I was walking with a divorced friend a few days ago and she was feeling really down. She said ‘We are trash, we are rubbish.’
Of course this isn’t true but it does reflect the feelings a lot of people at some point in the divorce process. You know that divorce can be the jumping off point to something better, that allows you to redesign your life and think about things in a new way. But even the most Positive Polly will be challenged by divorce.
It’s so easy, if you are having a down day, to tap into the negative feelings and really believe the self-talk that is so destructive.
One of the qualities you really need to survive the process of divorce is resilience. And part of that resilience is getting through the down days and having a belief in yourself even when you don’t feel like it. This will help you get on and move forward so here are some pointers to help you:
- Acknowledge the fact that there are negative sides to divorce. There will be days when you feel rough and it is going to get better. But sometimes you will feel down and this is a normal part of dealing with what is a difficult phase of your life. It’s great to surround yourself with positive things and positive people as much as you can, but if you’re still feeling low this doesn’t mean that you’re a failure. Everyone who goes through difficult life events will have moments or days where they want to say ‘I feel like trash’. It’s unrealistic to expect yourself to be positive the whole time the matter how much support you are getting from others.
- Let go of the F word – that is failure! Don’t say the marriage failed or think of yourself as a failure. Borrow an idea from current business thinking. To quote Simon Stockley from Cambridge Judge Business School “…substitute ‘failure’ with ‘hypothesis testing’, it may seem a lot less threatening”.
- If you are feeling really rough just check-in to see what it is that is throwing you off balance. A difficult conversation with your ex, working out what to say to the children, adjusting your life and lifestyle to cope with changes – this and many other things can sap your energy. If you are physically tired or not eating very well that too will make you feel bad. Sometimes, rather than analysing what you feel or how you are thinking, the best response is to go to bed and get some rest. Everything tends to be a bit more manageable when you have had a good night’s sleep.
- Be kind to yourself. If a friend who was divorcing came to you feeling tired and overwhelmed what would you say to her? If she said all the negative things that you are thinking how would you answer her? My guess is you’d be kind and understanding. You wouldn’t judge her and you wouldn’t expect her to be perfect. You’d allow her to talk about her feelings and you would support her and let her know that she is safe, cared for and things will get better. This is the kind of message you need to give yourself.
- If your outlook has become very glum, you are withdrawing from the world and you feel that things will never get better and you have felt this way for some time it might be that you have depression and may need medical help. We all get an attack of the glums some time but these tend to be isolated moments and won’t last for weeks. So if you can see no way that you can be positive again do discuss this with a professional to see if you can get support.
- Look for acts of kindness. If you have friends offering to help, accept their help. Ask people to do practical things they are really good at. Look for specific actions that they can do to help you and tell them what these actions are – they are not mind readers! You might have a friend who can help you organise spreadsheets so that you can sort out your finances. Or someone might look after the children for a couple of hours so you can get some rest. You might need someone who will just listen without judging, expectation or giving advice so that you can let off steam or sort out your ideas when you need to.
- Take the long view – one day at a time How you feel now is not how you will feel for ever. Divorce is difficult but it is do-able. The emotions surrounding divorce might be horrible but you will get past them. While with your lawyer you will be planning for a longer term future, when you are processing the emotions just do one day at a time. Or tell yourself you’ll get through the next half day. Or the next half hour! But always, always have the long view that things will get better.
You may feel like trash for all sorts of reasons. But it is just a feeling, it’s not reality. At the moment your emotional brain may struggle to get hold of that fact. You think that how you feel now is how you will feel forever.
Your value, the essence of you that is who you really are, does not depend on what your ex thinks of you. The essence of you is perfect. At the moment that is hidden by all the thoughts and feelings that are swirling around and making you feel small. Time, love and care will change that.
So give yourself time, love yourself and cherish your innermost being.
Then the healing has started.