Divorce can be a traumatic event.
trauma = a deeply distressing or disturbing experience
When someone experiences trauma, there is a recovery process required for healing. The dissolution of a marriage disturbs the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual life of a person. There is no specific formula to follow or prescription to take that will heal this type of trauma. You can, however, implement coping strategies to help you heal from divorce and live the life that follows.
When someone you love (or once cared about) dies, you go through a grieving process that involves a range of experiences, including denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. The sense of loss may return when unsuspected triggers bring back the pain. Unlike the loss you experience when someone dies, with divorce, the person is “resurrected” every time you run into them or hear about the life they now lead without you. As a result, you may re-experience all or part of the original grief repeatedly. Prepare for this, and know it is normal.
Don’t get too Hungry, Angry, Lonely or Tired. Each of these components is like a wheel on a car. When one wheel is deflated, the car can run, but it is a bumpy ride. Keep driving on a flat tire and you will be in for some damage. When all four wheels are flat, you are geared up for a major breakdown. HALT from time to time and ask yourself how you are doing in these areas. If one area is “flat,” head to the repair shop and get it restored.
Notice your emotions. Feelings are not good or bad, they just are. How you respond to the emotion is more or less effective in helping you live a meaningful life. Notice your thoughts. Are you caught up in the past or imagining the future? Catch yourself in these thoughts and return to the present moment. It is OK to feel, to remember, and to dream, but don’t get lost there. We can only experience God in the present moment. Remember to come back to the present and focus on doing the next right thing.
This is a good time to ask yourself what you really need. Is it a hug? A vacation? A hot meal? A laugh with a friend? Move towards self-care.
When someone “shoulds” you (i.e., “You should be over this already!”), you rarely feel motivated to move forward. “Should” reminds you that you did not meet a certain standard, which produces a sense of failure. Instead, accept where you are as exactly where you need to be in this moment. Find what you can do, and do it to the best of your ability.
The Serenity Prayer says,
God (One who is outside of my SELF),
grant me serenity (peace)
to accept (surrender…take a deep breath)
the things I cannot change (other people, what has happened in the past),
the courage (action in the face of fear)
to change the things I can (myself, my actions, my thoughts),
and the wisdom (God) to know the difference.
David cried out to God in the book of Psalms. He was at times joyful, angry, and bitter, all at full volume. David felt every emotion, let it all out, and held nothing back. And at the end of his cry, David found his resolve (“…I will yet praise Him.” Psalm 43:5). You can also find your resolve. It will not look like David’s, your friends’, or anyone else’s. It will be your own personal resolve. Some things I know to be true as you work towards your resolve are these:
Dr. Robert Ritzema
Rev. Dr. Rob Toornstra
Rev. Dr. Rob Toornstra