So you are contemplating divorce, have already pulled the trigger, or your spouse has pulled the trigger for you. In any case, it is highly likely that fear is playing a prominent role in your life during this period. And it’s only natural. Your world has been turned upside down, and the path forward can appear murky at best. Some fears you didn’t know you would ever feel. Some are old fears you’ve had most of your life but have been successfully denying.
Ending a love relationship results in fears of all kinds. Fear of being alone is common, and fears about money, living arrangements, children’s welfare, judgements of family and friends, the legal process, and living life as single person are all typical as well. It’s easy to allow fears to immobilize you. You feel too afraid to take the next step forward, and can become almost paralyzed by your fears. A little fear can be motivating. But too much fear makes it difficult to function and get on with your life.
There are a couple of key things to remember about fears which can be helpful in learning to deal with them. The first is that the best way to overcome fears is to allow yourself to feel them. Fears not yet identified or fully experienced can be the most powerful. When you identify them, face them, and allow them to move through your body, you’ll find they aren’t as scary and powerful as you thought. One simple thing you can do which really helps is to make a list of your fears. Identify the things you are afraid of, so you can get in touch with just what you are feeling.
Another useful insight is that feared situations that you don’t face are the very ones that are likely to occur. Facing your fear directly, understanding what exactly you are afraid of, determining if this is a realistic fear, and taking appropriate action if needed, all both help you bring back a sense of control and minimize the chances of the feared event coming to pass. Talking to a trusted friend or counselor about your fears can help you gain a reality check about your fears and dispel some of the energy behind them.
You can experience a great deal of personal growth and transformation because of the crisis of ending your marriage. Facing and overcoming your fears can help you make the crisis into a creative experience.
Stages in Divorce Recovery
There are many ups and downs with divorce along with push and pull. It can feel like you are all over the place both emotionally and mentally. While divorce is unpredictable, it can help to understand the general phases of divorce to give you a sense of what you can expect. The seven phases in divorce recovery are not always linear, but you can expect to pass through most of them during the divorce transition. Having assistance from a counselor with experience in divorce recovery can help you navigate the stages and maximize your healing.
No matter how it begins – with an affair, a phone call, a pile of divorce papers left on the table or a mysterious text – divorce can have a traumatic affect. While the majority of divorce circumstances are not life threatening, the ending of a marriage can be excruciating. The sooner you admit that the initial divorce event is traumatic, the better off you’ll be – but not everyone can do this right away. Which brings us to Phase Two.
Few individuals are prepared for the shock of divorce. Many people try to cover up their initial shock by staying busy, refusing to cry, and carrying on “like normal.” This ultimately takes the shape of denial, an adaptive response to the painful reality, but unsustainable. If you begin neglecting self care, feeling stressed almost constantly without cause, and eating more or less than usual, you may be in shock or denial. This is, in fact, normal—you’re beginning the grieving process. But keep in mind that this won’t last.
shock and denial
Suddenly, you don’t feel “fine” anymore – you’re mad as hell. You begin to look for someone to blame for your trauma – and with the divorce, the most obvious object is the Ex (though not always). You begin thinking obsessively about the object of your anger. If it’s a person, you might find you’re stalking their Facebook profile, calling or texting them incessantly, or finding other ways to engage them. Some anger is normal, but if you find yourself unable to get over your anger, seek professional help. Otherwise, your outbursts may continue to trigger the pain of the original trauma, and you’ll be stuck cycling through the first three phases.
Sadness is healthy and normal, as it marks the beginning of acceptance and moving on. Here, you can admit feelings of loss, without placing blame. During this time, you wish to grieve in the company of friends or a professional, or prefer to be alone. Whatever you do, allow yourself time to move through this phase without responding to inner or outer pressure to “just buck up.” However, keep watch for signs of lingering depression.
Here, you will begin to feel that “everything is going to be okay.” You no longer feel the need to pretend that you’re not hurt, but nor do you fantasize about destroying your Ex’s life, or stay in every weekend night. You are ready to begin rebuilding your life – as an individual with new and even exciting choices.
To build a new future, you must take responsibility for your past. You begin to realize that you could have listened more, or criticized less. As you begin to contemplate dating, or even falling in love again, you will find yourself re-examining the past – and yourself – in a new light, and eagerly looking for ways to do it better next time.
After divorce, everyone has the potential to understand themselves as never before – what makes them happy, angry, and sad. A reserve of untapped potential and wisdom often lies trapped behind the tension of your past relationships. Here, you may experiment with new styles of expression, from opening up more to your partner to taking up traveling or painting. If there’s any reason to push through anger and sadness, it’s to find this gold at the end of the rainbow.