Finding yourself after a breakup
When divorce or separation from a partner happens, the recovery time is different for each person. The recovery work of breakups especially divorce is difficult, complicated and long.
The unique grief of heartache is hard work. You feel like crap. You wonder if you’ll ever be happy again. You can’t sleep. Concentration is almost impossible. You sigh all the time. The thing is recovery from a breakup, especially after a long marriage, always takes longer than we want it to and longer than we think it will. And according to our friends and family, longer than it should. Am I right? People who care about us (who haven’t been through divorce) just want us to hurry up and feel better. I know that because a close family of mine is going through that.
The grief and recovery work you have to do especially after a divorce you didn’t want is complicated. You have to grieve the loss of not just your partner, but the loss of your dreams, the loss of what you thought your future would be, the loss of connections and traditions that went along with your marriage.
The thing is, your family and friends often just won’t get what divorce recovery involves. People who have no experience with a breakup after a long-term relationship say dumb things like, “Just get over it. You’re better off without him (or her.)” Or they give advice like, “You need to move on!” “You should be over this by now!” Or the worst: “You need to start dating.”
Now if the person who is advising you has never been in your shoes, where the person you have invested your life energy and time and love into for 10 or 20 or 33 years, they simply don’t get the devastation and loss you feel. They don’t understand your despair that your partner didn’t think you were worth being faithful to. Or that you weren’t fun enough or sexy enough or attentive enough or smart enough to stay married to. And not only that, by the time you find this out, they have usually already hooked up with someone who fits their new definition of who they want. But then again, our culture is unrealistic about divorce and recovery from it.
Another roadblock to recovery is that our culture doesn’t get it either. In the movies, you seldom see the children having to shuffle back and forth between Mom’s house and Dad’s house. Our screens seldom show the dysfunction that is the norm with many divorces or dealing with how complicated every single holiday or family function becomes. And come to think of it, there are no cultural rituals to get closure. There is acceptance, but as you’ve probably heard, there is no closure like there would eventually be if your partner had died. With divorce you have to keep seeing the body over and over again and your ex is usually beaming because he or she is finally with “the love of my life” while you’re still in the “fetal position” stage of grief.
If your spouse had just passed away, there wouldn’t be all the doubts about yourself or your worthiness or your faults. You wouldn’t have to realize that they wanted to be in someone else’s bed instead of yours. You wouldn’t keep second-guessing yourself and obsessing about what you could have done differently or what they are doing together now. On top of that, our culture doesn’t give us time off for divorce grieving or divorce recovery. We’re expected to be able to move on with no trouble at all. If your spouse dies, you get some time to deal with that. But its not so with divorce. No one’s dead even though it feels like you are, even though you’re still breathing.
The steps to recovery are the hardest stages you will ever get across. But once you have made up your mind to succeed and get through it, you will.
Divorce grief doesn’t mean you do a step of grief a day and cross it off the list and move on. No way…you need to take your time to properly get over this grief. This might take months. The steps you crossed off quickly immediately sneak back in when you hear a favorite song or watch a movie the two of you used to see together. The despair and rage and exhaustion you feel is hard enough, but then you start feeling incompetent that you’re not dealing with this more quickly. Just remember: divorce recovery means lamenting the loss of not just your partner, but the loss of your dreams, the loss of what you thought your future was going to look like, the loss of relationships and connections that went along with your marriage. Those are losses that change almost everything about your life.
After this stage of grief, you need to move on to the next stage of getting better or else we start condemning ourselves (and people who love us) to a life of heartache and self-pity, which isn’t a pretty picture and sadly, some people end up there.
To recover quickly, you need to do the following…
*Take care of yourself physically
*Move forward at your own pace. Be kind to yourself.
*Simplify your life as much as possible.
*Hit the pause button on non-essential obligations.
*Hit the pause button on relationships that are not helping you move forward.
*Avoid numbing yourself with drugs, alcohol etc.
*Find a few supportive people who will let you be yourself through the process.
*Set boundaries on your grieving.
*Give yourself at least a day off to cry your eyes out. Drink alcohol, eat fattening unhealthy foods…Trust me, it helps a great deal in this process.
*Go to church. It can provide the connection, encouragement and inspiration you need.
*Last but not the least, Decide you’re not going to let one dumb person destroy your life, and then get help to make that decision a reality.
I heard this last comment from a movie I watched during the week “If our partner is dumb enough to leave, we have to be smart enough to let them go.” Get help with that process.
To our happiness. Cheers.