Divorce brings with it this myriad array of feelings. Everything from joy, bliss, and relief to sadness, grief, and loneliness. For a person stuck in the frustrating negotiations and fighting, the last thing you expect is to be dealing with depression or loneliness after a divorce is completed a year or two later. It simply doesn’t make any sense. Having been through this process more than once and helped a number of people with the experience, this I know for sure: you truly have no idea what to expect from the entire experience. It’s going to change you completely (if you let it) and help you become a better person (if you let it). But before all that occurs, you’re going to be feeling feelings. Lots of them. Including being depressed.
The difference between those wallowing in despair while dealing with a divorce and those able to cope with the vicissitudes of the process is understanding that you’re a human being capable of feeling lots of feelings. It requires an intellectual understanding of what to expect and the emotional maturation that comes with the going through it part.
Depression typically comes after the fighting and negotiation are completed. It’s what happens when you’re left with you: you without the courtship, the marriage, and the fighting. It happens when you are coping with the loneliness, the heartache of a failed relationship, the loss of a job you wanted. Depression occurs when you least expect it; often down the road, when it doesn’t seem to be tied to the breakup or the stress of separation.
Here are 3 tips for coping with depression after a divorce.
1 Expect to feel a whole range of negative feelings you may not have felt in a long time (if ever).
These feelings are going to sneak up on you. Usually, when your children are with their other parent or you’ve been passed over by a date you were excited to meet or a holiday comes and you’re all alone. These are the moments that easily bring a person down under the best of circumstances never mind after a monumental loss.
Depression comes when you’re confused by what emotions to feel and which to express. It can bring you so low, you won’t want to do anything. You know that. The problem is that unless you’re clinically depressed (in which case please see your doctor) you won’t realize that you actually have to feel those feelings you’re trying to avoid before the depression will lift and go away.
What does that look like?
Or laughing at the absurdity of your life circumstances and the difficult challenges ahead of you.
Grieving the loss of your so-called perfect marriage.
Cringing at the idea of the amount of courage you’re going to need in order to rise to the occasion and develop resilience and fortitude for your new life.
If you’re one of those people who’d rather pour a drink of Scotch or smoke a cigarette or roll a blunt before you shed a few tears, that depression and lethargy are going to linger a lot longer than you’d like.
In the past, you may have used sex and women or the thrill of a promotion at work to fuel your lighthearted self. But during and after a divorce, energy is brittle and the thrill of the chase isn’t so alluring. After all, that chase led you down the path of unhappiness. You’ll be guarded and alert to new worries. You’ll have a ton on your mind. Being wary is the appropriate response to what you’ve been through. However, not expressing your feelings is not.
Find yourself a safe place to just be human.
Movies are a great escape, usually quite dark and no one cares if you cry during a sad scene. So go to them. Often if necessary!
Take yourself someplace beautiful that was once a romantic place you both liked. By retracing your history, you get to rewrite your memories and reclaim the landmarks of your past. (News Flash: you will surely feel sad but you’ll also feel empowered.)
2. Get those other people won’t be able to understand why you’re feeling down.
Especially if you were the one who wanted the divorce. Or if you were the one who complained all the time about your ex-spouse. Friends and family have no idea of what really happened and they get baffled by your tears or your sour disposition often wondering why you’re not out dating or interested in meeting someone new.
That’s okay. In reality, the gossiping and complaining never really served you. Those habits kept you stuck. It’s best your friends and family don’t get it and that perhaps, you’re staying by yourself more as a result. It’s okay they can’t deal with your tears or moodiness. The less you vent about what happened, the better it is for your overall health.
Instead, ask your friends and family to keep you busy and happy. Do things that you all enjoy and make sure you stay focused on the activities in front of you. If you’re at the beach, be at the beach. If you’re at a birthday party, be at the party. Being active and involved will keep your mind from wandering and will help you feel good overall. It’s called being in the present.
3. No amount of sex (or drugs or alcohol) is going to keep you from eventually grieving the loss of your marriage.
Everyone and I do mean everyone, goes through a period shortly after their separation when then “misbehave.” They have sex like rabbits. They get blasted for a few weeks in a row. They go back to using the way they did in college. Just know and expect that. None of it seems serious or dangerous until you can’t stop. So, if drugs and alcohol cause you trouble, I advise you to stay away from those triggers.
However, sex is what will most likely draw you out to be social, especially after fighting with your spouse. You will look for beautiful people. Have sex with strangers. Let down your STI guard and truly, have the best sex of your life. You will feel on top of the world. If you’re with many lovers, know your performance will be stellar. If you’re with one, you’ll believe your new lover is your perfect soulmate and you’ll brag about how good you’re doing despite the negotiation and fighting. All your friends will be jealous.
Please do not expect that love to become your soulmate and future partner. I know that my words in this article can’t compete with the feelings you’re getting when you’re with them. I get that. But I promise you’re simply setting yourself up for a bigger fall when this relationship falls apart. And it will. And then you’ll again, be left with you dealing with you.
Finding good sex after that (that post-marriage-during-divorce-sex) is tough to do. It’s going to take some time before anyone can measure up to the heat and intensity of that first series of lovers. You’ll feel rejected and unsatisfied. Those feelings will initiate a kind of depression and you’ll begin to question what the past few years were all about.
It’s time to deal with your stuff.
In order to cope with depression after a divorce, you need to realize that any amount of self-pity will be wasted energy. Depression is your come to Jesus moment. It’s the time to take a good look in the mirror and assess the damage the past few years have done on your life. You must decide to find a teacher, a mentor and commit to learning how to do things differently.
You’re worthy of a happy marriage and you’re worthy of great sex and a group of friends who adore you. You’re also responsible for making that happen. Without that kind of personal commitment, nothing and no one can fill the emptiness you’re feeling. That depressive feeling after your breakup is your wake-up call. I hope it brings you to your knees. I want it to drive you to seek competent help. It should shake you to your core and ask you to rise above the fighting and bickering to become a better person. There is no shame in depression and no shame in feeling feelings. You’re human after all. Perfectly, imperfect in your humanity.
Allow this time to push you into maturing up the parts of you without resilience and fortitude. Your future self-requires this of you.
Laura Bonarrigo is a Certified Life Coach and a Certified Divorce Coach at laurabonarrigo.com. Laura is a writer, public speaker and the founder of doingDivorce® School an online group coaching program for those recovering from the experience of divorce. For empowering and practical ways to heal from divorce, visit www.doingDivorceSchool.com and www.laurabonarrigo.com.