although you know you will get through this, it’s so much easier when you have someone to lean on for advice, support and carrying on.
Seek Out New Friends and Organizations
Most especially, if you and your ex-spouse had the same group of friends, you’re going to have to get out there and make new ones. You don’t have to do it immediately or force yourself into uncomfortable social situations, but it’s very healthy for you to experience new people, places and activities.
If you’re not up to a serious social life at first, try volunteering. You could walk dogs at the local animal shelter or sit with elderly folks in a nursing home; donate food to your local hunger shelter or work the phone lines at a charity event. Getting out will do you good, but volunteering will also elevate your emotional state and self-confidence, so it’s a great way to break back into the social scene without having a lot of pressure on your shoulders.
Take Time to Pamper Yourself
Even if you’re busy, don’t have a lot of extra cash or feel like you don’t quite deserve a little pampering, it’s good medicine for anyone coming off a divorce. Once you’ve seen to the needs of your children, it’s time to feel a little enlightened with a deep-tissue massage, pedicure, round of golf or whatever happens to “take you away” from reality for a while. That hour or two of escape will help you recuperate in every other area of life, and that’s something you need to regain your strength and composure. Honestly: You do deserve some pampering.
Start Setting Goals for the Future as a Family
As your family heals, start discussing the future. Maybe you all need to make plans to attend someone’s little league games or want to spend a few days camping. Whatever you should be doing as a family on the mend, plan for it. Set specific goals for when you’re going to do positive, uplifting things, such as go bowling together, see movies or finally clear out the garage or basement. You’ll all get a good feeling of accomplishment, and the together time will be therapeutic. If everyone is ready, look even further into the future, like what you may all want to do next summer or for the next major holiday.
Consider Professional Help If Needed
Even if you do everything “right” and work hard as a family together and as individuals, it still may not be enough. Healing could be harder to come by for some than others, including yourself. If you or anyone else in the family hasn’t been able to resume a “normal” life, even after allowing time, think about spending time in the office of professional counselor.
They can help organize the chaotic thoughts that might be overrunning a child’s mind following the trauma of divorce, they can help adults cope with the changes and they can help everyone learn to overcome. There is no shame in taking this route. In fact, it’s a sign of strength and can empower you to realize the beauty in your new path in life. Life is too short to hold onto the pain of divorce indefinitely: Make a vow to yourself and as a family to do whatever it takes to get through this together.
Divorce can leave you feeling like your world has come crashing down, leaving you helpless to rebuild, even when you have children depending on you. The amazing thing about a family, though, is that together, they can do things they wouldn’t likely be able to do on their own. For them, for yourself, look for that light at the end of the tunnel; find the strength inside of yourself to pull it all back together and move on. With time and perseverance, you will shine on, and so will your family.
Waverly Hanson is the best-selling author of “How to Divorce-Proof Your Marriage” available on Amazon in print and Kindle formats. She has been assisting individuals and couples with relationship and life transformations for more than 25 years as a therapist, counselor, coach and consultant.
Visit her website at http://marriagecounselingonline.mywebpal.com