Dr. Joe Raphael
Getting on with life after divorce is about starting afresh with the little things and rediscovering yourself outside of your marriage. There will be good days and bad days. Take each one in stride, celebrating the good and dealing with the bad. Your life journey may have taken an unexpected and unpleasant turn, but joy and a full life can still be yours to be had.
6 Tips for Coping with Divorce
As you make your way into the world after your divorce, you may have to adjust. This doesn’t mean that the light has been sucked out of your world and joy has fled. It does mean that you’ll have to reconfigure things so that in your new normal you can continue to enjoy life, serving God and others. What can you do to help you cope with divorce and begin transitioning into the next season of your life? Here are six tips for coping with divorce.
1. Help your kids transition well
When you go on a journey, it helps to start well. While your marriage may have ended, there are ways to end it well and begin life after the marriage on the right footing. Where possible, this begins with you and your ex telling the kids what has happened, together.
Your children need to understand what is going on, to begin preparing them for some of the changes that will take place (such as living between two households) and reassure them of your love and ongoing support. Having a united front and a unified message at this early stage helps with the transition.No doubt, their parents getting divorced is plenty stressful, but what’s already stressful and painful can be made worse by orders of magnitude if both parents use the situation to secure their position over and against each other.
Co-parenting well begins at this early stage, and it requires effective communication. Whatever your differences, it is wise to set them aside to reduce the stress the kids go through, and when the kids are healthy, that reduces your levels of stress.
2. Use your support network
Your social network is valuable. It may be composed of family members, friends from work, church, or your soccer team. These are trustworthy people who have your back. Surround yourself with people who will cry with you as well as rejoice with you (Romans 12:15).
Having people who will badmouth your ex or have a pity party with you may feel good now, but for your healing and growth, it is wise to have people in your circle who will not only criticize but who will be a constructive influence and walk with you as you rebuild your life.
Finding your place within the community of God’s people again is another vital part of your continued growth. For a variety of reasons, it may be hard to return to or be part of a community of faith. However, your marriage may have ended, but you still are a spiritual being who needs nourishment and encouragement.
Leaning on your circle for help is not a sign of weakness – there are some things you would have relied on your spouse for, and it’s not wrong to either ask people to teach you the skills you need (like plumbing, cooking, household maintenance and such), or to ask them to stand in the gap now and then.
3. Get (or stay) fit
While there may be several reasons for getting in shape, one great reason is for your sense of well-being. You may be someone who isn’t into working out. During a period of change, you can rely on or pick up unhelpful coping mechanisms, or healthy ones that are good for you and the people around you.One of those positive and healthy ways of coping is to pick up or maintain a habit of getting exercise. Whether you like biking, hiking, skiing, dancing, running, Pilates, walking, swimming, or playing team sports, getting some exercise can do wonders for your body and mind.
Not only does getting your heart rate up improve your physical health, but the release of brain chemicals such as serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine can uplift your mood and make you feel good. Exercise is a great way to relieve stress and get rid of tension.
When you meet your exercise goals, that sense of accomplishment is great for rebuilding your self-confidence. Choose whatever exercise you like with your doctor’s permission.
4. Eat healthy, sleep well
Self-care can take various forms. In giving your body the rest and nutrition that it needs, you help your overall health, productivity, and ability to withstand sickness. To get good sleep, there are environmental factors to consider, such as whether your mind is stimulated before bed, the lighting in the room, and so on.
You must also consider your diet. There’s an interesting relationship between what you eat and good sleep. Getting good quality sleep can help you reduce your consumption of foods high in sugar, calories, and fat, which is incompatible with good health. If you’re not getting good sleep (such as if your sleep is interrupted and short) it can affect your ability to interact socially and process emotional information.
On the other hand, eating healthy food can help you get good sleep. Healthy eating promotes good sleep, and if you sleep well, that also helps you eat more healthy food. So, while it may be tempting to eat high carb, processed, sugary, or fatty foods to raise your spirits, it will affect your sleep.
If you are eating healthy but end up binge-watching late into the night, it doesn’t help. What you need is a good balance of healthy eating (whole grains, lean protein, fruit, vegetables, and dairy), and healthy sleeping habits like turning in early, not stimulating your brain before bed, etc.
5. Avoid unhealthy behaviorsNot all coping mechanisms are equal. Some behaviors may seem like a good idea at the time, but in the end, they lead to more heartache. When people are undergoing stress, short-term stress-relief behaviors seem attractive. Consuming media like TV shows and movies may seem like it relieves stress, but in the long run, it offers no real help.
Other behaviors supply a sense of escape, such as drinking, drugs, or risky sexual encounters, but there are serious health consequences that go with those, not to mention the possibility of getting seriously ill or unwanted pregnancy. In the long run, some coping behaviors produce more problems than they are worth.
6. Give yourself room to feel
Getting divorced can bring on a cascade of feelings, some powerful and at times contradictory. It’s okay for you to have feelings. You may go back and forth, sometimes wish things could be different between you and your ex, or you may feel guilt for what happened.
You might feel anger or frustration. It’s important to acknowledge and work through those emotions, staying realistic about what is and what can be. Having room to process these emotions is important. Your support network may be one such venue.
Adding a trained and licensed therapist to your support team to get professional help is another possibility. Within that professional setting, you can talk through your feelings, find diverse ways to think about your past relationship and develop the emotional and mental tools and skills to cope with your new normal.
“Enjoying the View”, Courtesy of Bruno van der Kraan, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Taking a Walk on the Beach”, Courtesy of Chema Photo, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Checking Email”, Courtesy of DocuSign, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Taking Notes”, Courtesy of Kate Hliznitsova, Unsplash.com, CC0 License