How Long Does Healing From Divorce Take?
The ink is dry on your divorce papers; if only your emotions could settle as quickly. As with any hardship in life, you may wish you could click your heels and transport yourself a year or two into the future. You are likely wondering “when will I feel like myself again?”
Unfortunately, there is no easy answer to that question. “Bouncing back” quickly after a long-term marriage may not be on the table, but healing can most definitely happen.
As a psychotherapist and coach, I have worked with many divorcing individuals over the years. I can assure you that it is very natural to hold on to the past for a while, even though you want so badly to move forward.
It takes steely determination to shift your focus to the present, and then ultimately towards rebuilding a healthy and fulfilling future. And it is so very important to be patient with, and kind to yourself as you proceed. Self compassion is essential in this journey!
After all, your life was intertwined with your ex’s for many years, including happy memories such as the birth of your children, holidays, family celebrations, vacations and more.
Now, post-divorce, you may find your mind stuck in an endless loop, reviewing the past, both the happy and difficult moments. And you may be sorting through what went wrong or processing the many feelings that are a natural part of the divorce recovery process.
So with all that said, you are probably asking the “when will I feel better” question. It’s the question I get asked frequently. I am happy to share some signs that indicate you are healing and some helpful tips to get there more easily!
What Have Studies Revealed About Healing Time?
Some studies of divorced couples inform us that it takes about eighteen months to get over a divorce. Other studies aren’t as specific and simply conclude that it is “complicated” due to all the variables and intricacies among couples.
For instance, were they separated for a while, as opposed to having a seemingly sudden break? Was the plan to divorce mutually agreed upon, or was one partner opposed?
What Does Experience Reveal?
Study data aside, how does the healing process and actually play out? Although timelines vary, there are some commonalties in terms of what healing feels like. Some people report that they woke up one day and felt lighter; the sadness seemed to have lifted.
They felt as though the divorce is now in the rearview mirror, rather than engulfing them every moment. Feelings of resentment, grief or missing the old times have subsided. They just don’t care anymore (or as deeply), which feels very liberating!
Tips for the Healing Process
Distancing yourself is a critical part of the process. Failure to do so, is a major pitfall for many who are trying to heal. You can actually compare the process to recovering from a substance addiction; during which even a little bit of the drug or drink can be disastrous.
1. Focus on you. This is a time to build a relationship with yourself, and to focus on your physical and emotional health. Find time to nurture your self each day by taking a walk outdoors, meditating or journaling. Buy yourself fresh flowers. Make an effort to get enough rest, and eat plenty of nutritious foods.
2. Avoid the friend zone. Maybe you can get there one day way in the future, but in the early stages cutting ties is the healthiest choice. A close attachment to your ex may seem to reduce the pain of the break-up, but it can actually prevent you from moving on. It can result in closing yourself off from other people, which is unhealthy in the long-run. It’s best to “pull off the band-aid,” so healing can proceed!
3. Resist “stalking.” Put an end to driving past their house, or Googling them. Avoid questioning mutual friends about them, asking what they have been up to, or whether they are dating.
5. Remove, donate, or sell “triggering” items. Consider selling your wedding rings or having the diamond set in another piece. Remove the wedding portrait, along with any photos of the two of you, as well as other keepsakes. Donate any items your ex no longer wants.
6. Change your environment. You now have the freedom to make your formerly shared space your own. It can feel very renewing to rearrange the furniture or buy some beautiful new bedding and towels. Surround yourself with items that bring you joy.
7. Connection.Reach out to friends you lost touch with or didn’t have time for because the divorce process was overwhelming. Whether venting or just enjoying their company, connection is healing.
8. Process your feelings. Find a therapist you can connect with. Talk to a trusted friend, or other divorced women. It is healthy to release your emotions and receive support from others.
9. Journaling.Try writing about your thoughts and emotions in a journal. Venting in any form can be healing and validating.
Make This a Time for Self Discovery
Rediscover activities that bring you joy. After so many years being part of a couple, you may have lost some of your identity. Perhaps you constantly deferred to the preferences of your ex and put your interests on the back burner. So now is the perfect time to try a new hobby or take a class that you didn’t have the opportunity or “permission” to (if you had a controlling ex).
Indicators That You Are Healing
1. You are creating new routines, rhythms. You are enjoying the freedom to plan your days and weeks according to your preferences. From mealtimes to social engagement; you get to decide.
2. You are finding the silver linings or as I say “gems in the rubble.”In the early phases you may have been focussing on all the “losses,” but now you are finding it liberating to not clean up after your ex, watch sports on TV, or spend time with certain people. You are enjoying doing what you want, when you want, with whom you want.
3. You are making healthy choices. You are making health a priority again. You care about how you look and feel. This can include exercising regularly, not skipping meals, and reducing alcohol.
4. You feel open to go on a date. In the early days, when your emotions were raw, the idea of dating may have felt like a chore. You just wanted to be alone to focus on yourself…which was actually a good idea. But NOW the idea of meeting someone new feels promising!
5. You feel good about yourself. You like the version of yourself that has emerged! Your energy and confidence have returned. Self pity and self doubt have subsided.
6. You feel optimistic about the future. When the divorce was new, you may have felt hopeless and overwhelmed. But now you are looking forward to meeting new people, and trying new things. Life seems full of possibility.
7. You are sleeping better at night. You are not tossing and turning, mulling over the past. The sadness has lifted and you can drift off to sleep anticipating summer plans and spending time with family and friends.
8. Boundaries feel more natural. You have become comfortable setting boundaries with others. As your self-esteem returns, you can now, confidently express your needs and limitations to others. You can say “no” to requests and activities that don’t work for you.
Although you may not completely “get over” your divorce, the intense pain will pass, and heartbreak will subside. You will emerge wiser and stronger. There is no timeline or “one size fits all” playbook when it comes to divorce. Rather it’s all about what feels right for you. The goal is to create a new normal based on who you are now.
This means you will have to set to set boundaries, and resist old familiar routines, enabling you to honor yourself and your healing process. You can and you will move towards a happy and fulfilling new chapter!