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Coping with Divorce

Trauma, healing, and moving on.

Divorce can be one of the most stressful, emotional, traumatic processes you will experience. We are all different, so we may experience different feelings, but no matter who you are or who wanted the divorce, you can still feel like your life is upside down. Your feelings will be all over the place, up and down.

One moment you will feel relieved that things are coming to an end, and the next moment you will plummet. The process will trigger painful feelings of sadness, anger, blame, and anxiety about the future. I will discuss ways to cope, heal, move on, and face the future with a renewed sense of hope and optimism.

Why is it so painful?

All transitions are difficult, but coping with divorce is by far the most painful.

Remember when you fell in love? You were on cloud nine. The future lay ahead with love, commitment, dreams, hopes, and rosy plans for the future. And now you are down in the dumps. The shattered dreams and hopes of a failed relationship send you crashing into despair.

Loss of hope and dreams is coupled with other losses. The loss of the relationship, your identity as a married man or woman, and loss of support, whether financial, emotional, or social.


These are very difficult losses indeed. As difficult as all these losses are, keep in mind that you can and will get through this arduous time and move on as a stronger and wiser person. Allow yourself to grieve these losses and to feel the pain, the sadness, the anxiety, the fear.

Identify the feelings. Acknowledge them. Express them. Let them wash over you. If you suppress or deny your feelings, you are impeding the healing and grieving process and it will take longer to heal and move on.

The feelings of sadness, anxiety, and fear of the unknown can be intense and you may fear you can’t endure them. But remind yourself that each day that passes the feelings will lose their intensity and in time, you will heal and create a new healthy life.

Grieving is not an instant process. It takes time to grieve, so be patient. No matter how difficult the process, be assured that each day the pain will lessen.

Reach out to others

We are innately social beings and when things are rough you need others. Reach out to friends, relatives, family, and allow them to comfort you. Many of them have suffered traumatic events and will help you to find hope for the future. Surround yourself with a supportive caring group of people.

Online support groups can be helpful, Divorce Care offers support groups in your area and they will send you an uplifting message daily.

You may choose to seek a clinical psychologist who can help you navigate these troubled waters and give you hope for a new healthy life. Then you have an expert who is experienced in trauma and recovery at your side.

Help your children

Your children may feel confused, sad, anxious, and insecure. Provide them with stability and reassure them they will be all right. Emphasize to them that although mom and dad no longer are in love, they will always love you. You will have two homes, two sets of toys, two birthday parties, two Christmases, two Hanukkahs and so forth.


Divorce is an emotionally painful, life-changing event. The emotional upheaval can leave you psychologically and physically vulnerable. It is more important than ever that you take care of yourself. You are still facing hurdles that sap your strength, and your children need you more than ever to be strong in order to take care of their needs.

Nurture yourself. Take walks, massages, have lunch or dinner with a friend.

For some people, rest is needed. For others, going back to the routine gives more balance.

Eat healthily. Avoid fast foods or high carb foods. Rest. Try to get eight hours of sleep. If this is a problem, go to your local health food store for a natural sleep aid.

Avoid alcohol or drugs. They may offer instant relief but can cause deleterious effects.

Then there is exercise; whether it is walking, swimming, or going to the gym, exercise helps you cope. Exercise stimulates your brain, calms you down, feeds your soul, and shapes your body.

Facing the Future

Healing and moving on is the end goal.

Expressing feelings can be freeing as I discussed earlier. What I am about to say may seem paradoxical. After a certain length of time—which can differ for everyone—I urge you not to get stuck on negative hurtful feelings. Holding onto painful feelings for too long can be harmful. Feelings like blame, anger, hate, sadness, anxiety, and resentment will only rob you of valuable energy and prevent you from healing and moving on. Although your hopes and dreams have been dashed, when you are ready, you will find that new hopes and dreams will replace the old ones.


I am sure it is hard to fathom that forgiveness can help you heal and move on. You may think I am daffy. Let me explain. Anger and hate bind you just as close to your spouse as love does. Forgiveness is not necessarily an altruistic move, rather it is part of self-care.

By forgiving your spouse, you liberate yourself from the shackles of anger and hatred. You come out a better person no longer consumed in hate and anger. You may remember an amazing man, the Reverend Desmond Tutu of South Africa. He asked his people to forgive the atrocities committed in his country, lest they be consumed by anger and hate and remain in a state of victimhood.

Forgiveness can promote better feelings between parents to soften the more-often-than-not adversarial process. As you feel stronger, you can better provide for your children’s needs. You then can provide them with support, hope, reassurance, and attend to their needs.

They need a steady, stable parent who attends to them with a positive reassuring attitude; it is near impossible to provide that if you are stuck on hating your spouse.

Exploring new horizons

You have been married and socialized with married people. You will soon be single and have less in common with your married friends. It is time to meet new single people.

Use a social website like, where you can find friends by the activities you like, the location near your home, the age group, and the gender. You can find casual friends or you may be fortunate to meet someone with whom you could cultivate a close relationship.

When you are ready, you may want to date someone. If you let your friends know, they may want to introduce you to a suitable single man or woman. Be aware: You may be raw and have to know someone well before you get involved. There are always numerous online dating sites that you can join. It can be distracting and fun to shop for your next partner.

Who knows, but you may well meet a new man or woman with whom you can create new dreams, new hopes, and new horizons.

More from Frances Cohen Praver Ph.D.
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