You & Your Divorce: Coping with the Emotional Fall-Out

This is a freelance article from Gemma Cairns

Divorce isn’t easy, especially when there are children involved. With all of the tasks associated with getting a divorce —telling friends and family, dividing assets and possessions, making custody arrangements—there’s a lot to be done. In the midst of all this, it’s hard for busy parents to get time to themselves to deal with all of the emotions.

Ending a marriage evokes all sorts of emotions, and often they’re very contradictory ones: for the person who ends the relationship there’s often relief, guilt, sadness, and doubt, among others, while the other party feels betrayal and insecurity, anger and sadness—and often, both a desire for revenge, and the hope of reconciliation. For both, there’s also fear and anxiety; with the realization that a new phase of your life is starting, and that your future is uncertain. Divorce is rarely simple or straightforward; it’s an extremely confusing time for everyone, no matter what the circumstances. But no matter what has led to the divorce, know that you’ll be okay; healing takes time, and moving on takes time, but those things can and will happen if you let them.

Dealing with Anger

Of all the emotions that you go through during a divorce, the one that people tend to have the most trouble with is anger. It’s an extremely common but complex emotion, made all the more difficult to cope with because it rarely shows up on its own. Anger is most often felt in conjunction with other emotions, so often it’s difficult to identify the anger that’s lurking underneath other feelings like guilt, sadness, and regret. For women especially, recognizing and dealing with anger is difficult. Anger is an emotion that’s still perceived as being more socially acceptable when it’s expressed by men, and it’s perceived as a more masculine emotion. For women, especially women of older generations, it’s difficult to outwardly express anger, because they have often grown up being taught to keep anger hidden. To resolve anger, it’s important to get it out in the open, to acknowledge that it’s there, and to understand why. When unexpressed, anger turns inwards, manifesting as self-hate or self-destructive behavior, anxiety, depression, and other problems that can become serious long-term issues.

The important thing is to understand that the anger is a natural reaction to the loss of the marriage and the feelings of sadness that go along with it. And when you’re feeling angry, remember: ignoring it will not make it go away. Anger can seem profoundly unpleasant when you’re unaccustomed to allowing yourself to feel it, but it’s much better to express it—get it out there, look at it, understand why you feel angry, and acknowledge that anger is a valid response to divorce, no matter what the circumstances. You might feel angry at your partner or yourself, or both, or just at the situation. It doesn’t matter if the divorce is anyone’s “fault,” anger is a legitimate response in any case. But it’s important to recognize the difference between healthy anger and unhealthy anger—because one of those will eventually fade and allow you to move on, and the other will keep you trapped and unable to heal. If your anger is making you feel bitter and resentful in a way that’s causing you to harm or lash out at yourself or others, there’s a good chance it’s the latter kind.

Self-Care

Divorce is physically and emotionally stressful, and it’s a time when it’s easy to forget to take care of yourself. The problem is, if you stop taking care of yourself—physically or mentally—it’s only making it more difficult to heal. It’s important to pay attention to how you’re feeling, and nurture yourself during those times where you need some extra care; get plenty of sleep and exercise, eat balanced, nutritious meals, and spend time with friends doing things you enjoy.

It’s also important to recognize that you’re going to have plenty of days where you’re not functioning as well as you normally do, or when you’re not feeling like yourself—so understand that it’s perfectly okay to feel this way. You’ll also find there are lots of opportunities to learn more about yourself and what you’re capable of. For many people, going through a divorce is when they find out that they’re a lot stronger than they realized.

Sources

Andrea Dowling (2013). “Self-Care: Divorced Edition.” Accessed December 9, 2014.

Anne Newton Walther (2006). “Taming Divorce-Related Anger.” Divorce magazine. Accessed December 9, 2014.

Jeanne Segal, Gina Kemp, and Melinda Smith (2014). “Coping with a Breakup or Divorce.” Accessed December 9, 2014.

Melissa Dittman (2003). “Anger across the gender divide.” American Psychological Association Monitor on Psychology, Vol. 34 No. 3. Accessed December 9, 2014.

Robert Stone. “Riding the Emotional Rollercoaster of Divorce.” Accessed December 9, 2014.

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