I help divorced women improve their lives through telecourses and one-on-one coaching and workshops.
How to Heal After Your Divorce
In order to move past a difficult divorce, you have to focus on letting go of the past and re-discovering yourself. This article will help you find ways to feel comfortable being alone, stop dwelling on the past, and rise above the pain of divorce by experiencing and overcoming negative emotions through self-reflection.
These are the top 10 reasons women stay miserable and depressed after a divorce and how to make sure you avoid every one of these common, yet devastating mistakes.
Top 10 Mistakes Women Make After a Divorce
- Feeling like a failure.
- Not feeling your feelings.
- Seeking revenge.
- Thinking that being alone means being lonely.
- Toughing it out.
- Dwelling on what you should have done.
- Needing to be right.
- Keeping the bed.
- Dating the same man again.
- Making choices so the kids like you.
Mistake #1: Feeling Like a Failure
Are you going through the motions of your life with a permanent tattoo on your forehead? No matter what you do or what the circumstances of your divorce were, does it feel like the word "failure" is emblazoned in your mind like a tattoo? And the crazy thing is—it seems everyone can see it! You feel doomed to the fate of a woman whose life is ruined by a failed marriage.
Just like me, you've probably walked into a room of women who you thought were your friends, and suddenly that "failure" tattoo begins flashing like a neon sign. No one knows what to say and everyone is so pathetic with their "well wishes." I don't know about you, but when it happened to me, I just wanted to run home and hide. I was so uncomfortable.
But the truth is that I was uncomfortable because I felt like a failure. And the feelings were so transparent that this belief created the "I'm a failure" energy I carried around with me. Everyone I came into contact with felt it. I was a failure because I believed I was.
I created the failure tattoo and only I could remove it.
How to Stop Feeling Like a Failure
I made a choice to feel like a failure. What other options were available to me?
- I could choose to feel "free at last."
- I could choose to feel "excited about the possibility of a whole new life."
- I could choose to feel "sexy and lovable just the way I am."
Let's be honest here.
Who you are and what you think about yourself are in your control. So if you refuse to allow the failure thought to show up, what other thoughts would you have? "You are NOT a failure."
I know this might blow your excuse for hiding out and licking your wounds, but I've known lots of women who have gone through a divorce and are now happier and healthier than they ever dreamed possible.
How long are you going to use the "failure" excuse to stay miserable? The "failure" excuse is not serving you or helping you move on with your life. In fact, it's the one thing that's holding your back.
It’s important for you to recognize that it takes two to tango—and it takes two to make a marriage work. Don’t feel like a failure because, chances are, mistakes were made on both ends of the marriage. Sometimes it’s easy to see yourself as just a wife, but you are so much more than that. After your divorce comes the time to reshape your future, goals, and identity.
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All you have to do is accept this simple fact: your marriage failed, not you. That's it. That does not mean that you are a failure. (You make that choice.)
Mistake #2: Not Feeling Your Feelings
You go through an emotional roller coaster after a divorce, and one of the stages of that ride is numbness. It’s difficult to constantly suffer from the discomfort of divorce all the time, so it’s common to rely on some substance to dull the pain.
I know, I know. You feel miserable. And who wants to feel like that all the time? If you can buy some happy pills and feel better, then it's worth it.
Or, if you can just get through the day, then you can get home to that glass of wine... or two... or three... or more.
How can it be bad if it gets you through the day?
I'm being completely honest here, I could go through a whole bottle of wine every night. And if I timed it just right, I could sleep until 5:30 or 6:30 a.m. without waking up. But after a few months of this I still felt miserable, and the only thing that really changed was that my wine got cheaper and left me with worse hangovers.
Whether you use an anti-depressant, sleeping pills, or alcohol, the end result is that you numb out the one thing that can set you on the road to healing yourself.
You can't heal what you can't feel. Doubt me? Just ask any happily divorced woman if her healing came as a result of drugs or alcohol.
Pushing Past the Numbness
To go inside and be with your pain requires being with your "naked" self. The part of you that is not numb, the part of you that was happy, carefree, and excited. She's the woman you were before you got married, when you were full of hope, possibility, and joy.
To get back to who you were, you have to release your desire to be numb. You must be willing to feel sad. Give your miserable self a chance to speak up. And listen to the wisdom of your miserable self. Your miserable self will become your inner teacher.
Your power to heal lies in your vulnerability and your willingness to be with the pain.
Mistake #3: Seeking Revenge
Divorce is one life event where you may come face to face with your diabolical, evil self. Your fear and struggle are so big that you get stuck in your endless thought stream:
- "How could he do what he did?"
- "Somehow, someway, I'll get even."
- "How could I be so stupid?"
- "How can I make it on my own?"
Focusing on these questions and this pain is a surefire way to keep you tied to the past.
I've heard many wicked revenge stories of scorned wives inflicting terror on their soon-to-be-ex-husbands, from cleaning the toilet with his toothbrush, to flicking ashes in his coffee, to using super glue to attach his "unfaithful organ" to his leg. (This last one required surgery to fix!)
Seeking revenge only prolongs the pain of divorce, when you should be focusing on moving on instead. Revenge-seeking tactics extend the connection you and your ex have, when your post-divorce phase should be centered on self-discovery and recovery.
There is only one way out of this crazy mess: letting go. The sweetest revenge you will ever have is to get through the divorce quickly and move on to a happy life. It is impossible to move on if you stay stuck in blame and anger.
Blaming someone or something will hold you in the misery of a broken marriage forever. Let go of him and the life you once had. Do whatever it takes. Your relationship with yourself holds the magic key to your new life.
Mistake #4: Thinking That Being Alone Means Being Lonely
I've talked to hundreds of divorced women and, for many, their biggest heartache is that feeling of emptiness. It's more than just being alone. It's a disorienting, empty feeling to be single and without a partner after years of marriage.
You feel totally and utterly alone—but you're not.
You still are with yourself. And you are the only person who will be there for you no matter what. Before the marriage, during the marriage, and after the divorce. The quality of your life is completely dependent on the quality of your relationship with yourself.
Have you taken a look at yourself lately?
I know that right after my divorce, I was completely avoiding myself. I had 20 extra pounds that I'd carried around for the last 15 years. I hated my shape. The clothes I liked didn't fit anymore. I spent no time meditating or going inside just to be still and present to my highest self.
It never occurred to me that someone I once loved was right here inside of me. So, I consciously made a dramatic change in being with myself. I got up early in the morning before everyone else and sat with myself. I would meditate, read or journal. That 30 minutes I gave myself was an unbelievable gift. It gave me the space to turn off the noisy dialogue in my head and just be present with me.
The practice of finding time to be with yourself is your spiritual wake-up call. You get an opportunity to rediscover who you are and create the life you want.
Mistake #5: Toughing It Out
"You can get through this. If you can get through each day, then you're bound to start feeling better." Or at least that's what you tell yourself.
If you are anything like me, you may be isolating yourself, reading, or listening to personal growth books. I just kept hoping those positive feelings would stick, but they never did. By refusing to get some kind of help, you prolong your misery, and you don't get the support you need.
I really needed to move on. I wanted to get out of the quicksand of misery and feel capable of doing stuff and feeling something good again.
The kind of help that I eventually found was a coach. I was done with therapists because I just didn't want to talk about it anymore. I wanted action steps and accountability.
Only you can decide what kind of help is best for you, but getting help is important. You need someone else to help wake you up.
Not only did I get a chance to wake up for 60–90 minutes a week, but I got to check in on the drama of my situation. I got to figure out the parts of my story that were fact and the parts that were fiction.
Thoughts can create so much doubt and worry that fiction becomes fact and we get trapped into believing things that aren't even true.
Mistake #6: Dwelling on What You Should Have Done
Have you noticed how often you think about your present circumstance? How much time do you spend thinking about what you could, would, or should have said to your ex?
These thoughts and dialogues run non-stop if you are anything like me. It's the endless loop of fear, regret, and heartache. I was continually playing this bad movie over and over in my mind, rewriting the dialogue slightly each time.
But playing the movie was nothing like the pity party I organized and attended day after day. This was a hard pill for me to swallow.
Yes, it's hard to accept, but you have to.
Until you choose to accept your life exactly as it is, you are going to bake your misery recipe every day. If it's revenge you want, then choose to become the happiest woman on the planet. Not only will you show him, but you'll show yourself. Being happy is a lot sweeter than all those spiteful dialogues you run in your head.
Control what you say to yourself and you control your life.
Mistake #7: Needing to Be Right
When you're obsessed with being right, you are living in the past and hanging on to what was.
You get a psychic payoff by making him wrong. But if you remain unwilling to see your marriage differently, you give your power to him. Your rigid righteousness enables him to control your emotions and your joy.
Is that what you really want? To be forever controlled by your ex-husband?
That's the bittersweet reality of righteousness in a relationship. As long as you hold on to being right, you will also limit your access to all of your positive emotions.
That was my giant "ah-ha!" moment.
I was so frustrated because happy things would happen to me, but I wouldn't feel them like everyone else—it was shallow and temporary. Holding on to my righteousness just didn't allow happiness and joy to reach my soul.
When you are willing to own the part you played in your failed marriage, you take back your power.
Mistake #8: Keeping the Bed
When the divorce dust settles and you divide the spoils of your life together and move forward to your separate life, let go of as much stuff as you can. Especially the bed.
Stuff has energy and emotional connections to you and your heart, and it is liberating to release those connections as soon as you possibly can.
I know, I know. Some of the things you have acquired represent a significant investment, both financial and emotional. This process of releasing stuff is often the most difficult.
Start with the bed.
Letting Go of the Bed Helps You Let Go of the Marriage
With feelings of anger, blame, resentment and failure entangled in a divorce, the bed becomes a symbol of your heartache that is easy to release.
If you are like me, I hold on to everything. Not only am I a pack rat, but I hold on to clothes, shoes, papers, and dishes with a stubbornness that is stronger than the muscle man grip on the Strongest Man in the World competition.
But, when it came to the bed... I wanted it gone as quickly as possible. I would have called Salvation Army to come pick it up, but my ex took it and I was free of that significant connection to him.
The bed was easy.
For months, I slept on a small trundle bed that I moved from the guest room before I purchased a bed of my own. But it was easy to let go and get it out of my life.
My letting go stopped there for a long time. When I finally began to let go of more, I began with my closet.
I worked with a closet organizer. I would call her a closet therapist rather than an organizer because the process of cleaning and clearing my closet was so frightening. I was stressed out for days before she came.
I got rid of 70% of the clothes and shoes in my closet. 70%! This was so incredibly liberating. And the momentum to get rid of stuff was initiated at last.
I suddenly had room in my life for new stuff.
When you let go, you get in touch with who you are underneath all the stuff. And that woman is the woman who will help you move forward to a meaningful life.
Mistake #9: Dating the Same Man Again
Yes. That's what happens.
He has a different body and a different name. But if you spend any time with him, his "dating" mask will fall away, and you will discover you are in a relationship with the same man you just divorced!
How does this happen? It's a phenomenon of human nature.
Until and unless you change, you will attract the same life lessons packaged up in new lovers, friends, or business partners.
You have, no doubt, been cautioned about getting into a relationship on the rebound. The reason that advice is so profound is that you have not invested time in doing your spiritual work. You must face the lesson your divorce taught you.
Until you understand and accept the part of you that attracts a man like your ex, you will continue to do so over and over.
It is our soul's calling to evolve and come to the altar with ourselves. The relationship you create with yourself and your truth is what determines your magnetic attraction.
If you are anything like me, you are finished with guys like your ex! I wanted something completely different this next time around. To do that, you must take the time you need to have a quality relationship with yourself first.
Mistake #10: Making Choices So the Kids Like You
Kids go through periods where they dislike you. And divorce can be one of those times. Your children will learn to live and grow in a broken home, and it's up to you to shape what that means for them.
If they look at their family life as ruined, chances are that's how you look at it. Your fear and apprehension create the reality in your home.
You can't sugar coat this feeling in a family. You can't push it away and pretend it's not there. And you can't possibly buy enough treats, toys, or electronics to make everyone feel better.
Whether they like you or not depends on whether you like you.
Your children can live and grow in a healthy family with one parent who honors and respects herself. When you live your life in accordance with your truth and when you speak your truth openly, that's what your children learn.
They learn the value of integrity and acceptance, not the misery of blame and fear.
If they grow up in a family where the love between the parents is sketchy, resentful, or manipulative, they take that into their relationships.
Make it your first objective to speak your truth to your children whether you are disciplining them or rewarding them. Stay true to yourself and you will have children who understand how to communicate and how to give voice to their feelings.
Almost one year after the day my ex moved out, I made an accidental discovery that changed everything for me.
There were a lot of sleepless nights, numbed-out weekends, and trying all kinds of support and self-help programs, some that are even embarrassing to admit, but I finally figured it all out. I found a deep, spiritual process that I pursued for several months.
Life After Divorce
I am now happier than I could have ever imagined. I have more energy and enthusiasm for everything I do and everyone I meet. I have better health and physical fitness than when I was in my twenties. And my kids accept me for who I am because they see I am someone besides their mom or a business woman.
It has been a rewarding experience. I no longer live with that sad, insecure, guilty feeling of being such a failure. I have the life and health that makes me feel good about myself. And there is no way that I will ever attract a man like my ex into my life again.
It is truly a blessing to share what I have learned with so many women who are treading water with no direction or land in sight.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.