In Part I of this series, I equated the common emotions of a divorce to much like that of a roller coaster that you can’t wait to get off. If you missed that post, I encourage you to read The Emotions of Divorce Part I. In that article, I covered tips on navigating the sadness, anger, and anxiety that are often times the first emotions to come when you learn you will be going through a divorce.
You’ll notice that I’m not writing about the “stages of grief” here. During my divorce, I found myself analyzing what “stage” I was in more than analyzing the emotions I was feeling in hopes that I was moving quickly through the process. I just wanted to be on the “other side” of it. That held me back more than it helped. As a result, this post is going to cover some of the common, yet unexpected emotions of divorce that may come a little later in the process without detailing the “when” and “how”. My hope is that you’ll not be taken off guard or unprepared when (or if) these emotions come to you.
General thoughts about the common emotions of divorce
- Although sadness, anger, and anxiety often come first in the divorce process, don’t be surprised if you experience a wide range of emotions. Some of the emotions may even take you by surprise. Although there are common emotions of divorce, not everyone will experience the same set of emotions in the same order. So, understand your journey may be unique, and don’t assume you’re “wrong” in how you’re feeling and when you’re feeling it.
- When I went through my divorce, there was a point when I became “stuck” in my healing. I thought I was going through the “stages of grief” textbook style, and I couldn’t understand why all of a sudden I felt “stuck.” I had an amazing counselor who helped me realize that I had never allowed myself to really get angry with my ex-husband. I had moments of it, but I never really had that intense anger that many talk about. In reality, I didn’t want to be angry with him (and, to be honest, I still don’t…it’s just not in me, and I don’t fight that about myself anymore…nor do I see it as a weakness any longer). But, everyone I knew who had gone through a divorce talked about the anger they felt, so I thought I wasn’t being “normal.” My counselor led me through understanding that I was going to deal with things differently than others and in a different order. While others were angry, I had other emotions I experienced. So, if you find yourself moving through a stage in a different way than others you know, it’s ok. You’re not necessarily going to process your experiences in exactly the same way as others do.
Common Emotions of Divorce- Part II
- Realize that all of the emotions you are experiencing causes both physical and emotional exhaustion.
- There are so many components to going through a divorce that often lead you feeling drained. There’s just so much to think about and plan, leading to interruptions in sleep patterns. For some, you just can’t sleep because your mind won’t turn off. For others, sleep is a way to escape what’s going on. If sleep is truly a problem for you, consider seeing a doctor who can help you with either natural sleep solutions or medication to help you.
- Avoid caffeine or naps later in the day. I know you may feel like you need a “pick me up” later in the day because you haven’t slept the night before. However, that will only keep you in a cycle of sleep deprivation.
- Take care of yourself as much as you can. Exercise…find a time to get out and walk, jog, or join a fitness class. Working the emotions out physically can often alleviate things enough to help you sleep. Focus on eating right and taking vitamins. Your physical body may be taking a toll that you don’t even realize. So, trying to do small good things for it can help with those feelings of fatigue.
- Your exhaustion may also bring about moments where it is hard for you to concentrate mentally. I also began to realize that my emotional lows came more frequently and more intensely when I was overwhelmed or exhausted. Give yourself a break and just realize that these are moments…it won’t last forever.
- There’s just no way around it. There are going to be times you are lonely during and after your divorce. My #1 tip is to balance it: don’t avoid it because you have to allow yourself to deal with it, but don’t allow yourself to spend too much time there, either.
- Find a group of friends (preferably the same sex as you…especially in the beginning) to spend time with. Pre-plan activities for the times when you know your kids will be with the other parent so you don’t spend all weekend thinking too much. You may find that doing things with couples is difficult. If so, seek out what single parent groups exist in your area, and connect with them.
- Avoid jumping into another relationship to avoid the loneliness. That’s the worst thing you can do! It will sidetrack your healing and open you up to hurt that will deepen the scars and insecurities you may already feel about yourself. There will be time for future relationships, but during and immediately after a divorce is not one of them.
- Seek new hobbies and adventures. Do you like to read? Take the time when you’re alone to pick up that new book. Do you want to tackle home projects? Go to the hardware store and ask how to get started. How about learning to do something new? Now is the time to take those classes or use the internet (or YouTube) to learn a new skill. Whatever you do, just don’t do nothing! Basically, use this time to develop yourself and look for the joy ahead of you…because it IS there if you’ll be open to it!
- I said what?!!! Relief? Yep! If you experience this emotion, it may take you very much by surprise, and you may find yourself feeling exceptionally guilty about it.
- If there was a part of your marriage that was difficult, or if there was a substantial reason your marriage ended that you knew you would not be able to get past, you may find yourself actually feeling some relief that you no longer have to worry about that issue. There’s no need to feel guilt about it.
- Simply because you feel relief from an aspect of your marriage does not mean you did not value your marriage or want it to work out. It just means that you’re able to see the imperfections for what they were and are able to move into your new life clearly identifying an area you have now been released from.
Guilt and Regret
- You gotta love those two words! There’s nothing like going through a difficult time with a topping of extra guilt and regret! I’m going to walk gingerly, but frankly, through this topic because people go through divorces for different reasons. So, hang in there with me as I try to navigate this delicately!
- One of the concepts I heard in going through my divorce groups was that it takes two people to divorce. So, you have to own your part of the divorce. Let me stop right here, and say that I firmly believe it doesn’t take two people to divorce. It only takes one person who doesn’t want to stay and work it out or who isn’t committed to change to cause a divorce. I don’t say this to place blame or guilt on anyone. I say this to help anyone reading this who didn’t want the divorce and who chose to stay and try to work it out to get off the hook with the “guilt and regret” game.
- No marriage is perfect because people aren’t perfect. Every single marriage out there, including the “great” ones, has its issues. So, if you’re on the “if only I had done_____” or “I shouldn’t have done _____” wheel, get off of it! Great marriages aren’t flawless. They are just made of two people who communicate, problem solve, and stick it out (when one of them doesn’t really want to) until they get to the next great season in the marriage.
- If you are the one who walked away from the marriage, I want to pause here and give you some grace because I don’t want anyone to ever feel judgement from what I write. I don’t know why you initiated the divorce. For some of you, it may be for a reason such as abuse or an affair. For others, it may be that you simply didn’t want to be married any longer. If you walked away without the presence of some extenuating circumstance (such as abuse or an affair) and with your spouse wanting the two of you to work it out, you can rectify the guilt and regret. Can you work on reconciliation with the help of a good marriage counselor? If so, I encourage you to try. If reconciliation is not possible, making amends and asking for forgiveness from your ex-spouse goes a long way in releasing you from the guilt and regret. If neither of these are possible and you’re experiencing guilt or regret that you can’t shake, it may take the help of a professional to get you through it. Whatever your circumstances were, you’ll find that guilt and regret have no place to hang out any longer and dealing with those emotions will release you emotionally.
- If you are the one who wanted to work it out, know that you did what you could to save your marriage and stop the “what ifs” in your mind. There’s no place for them there. Should your ex-spouse seek forgiveness from you, offer him/her grace and give it. You’ll find that it releases both of you from the weight of the past.
- Okay…please don’t scream “are you kidding me?!!!” from the other side of the computer screen. I couldn’t complete this post without at least minimally addressing this topic. Forgiveness is NOT an emotion. So, why am I talking about this in a post about the emotions of divorce? It’s because forgiveness is often confused with an emotion, and it’s such an important step in becoming whole and healed.
- You can’t wait to “feel” ready to forgive. There will be a time when you have to choose to forgive. That time doesn’t have to be now. It doesn’t have to be fresh in your divorce process, but you will eventually have to face it if you want to find peace for yourself.
- Forgiveness actually frees YOU! When you choose to let it go, you choose freedom from the anger and resentment that holds you captive from a positive future ahead of you.
- There’s no way I can possibly cover this important topic in a few points. So, I’m writing an entire post on the act of forgiving. Be on the lookout for it! If you want to sign-up for my weekly newsletter, the article will come straight to your inbox when it’s written!
Common Questions About Emotions of Divorce
- I don’t even know where to start forgiving (or even if I really want to forgive). Where do I start?
- You start by knowing that there’s never a good “time” to forgive, and you’ll never be “ready”. It’s something you have to choose to do once you fully know what you need to forgive. When you’ve made up your mind that you need to forgive, gather some resources to read that will help you through it. Or, seek out the help of a counselor who can walk you through the process.
- What do I do about the exhaustion when I have my children most of the time?
- It’s ok to ask for help. You cannot do the job of two parents. You are one person. Be there as much as you can for your kids. But, also be willing to accept help when someone offers it. If your kids are old enough to have sleepovers, allow them to go with a trusted friend or family member. If you have a neighbor who will watch your little ones while you get in a nap or go to the grocery store, say yes! When you are able to fill your bucket, your children will benefit from it as well.
- How do I stop thinking about what I should have done differently in my marriage?
- I don’t mean to trivialize this answer. But, you just do. As soon as you realize that you’re thinking about the “should have,” you physically stop yourself and redirect your thoughts. Have a “go to” thought that you replace it with that puts it in perspective and then move on. Most of all, don’t allow yourself to stay in the thought cycle.
- What do I do about the loneliness I have on the weekends I don’t have my kids?
- If you are in the middle of your divorce or fresh out of it, pre-plan your weekends. Plan outings with your friends. If you need to catch up on work, use the time to catch up. Get involved with a group that has your same interests. You’ll find that as you settle in to life after divorce, you may begin to use this time to refill your energy, and you won’t dread the quiet times as much as you used to.
- What if my ex-spouse won’t accept my apology and request for forgiveness?
- Your emotional freedom does not hinge on someone else accepting your request. If you have tried to make amends, then you have to rest in knowing that you’ve done what you can to offer the peace. The rest of the journey is yours to complete on your own. Freedom with forgiveness doesn’t mean the other person has to accept it. It just means you have to give it.
Where Do I Go From Here?
- As you begin your journey after your divorce, remember that you will have different emotions come and go. While there are common emotions of divorce, you may experience ones that are unique to your situation. There will be things that happen that trigger an unexpected emotion you thought you had worked through. You may feel like you’re going backwards, but you’re not. You’ll need to deal with it, process it, and then move forward.
- From here, you begin building a life for YOU and YOUR CHILDREN. As difficult as a divorce can be, it isn’t the end of the world (even though it really feels like it at times). Keep pressing forward.
- Have you experienced common emotions of divorce that I haven’t addressed? Drop a comment below so we can talk about it in future posts, and please share this post with friends who need some encouragement in what they may be experiencing in their divorce.