Healing the Wounds of Separation and Divorce: A Journey into Divorce Recovery

Posted On: Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Healing the Wounds of Separation and Divorce: A Journey into Divorce Recovery

The women I love and admire for their strength and grace did not get that way because shit worked out. They got that way because shit went wrong, and they handled it. They handled it in a thousand different ways on a thousand different days, but they handled it. Those women are my superheroes. -- Elizabeth Gilbert

Freud suggests, "We are never so vulnerable as when we love." To be in a relationship means that one succumbs to vulnerability by trusting and believing that our partner will always be there, listen, support, and most importantly love and adore us. Losing love suggests that the attachment and connection we once felt to another human being is gone. We feel lost and not knowing what to do next. Emotional pain is just as hurtful as physical pain. In fact, feelings like shame, rejection, and self-doubt, can feel much worse than physical pain.

Experiencing the loss of love leaves us feeling like we've come undone. Part of the reason for this is that we are living, loving creatures that demand closeness and attachment. Another reason is that in the process of becoming wife and mother, women often shift their focus to kids and home. Many times, one's attention to self willingly and lovingly goes on the back burner. But when divorce happens, especially when it's not mutual, the rejected wife may find it difficult to find that sense of self and purpose that was once defined through her partner as well as the children. In addition to losing the partner she thought would be by her side for the rest of time, shared parenting means time away from the children and a lot more time to think. This opens wide gaps of time and initially not knowing how to fill it.

In my work with women who are healing after divorce, I find that while the journey begins with overwhelming fear and sadness, the process of recovery can yield amazing results. In the process of grief and healing, these women come to know themselves in ways they never realized or have forgotten. They begin to stand upright and take control of their lives; and as they do they do, they discover they are so much more than just mothers and partners. They are smart, strong, and competent; and they possess unlimited potential. Is the process easy? No. It takes acceptance, hard work, a good support system, and a belief that getting divorced or being rejected in a relationship does not define who you are.

Inspired by the writings of Maya Angelou, here are some important things to remember when going through a divorce or separation.

Change what you can and accept what you can't.

The most difficult part of divorce is accepting what has happened. Shock is usually what you will feel first, and you need to take your time to let it all sink in and grieve the loss. But it's also important to work toward moving through the hurt and pain. New research on the plasticity of the brain suggests that we can re-train our minds to think more positively. You really can shift feelings and emotions. The mind can be firmed and toned, just as the body can. Continued negative feelings will only serve to heighten your burden, rather than lighten your spirit. Whether your marriage ended because of infidelity or because you grew apart, healing cannot begin until you accept all that you are experiencing.

Women need to support one another.

Having understanding and supporting friends in times like this are a must. A really special girlfriend, sister or mother to hold you or just listen makes a huge difference in healing. Choose only those who are willing to hold a safe space for all that you are feeling, absent of judgment or advice and then don't be afraid or ashamed to share what you are experiencing.

Looks aren't everything. In fact, they're nothing.

Stop comparing yourself to the other woman or women who you perceive to be thinner, prettier, smarter, younger or more accomplished. Maya Angelou would say, your beauty as a woman is in the "reach of your arms, the span of your hips, the stride of your step, and the curl of your lip. You are a phenomenal woman." Embrace the unique and phenomenal you! Own that beauty; because it's yours to own. Anyone who can't see the beauty within you is not deserving of you.

If you allow yourself to sit in quietude, the answers will come.

Trust in your own voice and your instincts. The truth is they were there all the time. It's just that fear and anxiety make it difficult to hear and act on them. Believe in yourself and believe in your voice. Take time to sit in silence, let go of fear, and see what comes forward.

Loving someone means taking risks -- sometimes it's worth it, sometimes it's not.

Don't give up on love because this relationship didn't work out. There are men and women out there that are deserving of all that you have to offer and that can give it back to you, tenfold. This can only be accomplished by learning the value of forgiveness. It's a gift you give to yourself, not the other person. Forgiving others takes the burden away and makes your soul light and bright again.

This is your chance. Go out there and "kick ass."

Life can be a bitch at times. You've got to get out there and take charge of your destiny, instead of empowering someone else to do it.

Dr. Laura Richter is a licensed Marriage and Family therapist who works with individuals, couples, and families. Her specialties include: surviving infidelity, improving communication, beginning again after divorce and effective co-parenting after divorce. She is also a trained mediator, qualified parenting coordinator and collaborative law mental health professional. For more information, please call or text us today at 561-715-6404 to schedule a consultation to see how we can help.