Going through my separation and divorce consumed me in a chaotic free fall. Nothing in my life seemed to make sense or have meaning anymore. Time stood still. I held the heavy weight of the unknown for thousands of empty minutes. And thousands more, each one felt desperate and insignificant.
But I knew I did not want to feel like that forever. I wanted to heal and grow from the loss, not be defined by it.
I know you may feel like your life has no purpose or meaning without your spouse. And it’s okay to feel purposeless. In fact, it’s an important part of the journey to allow ourselves to be exactly where we are.
But if we don’t set an intention and make a plan to move into more positive feelings and experience uplifting emotions, we may wallow for years in a spin cycle of sadness, anger and blame until we’re all washed up.
You don’t really want to become one of those people, right? You know, the ones who can’t seem to let go of the past at all. They choose to feel bitter. They decide to blame their ex for ruining their lives. And they prefer to stay put in those mucky feelings rather than doing the hard work of self-exploration.
Moving through the emotional stages of divorce takes intention and a plan.
The time to do this is after you’ve gone through the intense feelings brought on by grief. It’s impossible to create a new life while in the midst of the crisis of grief. As uncomfortable as it may be, grief is an important stage to fully experience for our healing, recovery, and growth.
Here’s an example of what the intention and planning might look like:
I want to feel better.
Great! Now explore what does better mean to you?
I want to feel like I can get through a few days without falling apart.
What are the daily things you would need to do to feel that way?
Not check social media first thing in the morning.
Listen to uplifting music and podcasts.
Make dinner for a friend or go to a movie together.
Get to sleep a little earlier.
Go to a yoga class.
Not respond immediately if I hear from my ex.
Now it’s time to create your to-do list:
Put a post-it note on my phone or computer, no social media! Instead, I listen to a podcast or comedy station.
Schedule the yoga class online. (I’m less likely to be a no-show)
Call my friend and invite her/him for dinner.
Let the ex’s call go to voicemail. Don’t respond to emails or texts immediately. Instead, I chat with someone about my feelings.
Set an alert reminder for nine-thirty to get ready for bed. I can turn off electronics, sip herbal tea, read, journal, color, brush my dog or cat.
Yes, it’s that simple.
It’s important to remember when we want to discontinue a behavior or thought, we have to replace it with something else. Patterns and habits are deeply rooted in our unconscious minds. That is why we must come up with our replacement actions or thoughts ahead of time.
I have posted large notes on my walls with phrases and reminders. I’ve set alerts on my phone to take a moment and breathe or check in with how I’m feeling. I have also created accountability for myself by working with a coach.
However you decide to do it, celebrate the fact that you are taking positive action and don’t be so hard on yourself if it takes a few trials and errors, that’s what being human is all about.
Patty Blue Hayes is the award-winning author of Wine, Sex and Suicide – My Near Death Divorce and the creator of You Can Heal Your Heartbreak, an audio program based on her book, My Heart is Broken. Now What? Her life coaching helps people rediscover themselves after divorce. Connect with her at www.pattybluehayes.com.