December 14, 2014 • 8 minute read • by Saeed
“I don’t see divorce as a failure. I see it as the end to a story. In a story, everything has an end and a beginning. “
– Olga Kurylenko –
Let go. That’s the advice we often receive when dealing with difficult break-ups. Easier said than done. This advice does not usually come with any strategies to support the process of letting go. Unlike fine wine, divorce does not get better with age. The Holmes and Rahe Stress Inventory is a list of 43 stressful life events that can contribute to illness. Number one on the list is Death of a Spouse. Number two? Divorce.
Getting over a divorce involves two overlapping processes—recovery from grief and restructuring your life. Experts say most people should give themselves a good two years to recover from an emotional trauma. In addition to the financial and emotional upheaval of an acrimonious divorce, the time that it takes to drudge the misery of your relationship through the courts can take a serious toll on your health, job and even social status. To counterbalance that effect and help you deal with the pain, you need a survival plan based on daily routines and strategies that establish a foundation for your new future. You need to implement that plan and pace yourself so you can sustain it for the life of the divorce, and thereafter. While only you can design the specifics of your plan, there are 5 key areas that it should encompass:
- The Social Strategy: Humans are social animals – there is no way around it and time and again researchers have found this to be the single most effective strategy to cope with divorce and the accompanying effects of isolation and loneliness that go with it. So tap into your social network and if you don’t have one, prioritize developing one. This strategy is particularly important for men to adopt since men are more prone to socially isolate themselves.
- The Physical Strategy: You need the right nutrition, sleep, and exercise to look and feel your best. Period. All three are common stress busters but the secret is to routinize them in your life. If you are a parent, you know the importance of routines in children’s lives. Routines give a sense of stability, continuity, reliance, and consistency. This is counter to the realities of divorce: change, instability, fear, and uncertainty. So develop personal self-care routines and stick to them – no matter what.
- The Mental Strategy: Therapy works but only if you visit the right kind of therapist with the right kind of therapy. Shop around and find the right fit for you and then invest in this strategy wholeheartedly. To get the most out of it, be honest and do the work it takes to heal. The process itself will help keep your depression at bay and give you perspective when you need it. Whether male or female, make sure you find someone who is going to be in your corner: non-judgmental and compassionate. Most importantly, remember: therapy is not just an intellectual exercise. You have to feel your own pain. You have to go to war with it to overcome it. One stress reducer common across all history and every culture is the simple mechanism of releasing salt water from our tear ducts.
- The Spiritual Strategy: This is about getting in touch with your core self and whatever method you use to do it, be it prayer, meditation, yoga or trimming your Bonsai tree, just do it. Develop a routine and stick to it. Hard core Yogis devote a minimum of three hours a day to their yoga and meditation practice. You may not have that kind of time, but it’s the routine that matters most. It’s the routine that will ultimately anchor you and give you a platform from which to start your life anew.
- The Financial Strategy: The longer your divorce takes the deeper the financial ditch you will find yourself in so it’s imperative that you stay on top of your finances, which include vigilance over your credit score, assets and debts. If you can afford a financial planner, hire one. If not, see if you can tap into free community services, get help on-line or just talk to your bank.
There will be times when it will all feel insurmountable and you will feel like giving up. It is at those times when it’s important to fall back on these strategies and on your own specific plan. And remember, never ever lose hope. In the words of the great Albert Einstein: “Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow.”
©2014 – All Images and Content by Saeed H. Mirfattah, M.A.