Divorce Therapy: How To Navigate Life After Divorce
Generally, individuals experience the most challenges with mental health within the first 2 years of divorce, however, this can range from person to person. Typically, any major life crisis or major life adjustment takes 18-24 months, and the timeline of adjusting to life after divorce is not much different. Divorce therapy helps individuals understand what is ‘typical’ or ‘to be expected’ after divorce, and what isn’t so you know when to seek out professional support.
It’s normal to feel sad, angry, exhausted, frustrated and confused—and these feelings can be intense. However, if you are experiencing intense symptoms of anxiety (panic attacks, worrisome, racing thoughts), intense symptoms of depression ( overwhelming fatigue, suicidal thoughts, hopelessness, irrational or intrusive thoughts) or changes in your appetite, sleep or other mental health symptoms, you should seek out support and hep from a qualified professional.
Divorces Impact on Physical Health
Research has noted that divorced men and women suffer higher rates of mental and medical issues along with increased substance misuse compared to married individuals. Both men and women may experience stress related pain or illness, such as stomach issues, nerve pain and muscle tension. Although both men and women are equally vulnerable to stress, there are some gender differences in how this stress manifests into health-related issues.
Studies have shown that men are less likely to seek out social and emotional support, therefore they may experience more health issues and prolonged mental health symptoms. Though women seek out social support and professional help more frequently than men, women are more prone to financial stress after a divorce. Chronic stress takes a major toll on the bodies immune system, therefore both men and women must be mindful of their stress management efforts.
Other Sources of Stress after Divorce
Addressed in divorce therapy
- Financial Stress
- Loss of Friends/Community
- Changes to Routine
- Changes to Health Insurance
- Balancing work-like demands
What is Divorce Therapy
Divorce therapy addresses an individual’s areas of wellness through a holistic lens, addressing social, emotional, physical, spiritual, financial and occupational needs. It is common for divorced individuals to experience a wide range of feelings including depression, anxiety, fear, denial, confusion, anger and sadness. Often, the process of coping with divorce is compared to the stages of grief. Divorce Therapy generally follows these guides to help individuals cope after their divorce:
Goals of Divorce Therapy
- Provided to help clients understand how the divorce has affected them
- Normalize the range of emotions they may be experiencing
2. Symptom Management & Coping Skills
- Reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression
- Identify and practice skills to help during adjustment period
- Address symptoms related to anxiety and depression, including thinking patterns, unhealthy/maladaptive behaviors
3. Process grief & support transitions
- Deconstruct the factors that led to divorce, and how this informs the clients perspective today
- Address any issues of self-esteem, guilt and shame
- Address the “grief stages” commonly experienced 1-2 years post-divorce
- Set-up Effective Co-parenting
4. Rebuild & Restore
- Build up a social support network of friends and engage in interest and hobbies
- Restore client’s sense of belonging and security
- Establish and maintain a healthy routine
- Address new roles and identities post-divorce
Strategies for Coping With Divorce
Guided breathing or meditation
Breath work & meditation helps increase mindfulness. Mindfulness is the act of being aware of on immediate physical sensations around you.
Take care of yourself emotionally and physically.
Take time out to exercise, eat well and relax.
Be good to yourself and to your body.
Avoid power struggles
Effectively communicating & setting boundaries can lessen arguments & tension
Practice Self Compassion
Keep reasonable expectations will make this transition easier. Be easy on yourself & understand that you may not be performing at 100%. The process of healing is not linear & takes time.
Use Social SUpports
When looking for someone to talk to, choose another adult. The stressors that come with divorce can be too much for children to handle.
Create new traditions
Holidays may feel especially difficult. Get creative with new traditions. Involve kids in planning new traditions to help them process changes.
Establish New Routines
Making your routine predictable and reasonable allows for you to focus on other needs, like self-care and mental health
Therapists are trained to help you sort your feelings & improve your emotional health. Working with a therapist can help shift perspective & create a sense of empowerment.
Other Strategies Recommended in Divorce Therapy
- Avoid making major decisions or changes in life plans.
- Limit or avoid substance use
- Take time to explore your interests.
- Reconnect with things you enjoy doing & make time for hobbies
Talking To Your Kids About divorce
If you have children, there are a few things to keep in mind as you help them to also navigate life after divorce:
Reassure, share & listen
You may think that your child would never believe they caused your divorce, but it’s important that you verbalize this to your child.
Ease their concerns through reflective listening, answering questions and sharing openly.
Co-Parenting is hard, but making routines and agreements regarding the children can help everyone in the family to feel more stable.
This includes house rules, rewards and consequences, bedtimes, curfews and other common decisions.
This can also help parents from feeling undermined by each other
Share age-appropriate information
Just as adults feel comfortable when things are predictable, kids can also be kept in the loop about what is happening. Children often feel anxious and unsure about how the divorce will impact them, their living situation, and their relationships. Letting them know what changes are coming in an age-appropriate way can make a great difference in their emotional health
Divorce is a life-altering event, therefore the challenges that divorce may bring can offer a chance for personal growth, self-exploration and personal development.
Reaching out for divorce therapy is your first step towards healing.