Recent Divorce? Grieving? 6 Tips to Survive

Recent divorce or major break up? Rough sledding, isn’t it? Here’s my promise: the grieving and depression will eventually end. There’s hope! To get past it, you must follow the six no-kidding, don’t-mess-around tips below. It’s survival.

Keep Going written on the roadIn the meantime, check out this episode in my own life. I think you’ll identify.

I’m in the shower getting ready for work. At this point, I’d been divorced for 2 months. I’m a scattered train wreck. My mind is whirling with no organization whatsoever. I can’t remember if I conditioned my hair, or not. So, I do it again. All the while, stories are flying out of my brain in all directions: I miss him. No, I miss the hole without him. I’m so alone. Remember when he walked out on me at PF Chang’s? I should have seen it then. I’m a fool for not acting sooner. What’s wrong with me? He’ll start dating immediately. Oh god, I don’t want to be single and go through dating. I want to stop feeling like this. How do I start over at my age?” I close my eyes and cry. Then I remember I have to catch the ferry. What to wear? Oh, who the hell cares? I throw on some jeans, a black stretchy blouse, a scarf, high black boots. My watch. Earrings. My uniform.

I scurry out the door with high anxiety and a lump the size of a football in my throat. All I really want to do is turn around and go back to bed. I know I can’t do that – I’ll just be lonelier. This sucks.

Sound familiar? Divorce, or a major breakup, does that to you. It beats you up. It makes you doubt the very fiber of who you are. It isolates you. It scares you. It makes you cry. It makes you scatterbrained. Let’s face it, it’s not something you would intentionally choose to do with your life. At some point, the grief and depression after divorce literally sucks the life right out of you.

The good news? That wretched depression and grief will not last forever.For the lucky ones, it’s over in a matter of weeks. For most of us, unfortunately, it hangs on for much longer.  You’ll get through it, well, when you’re through it. There’s no yippee-skippee formula, and the timing is different for everyone. It all depends on the help you’re willing to get and the work you’re willing to do.

The bigger question is how do you continue to step out in the world and live your life when this yoke of unhappiness continues to hang so heavily around your neck?

First, remember this: You’re not alone. You’re part of an exclusive group of millions of men and women who’ve gone through divorce break ups before you and come out the other side, intact and thriving – and truly, much happier in the long run. It will happen to you! However, you’re right: at this moment, today, there is a big fat ugly gaping hole in your life. You will eventually fill it.

For now, however, know you’ll be ok. Really, you will. Take baby steps, stay calm, treat yourself tenderly and follow the instructions below.

  1. For now, protect yourself, first.  It’s called ESC: Extreme Self Care.Like the oxygen mask on the airplane – put yours on first before you even consider taking care of anyone else. If you feel like a turtle wanting to pull into your shell, honor that. It’s ok to be quiet. Your heart has been dealt a huge blow. Your brain is recalculating your world. Your fuse to be patient and your ability to concentrate is limited. So is your capacity for small talk. Factor that into your life. Yes, try to go to new events when invited, but if you’re not ready for a full evening of reveling, leave early. It won’t be this way forever. Rule #1: Protect your healing self at all costs.
  2. Narrow your friends to those who support you and lift you up. Reality check: some friends won’t want to listen to you. They’ll tell you to get a grip and move on. While they may be right at a certain point, it’s not now. Ask yourself: Who makes me happy and comfortable? Hang out with him or her. Let sad friends go. You’ll circle back to them later.
  3. When you’re ready, join new groups that have nothing to do with your old life, old love. A new spiritual group? A car club? A lecture series? (PS. Do NOT be coerced by friends to go to singles parties. Want more depression? Singles groups will flatten you! Later, maybe. Not now!)
  4. Don’t do drama. This is a tough one. It’s addictive to relive those stories with the pathetic hurt twist. Remember me in the shower? My monkey brain played that “walk-out-on-me-at-PFChangs” story ad nauseam. Big mistake! When you start to ruminate over past events (happens frequently in the shower), STOP and do whatever to get away from it. Sing loudly. Say a prayer. Recite the Gettysburg address. Anything! Don’t create more drama. You have enough of it already.
  5. Find escape from your sadness somewhere. Where would that be? At someone’s home where you can drop in and feel “safe”; in nature; taking a road trip in your car; reading spiritual books (email me for a list); listening to inspirational messages; go to the movies; visit the library; immerse yourself in a new TV series you did NOT watch with him/her; ride your bike. Find a back-up place or activity to escape for awhile.
  6. This is essential: Get help with your healing. Hire a coach or therapist who specializes in divorce recovery (or minister or spiritual leader). You need this person! He/she is neutral, and you can tell them all the down and dirty stuff you can’t tell anyone else. You can count on him/her, no matter what. Private sessions can be by phone, skype, or in person. If you can’t afford a coach, join a group. Get into one that’s upbeat, makes you laugh, and guides you through the process. You’ll benefit by experiencing other people’s situations and solutions. Furthermore, a good coach – whether in a group or individually – can expedite your recovery exponentially as she/he guides you through healing.

Everything in life changes. Your grief and depression will dissipate, too. If you need drugs to help you function, see a meds management psychiatrist who knows the latest and greatest. Hang in there. Someone much greater that I once said, “This, too, shall pass.” It will.

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