Will I ever recover from my divorce?!
It might seem when you are in the throes of your divorce that you will never be able to be happy or to feel normal again. You have been weighed down with the misery and complication of it all for so long, it seems that you can’t remember what it even felt like to be carefree. You might have been managing the children’s unhappiness and anger, at the same time. You might have had to defend yourself to parents or in-laws, adjust your working life, or even start a new working life.
Divorce emotions: Going through the 5 stages of grief
Getting divorced, especially if you were not the one who initiated the split can be like bereavement. The five stages of grief which have been found in bereavements, can and often do apply to a break up. Although they can be difficult, if you remember that they are normal, then you it might help you feel less distressed.
Shock and denial: This comes immediately following the break up and can last days, weeks and in some rare cases, even longer.
Anger: Here you might feel anger about being left alone, that more could have been done or just have a general sense of anger about the loss of their marriage.
Bargaining: You promise to give up something if your marriage does not fall apart. When bargaining does not work, you may blame yourself for not doing more and start thinking that the marriage could have been saved.
Grief: This one can last for a while, from the initial phase of all consuming unhappiness, to a general sense of sadness, lack of energy and hopelessness.
Although this stage is common, if you find yourself unable to perform normal everyday functions you should seek help from your GP – counselling and sometimes medication can help.
Acceptance: At some point you will reach a sense of acceptance about what has occurred. This doesn’t mean you have stopped caring about what happened. You might return to earlier feelings of depression or anger from time to time but acceptance is about dealing with the emotions associated with the divorce so you can move on with your life.
Signs of recovery from your divorce
- The first time you laugh
- The first day you do not cry
- The first time you can do something you used to enjoy doing together, and not feel terrible. E.g.: a TV programme
- You will stop calling your ex’s new partner ‘that woman’ or ‘that man’ and find yourself able to actually use their name!
- The first time you look forward to something
- Going on holiday without your ex
- Looking forward to social occasions and even sometimes enjoying‘flying solo.’
- The first time you don’t think about your ex for a whole day
As a new routine is established and you move forward with your life you will start to enjoy all the different aspects of your life again. And as you start to laugh again the children will relax and you will all find new ways to enjoy yourselves and to accommodate the new circumstances that you find yourselves in.
A few stories about recovering from divorce from those who have come out of the other side:
When I first went to see a divorce counsellor in the early days of my divorce. I asked her how long I would feel like this? And she said two years. Two years! I was shocked that it could take that long and worried that I would feel this awful for so long. But what actually happened was that I felt a lot less awful fairly quickly and then slowly over the next few months improved. But ultimately, she was right. I was walking down the street about two years after we’d met and smiling because it was a lovely day and I felt great. And I realised that only now was I fully back to my old self. I’d felt fine before then, but maybe a little diminished. Still prone to ups and downs. But I did eventually reach a point where I felt at peace with my marriage ending. I was still a bit sad about things and ashamed about others, but in the same way as you remember something that happened to you in the past, rather than something you’re in the midst of. It’s wonderful when you get there! Lucy, 37
I still haven’t recovered yet. It’s been fifteen years… JOKE! But actually it did take longer than I expected. However, the really shit patch only lasted a few months, thank god. Robin, 45
It’s a bit like giving up smoking. You get this major sense of freedom when you realise that you’re no longer fixating about not being able to smoke. Similarly, the relief at not committing most of your waking thoughts to your divorce is wonderfully liberating. I wish it on everyone who is getting divorced! Will, 49
Lucy Davis is a co-founder of divorceclub.com and a TV Producer. She divorced 7 years ago. She is a passionate advocate for exploring the potential for change and creativity that can result from the trauma of divorce.