Fifteen years ago, my husband went out for a Coke and never came home again. That is how I learned I was about to become the recipient of an unwanted divorce.
During life, we all experience bumps in the road. Some are predictable, some come out of the blue. Few of life’s bumps are as painful as an unwanted divorce. If you are facing or recovering from one you know the indescribable pain and devastation it brings, firsthand.
Your emotions run away with you. You go from being angry to feeling guilt and thinking you’ll do anything to put your marriage back together.
An unwanted divorce causes shame, social isolation and feelings of rejection not only by your spouse but also by friends and family. Losing a husband to divorce doesn’t garner the same empathy as losing him to death. The pain is the same, the support you receive is hugely different.
That’s why navigating an unwanted divorce is vastly different from a divorce you wanted. Unless you can afford a good therapist to help you work through the pain and loss you experience, you do your healing on your own.
And, very few understand the enormous task of “moving on” after the man you love walks away.
I do, I completely understand. In fact, it’s why I chose the career path I chose. In the hopes of letting other women know they aren’t alone in trying to heal from the loss of their marriage.
Below are 9 pieces of knowledge I learned while healing from an unwanted divorce.
1. Time doesn’t heal all wounds.
The old adage, “Time heals all wounds” is only partly true. Time does heal some wounds, but many wounds from an unwanted divorce will never heal. However, time does lessen the sting, and with time, the flood of memories and regrets will happen less and less often. You will one day appreciate the pain for what it was…an opportunity to learn and grow.
2. You are worthy of love.
When a spouse files for divorce, your self-esteem can take a beating. Some report feeling worthless or unlovable. Just because you are not able to make the relationship work with that one person doesn’t mean you can’t move on and find a new loving relationship. The divorce had much more to do with your spouse and his issues than you.
Don’t blame yourself. Self-criticism only makes it harder. This is the time to be good to yourself, not beat yourself up.
3. Cultivate positive friendships.
Evaluate current friendships and make new ones. Many recently divorced people are surprised to get a cold shoulder from some of their friends. If they were mutual friends with your ex-spouse, they may be more loyal to him or her than you.
It is likely, though; that you have some true friends you can reach out to at this time. Make new friends by asking someone to lunch or to a movie. You need friendships to support you through this transition.
4. Remember who you were before your marriage.
Remember the past. No, I don’t mean the past relationship. Reach back in your memory to your life before your marriage. What were your hopes and dreams? Were there places you wanted to go or new things you wanted to try?
This is a perfect time to take that writing workshop, art class, or do activities that interest you that you put off because you were married. Maybe you want to go back to school? You have to make a new life for yourself and it should be self-nurturing.
5. Take time to grieve.
Give yourself time to grieve. Look through old picture albums of the marriage, play “your” songs. Have a good cry. Cry deeply and then let it go. Give yourself a time limit on your grief, and then make a pact with yourself that you won’t let yourself dwell on the negative feelings any longer. Having a daily pity party is good in the beginning of your adjustment period, but you need to set a limit on it.
6. Get re–acquainted with yourself.
Get to know yourself again. When you’ve been part of a couple, chances are many of the choices made in the relationship, such as where to eat or where to go on vacation, were not your choices but your spouses.
You may not know what you really like anymore. Try new things and learn what makes YOU happy. You now have the freedom to explore yourself and you may be surprised to learn that you are a very interesting person!
7. Explore all of your options.
Use this experience as a catalyst for your new life. Sometimes a traumatic experience can serve to move us out of a rut we’ve been in with our lives. Have you been stuck in a career that didn’t fulfill you? Now may be the perfect time to look at other options. Start your life over beginning today, and realize all the opportunities that are available to you.
8. Celebrate being single.
Celebrate living single. There are many “die-hard singles” who really enjoy living alone. Even if they are in a relationship, there are advantages to being single. You don’t have to share a bathroom. You can stay up late without disturbing anyone. You can cook what you like to eat.
You can spend your money the way YOU want to.
You can’t change being single now, even if you didn’t plan it, but find ways to enjoy it. Some solitude can be good for all of us as a time of reflection and reorganization of priorities.
9. Take your time when it comes to new relationships.
Be careful to take some time to get yourself grounded again before trying to tackle another relationship. Rebound relationships are never good for either person involved. Therapists generally recommend waiting at least a year to give yourself time to work through the issues associated with divorce before getting involved with someone else.
I won’t lie to you, healing after an unwanted divorce isn’t an easy or overnight process. Especially if you were deeply invested in your relationship with your husband. I cried at least once a day, every day for two years. After a few months, I got to the point that I wasn’t crying all day long and, in between my crying I was able to be productive and happy the rest of the day.
Healing comes slowly and, it sneaks up on you. One day, out of the blue, you’ll stop what you’re doing and think, “I’ve not thought about him in days.” Your new normal will naturally push any thoughts of him or your marriage to the back burner.