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Coping With Divorce: Ultimate Guide to Getting Over a Separation

Divorce can affect every part of your life and make it difficult to function and stay productive. The important thing to know is that there is no “right way” of coping with divorce or separation. If you’re going through a divorce, the emotions and thoughts you’re having are probably very legitimate. Keep reading to discover common reactions to dealing with divorce and some helpful coping strategies to get you through. 

Dealing with divorce can bring up just about every emotion under the sun. Anger, sadness, fear, relief, guilt — these are all normal reactions to divorce. But the effects of divorce aren’t just emotional: a separation can also take a physical toll. 

Emotional response 

Going through a divorce can cause the same emotional response as the passing of a loved one. In fact, many people coping with divorce find that they move through the same stages of grief after the loss of a relationship as they do with the loss of a loved one. 

Seven Stages of Grief

While grief is different for each person, many people going through loss, breakup, divorce, or financial hardship find that their grief follows a general pattern, outlined below. This process is not linear, and it’s very normal to skip ahead or go back to a previous phase.

Stage 1: Shock and Disbelief

It can take a while to accept that your reality is dramatically, permanently changing. Each time you remember that you are going through a divorce, you may feel shock and/or disbelief. Eventually, the separation will become a normal part of your life, and allow space for other feelings to arise. 

Stage 2: Denial 

This phase includes any type of denial related to the event itself or your feelings about the event. It might not be a denial that you’re going through a divorce. Denial can also manifest as hiding the divorce from other people at first, or denying how deeply it is affecting you. 

Denial happens when you are not quite ready to be open to other people’s reactions or your own feelings. For some people, this stage lasts a long time, while for others it’s very short. 

Stage 3: Guilt

This stage may cause you to blame yourself for everything that is happening. 

Stage 4: Anger and Bargaining 

People coping with divorce often find that they are angry — angry with themselves, angry with their partner, angry with their situation. They may even become angry with people who have nothing to do with their separation.

With that anger comes bargaining. You may find yourself thinking about things you “should” have done differently. You may try to find ways to turn things around. 

Stage 5: Depression, Loneliness, Reflection 

Depression after divorce is very common. You may start to reflect on the past, analyze your situation, and think about your journey from the beginning to the end of the relationship. This is actually the first glimmer of acceptance. 

Stage 6: Reconstruction and Working Through

This is the phase when you begin to weave yourself back together and become a bit more functional. You can think logically about problems, find solutions, and work out how to live a normal life again. 

Stage 7: Acceptance

In the last stage, acceptance, you have more or less figured out how to cope with divorce in a way that makes sense for you. It doesn’t mean you no longer feel sad or that you’re over that person or the relationship. It does mean that you have started putting one foot in front of the other, and have begun to feel like yourself again. 

Physical responses

Divorce or separation can cause physical reactions in addition to all of the emotions it causes. It’s not uncommon to experience symptoms, such as shortness of breath, nausea, headaches, loss of appetite, fluctuations in weight, insomnia, and fatigue. Some people may experience panic attacks. 

Emotional and physical distress also affect the immune system, making you more vulnerable to getting sick. 

Before you address your emotional reactions, it’s important that you first take care of your body. Make sure you’re eating and drinking enough and getting 7–8 hours of sleep per night. Sleep deprivation takes a toll on your mental and emotional health and can exacerbate symptoms such as depression. Sleeping too much or too little can be a sign of depression.

How to cope with divorce

Coping with divorce is not easy, but there are things you can do to lighten your emotional load. Treat yourself as you would treat a best friend going through the same thing, and just remember that it does get easier over time. The following things may help you navigate how to deal with divorce.

  • Accept your emotions. Remember that the emotions you are feeling — anger, disappointment, sadness, frustration, grief — are all normal. Instead of trying to stifle them, feel them and recognize them as part of the process. It’s okay to feel bad. 
  • Don’t blame yourself. Feelings of guilt can be overwhelming. You may think that if you had done things differently you could have saved the relationship, but even if that were true, it doesn’t help to dwell on the past. Remember — guilt is par for the course when grieving, but that doesn’t mean you should accept all the blame.
  • Seek support. Whether it’s friends, family, a support group, or a therapist, it’s important to have people to lean on. Talking about what you’re feeling can help you accept your situation and move forward. Getting out and socializing might also help take your focus off the separation. A non-judgmental space will give you the freedom to express your feelings without reservation. 
  • Find an outlet. Start exploring different places and activities to find something you love. You can sign up for classes to learn something new, join a sports team, get into running, write in a journal, volunteer, or go out for coffee with friends. 
  • Believe it will get better. You will feel better eventually, but it may take a good bit of time. You won’t forget about the relationship or completely get over it, but it will get easier to manage as time passes. Your emotions will become less intense; the pain will begin to dissipate; and you’ll be able to move on.

How to take care of yourself  

When self-care is at the bottom of your list, take that as a sign that it should become your main focus. If you’re going through a divorce, it’s not uncommon to be so distracted by grief that eating, drinking, showering, exercising, and getting enough sleep are all neglected. 

It’s important to practice proper hygiene and self-care. Eat nutrient-dense foods, drink plenty of water, and engage in daily physical activity if you can. Being active during the day makes it easier to sleep at night. Exercise also triggers the release of endorphins in your body, which can help to lift your mood. 

It’s best to avoid using drugs and alcohol as coping mechanisms. They may bring short-term relief, but using substances will ultimately do more harm than good. Instead, turn to relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, yoga, meditation, mindfulness, or even dancing. 

Wrapping-up on going through a divorce

There is no set schedule when it comes to dealing with divorce. It’s completely up to you to set your own pace and follow your heart. Take the time you need to grieve, be kind to yourself, and don’t be afraid to seek help when you need it. Remember that as painful as it may feel now, you will get through this, and you will come out the other side stronger. 

https://www.wfm.noaa.gov/workplace/DivorceIssues_Handout_1.pdf

https://familydoctor.org/dealing-with-divorce/

https://www.apa.org/helpcenter/healthy-divorce

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