There’s no way around it. When you’re going through a divorce – and even for months or years afterward – you will feel all the feels.
Sometimes, you’ll experience the highs. You might feel proud, strong, free, excited. You may feel accomplished, independent, connected, self-aware, grounded… and that’s a short list of just some of the possibilities.
But. (You knew that a “but” was coming, right?) You will also almost definitely feel an array of negative emotions, too. Confused, empty, fearful. Anxious, worried, lonely. Any of these sound familiar?
I firmly believe that, in these negative emotions, there is a great potential for learning and growth. And I also know in my heart that you have what it takes to Grow Through Your Divorce, Not Just Go Through It.
How do I know this growth is possible – even inevitable – for you?
I know because I’ve been there.
In my own life, I’ve grown through a lot… My own recovery from an eating disorder… the trauma of my divorce… helping my teenage daughter come through her stage of depression and anxiety. (Sometimes I’m floored when I look back at all I’ve experienced and learned from.)
Through it all, I’ve strived to be self-aware and grow. Truthfully, I haven’t always been able to process my feelings immediately in the moment. But, I’ve always managed to integrate them as growth lessons at some point in the journey.
During all of those challenges – and in my time coaching kick-ass women who are emerging into a new and wonderful Life After Divorce – I have developed some highly effective strategies for growing through trauma. Today, I’m going to share four of them with you.
It’s my hope that one or more of these will help you – not only to cope, but to harness the power of your feelings to grow and thrive.
(You can pin this article to Pinterest for reference! 📌)
Strategy 1: Journal.
Journaling – whether it be regularly or intermittently – can be a powerful tool for self-awareness and expansion. I have personally filled pages and pages. I call this “purging on the page.”
The simple act of writing (and writing and writing!) has really brought some aha moments to me. It has also brought some relief in difficult times. Through journaling, instead of simply staying with a certain feeling, I find I can move through it, process it, and learn from it.
Try your hand at it! Don’t worry about what you write. No one will see your work, so don’t hold back. This is your sacred and private space. Let your emotions and thoughts flow freely to the paper through your words, no holds barred. In my experience, this is the best way to truly cleanse and let go of negative feelings.
Strategy 2: Explore the Deep Questions.
Ask yourself the hard questions, and take the time answer them thoroughly and thoughtfully. Try to look at the underlying elements – the ones that may not be immediately apparent. Those deeper questions will almost always help you uncover valuable insights. Here are a few that I think are well worth exploring.
(This strategy can go hand-in-hand with journaling, as you can write in an effort to explore.)
When and how often are you feeling lonely (or insert the negative emotion you’re experiencing?)
If you are feeling lonely, how often is loneliness creeping in? Do you notice it more during the day or during the night? Do you miss having company more during holidays or birthdays? Around the time of your period? (Because when those hormones start raging on us, feelings can be magnified, right?)
What’s your reaction to the feeling?
Many of us have a “go-to” reaction to stress or unpleasant feelings. What do you go to? For some people it’s food. For some, it’s anger. Some turn to alcohol. For some people, their go-to is a healthy one – like cleaning the house (assuming you spend a reasonable amount of time doing so!). What’s your go-to? How are you dealing with this in the moment?
What’s your best guess as to what’s going on here?
Look back in your past (at your childhood and other phases of life). Think about what this situation may be opening up… is there an old wound from another time when you felt alone? You don’t need to go into a complete psychoanalysis around this, but just ask yourself, “What’s my best guess at what is going on under the surface here?” You’d be surprised at the powerful results you can get from considering this question.
What do you feel is missing in your life today?
Try to get specific and granular here. When you think about this feeling of being lonely or missing family… Are you missing the times when you would have Friday night movies together, laughing and enjoying time together at the end of the week? Are you missing sitting down and doing homework with your kids?
(For me, even now that both my girls are in college now, I remember getting up early in the morning to prep lunches and take my girls to school… and I miss that.) So, what specifically do you think is missing in your life?
Strategy 3: Observe your feelings, and know they will pass.
Have you visited an aquarium? Picture yourself in that setting to employ this third strategy. 🐠 Hear the bubbles? Smell the faint smell of briny water? Feel the moisture in the air?
I’d like you to try observing your feelings as if they’re fish, floating past you in a huge tank at the aquarium. Can you look at these emotions as something that will pass?
Beautiful seahorses float by. Colorful fish pass by, too. And sometimes a piranha or a shark swim past, too. The thing they all have in common? They come into your view and you experience them… and then they are past your view and the next fish is now in your sightline.
Emotions are like this, too. This too shall pass.
The realization here: We are capable of having passing thoughts. It’s good to feel them and decide if we want to stay with them, or move on. We can choose to shift into a different space if we wish, leaving the piranha to go see the seahorses.
Strategy 4: Ask Yourself Byron Katie’s 5 Questions
When I was going through my divorce, I discovered a woman called Byron Katie. Her writings and content are titled ‘The Work.”
Katie encourages us to ask five questions whenever you have a thought. I have found these to be incredibly helpful… especially when finger-pointing, blame, or shame have crept in.
(You know that game that we like to play: We go to: You’re responsible for my feelings. I feel this way because of you. You did this and that’s why I’m in pain.)
But when we ask these Byron Katie’s five questions, we’re forced to really examine our thoughts and challenge those “You” statements.
To start to understand The Work, let’s look at Katie’s five questions:
- Is it true?
- Can you absolutely know that it’s true?
- How do you react?
- What happens, when you believe that thought?
- Who would you be without the thought?
As we do The Work, we remain alert to our stressful thoughts – the ones that cause all the anger, sadness, and frustration in your world.
What’s more, we question those thoughts. Through that questioning, the thoughts lose their power over us. Great spiritual texts describe the what—what it means to be free. The Work is the how. It shows you exactly how to identify and question any thought that would keep you from that freedom.
In my experience, answering these five questions helps me to embrace the reality that’s happening instead of denying it. They prompt me to take responsibility back onto myself and ask things like:
How have I been that way?
I’m finger-pointing, so how does that reflect back on what I’m struggling with? If I didn’t have this thought, would the stress still be a part of my life?
Taking responsibility puts you back in the driver’s seat. It’s empowering.
If this resonates with you, I invite you to watch more from Byron Katie here. She believes (and I strongly agree!) that our thoughts are really what create our world. By extension, they also create the struggles that we’re having. This is so empowering – because it means we can control the struggle.
Divorce – or any trauma in your life, brings up so many feelings, and they run the gamut from really wonderful to not-so-great and even debilitating. But, we can choose how to cope with those feelings.
And, what’s more, we can ask ourselves:
How can I rally here and learn from this situation. How can I grow through this experience?
If you would like extra support, please reach out to me. I help divorced women – just like you – reclaim who they are, learn about themselves and their new priorities, and open their hearts to loving life again. To start learning exactly how to do just that, start by downloading my free PDF guide: Reclaim Your Life After Divorce – here.