Have you ever had a conversation with someone and opened up about your divorce? You told that person you’ve been depressed and that you’re having trouble sleeping, working, and going through the day without crying. You pour your heart out, describing your grief, only to be met with the reality that this person doesn’t see your grief the way you do.
Instead, this person judges it; they know someone who had a worse experience, got over a similar experience quicker, or they communicate to you how you’re unjustified to feel the way you do, for as long as you do, and should snap out of it.
It wasn’t very compassionate of them, which is why the response probably left you feeling like you were sucker-punched. After having an experience like this, a Christ-centered meditation practice can come in handy. God, after all, would want you to open up and reflect on what you’re going through. It’s often better if you go straight to Him, for He is known as the counselor and the healer. However, don’t beat yourself up; as the griever in the above scenario, you were onto something.
You experienced a loss, and with every loss, there’s grief. Like all negative feelings, grief comes and goes causing waves of suffering. It’s natural to want to share and process your grief. It’s why you opened up about it in the first place. Unfortunately, you opened up to the wrong person, perhaps at the wrong time. It’s bound to happen.
But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t continue to heal your heart by working through and expressing your grief. You should, and you must. When you split from your spouse, you experienced an impactful loss. In reality, you’ve experienced many losses related to the loss of your marriage, some of which will become more apparent with time.
Grief from a divorce is as real as the grief arising from any other major trauma. Pain is pain. However, the specifics of divorce grief are different, and so, too, are the steps to get through it.
How to deal with divorce grief
Healing after divorce is a process of time. I know because I went through it myself many years ago. With Christ’s love, compassion, and guidance, I came out of my grief wiser and stronger. Here are a few tips about how to deal with your grief following a divorce so you can do the same.
1. Don’t hold back grieving during your divorce.
If you had an open wound, you wouldn’t leave it alone to fester and get worse, possibly infected, would you? No, you would turn your attention toward it, clean it out, attend to it, and make sure it heals. The same holds for grief. Instead of turning away from grief, you need to lean into it.
When you go through a divorce, depending on your individual circumstances, you stand to lose a lot — your partner, friends, extended family, security, money, your home, and time with your kids. The list can go on and on. You need to acknowledge every loss, feel them, so that you can move through them. By doing this you will understand what you value and what you may need to make you feel whole again.
If you’re reading this and grieving, don’t deny what you’re experiencing; expect grief, even plan for it. And by planning for grief, assume it will hit you at the most unexpected times. You can say, “Oh, here you are again. Let me hear what you need me to look at now.” Scheduling a time, like daily meditation, to feel your grief and work with it can help you process it faster.
Grab a box of tissues, bring your journal, light a candle, pour a cup of tea, and do whatever else will comfort you. Then stop and listen. Your grief will inform you what it needs, what is missing, and what it longs for. Christ is there in your heart, lighting the way. As with an injury, sometimes experiencing pain means your body is beginning to heal.
2. Lean into your support group or support system.
Grief is a strong emotion. It’s powerful and, as you are probably starting to see, has a life of its own. Grab onto it, look at it head-on, and imagine how you can harness that grief to channel it into something positive in your life.
Use your grief to connect with others. Reach out to friends and family who can identify with your grief. If you feel alone and stuck in your grief, this can indicate it’s time to connect with new people who may likewise be able to help you.
Just as important, arguably more, you may be able to help others by telling your story, which can be healing in its own right. The Holy Bible tells us no matter what the situation, continue to glorify God: “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4)
3. Take care of your self.
Exploring grief can also be draining. When you grieve, you are feeling deep pain.
Grief is sadness personified. To take care of the sad part of your self, you need to identify first what exactly is causing you to be sad, and then attend to it. Pretend you’re taking care of a child, a dog, or anyone or anything you love, then give yourself the same attention you would devote to them or it.
In a spiritual sense, take care of your soul, which is the self, by acknowledging the sadness you feel rather than repressing it. Next, soothe your soul via your body — feed it, nurture it, bathe it, rest it. By taking care of your body, you will satisfy your soul and vice versa. The soul longs to be valued and taken care of by you.
4. Do some self-reflection.
Grief speaks to you. It tells you something has changed, and it hurts. It informs you what you miss or value. To understand what that is, why you’re feeling the way you are, you must do some self-reflection. Meditation is essentially a practice of being aware of your truth. Your grief asks this of you. When you answer your grief with your deep, heartfelt truth, it gradually subsides.
Grief is looking for self-love through self-reflection. It can develop in you the ability to be reverent towards all people, knowing we all go through periods of grief.
Think of your grief as a nagging child. That child is tugging on your shirt sleeves because the child needs attention. The child wants something and wants you to listen. So does your grief, and you give it attention by self-reflecting. Place value on your grief, and it will bring you back to wholeness.
5. Don’t make hasty decisions.
Working through divorce grief is a monumental endeavor. It requires the attention of your heart and soul, which means there is likely not room for much else. When you’re attending to grief, your focus is turned inward. The good news is that wisdom is found in Christ, in our hearts. When we quietly connect to His consciousness, we are guided. His light provides a new path.
Although the process of working through grief will benefit you greatly in the long run, while you’re going through the healing process, you may not have the judgment you have during normal times. Your mind may be occupied with solving the issues around the divorce and is, at the same time, clouded with feelings of loss and sadness. For that reason, you shouldn’t make any life-changing decisions while grieving.
That includes getting into a relationship; you might attract the wrong person or not realize someone is taking advantage of you. You shouldn’t quit your job or make any large expenditures you may not be able to afford later. Whatever the decision may be, it’s probably wise to hold off on it until your grief subsides, when you are grounded in clarity and can direct your attention to the situation at hand.
6. Change your expectations.
When it comes to grief, divorce grief, or any other kind, expect the unexpected. As humans, we crave order. But that’s not how grief works. Think of the infinity symbol as a symbol for how grief comes and goes; instead of going through stages of grief linearly, picture moving in and out of grief, jumping from stage to stage, with no identifiable beginning or end.
As you move through the divorce process, there will be some days you feel sad and others when you’ll feel empowered, even happy. Embrace both experiences equally. They’re each a part of your journey.
Lower your expectations of what you can accomplish, and if you have children, you will need to lower your expectations of them, too. Accomplish the practice of compassion and unconditional love. With these virtues on board, after you are healed, you will be blessed beyond your expectations.
7. Cultivate new interests.
Grief transforms us, which means we can grow from it. In a practical sense, that can include cultivating new interests. Each interest we explore, whether we stick with it for the long haul or not, will teach us something about ourselves — what we like, what we don’t like, what we still need and want to learn, and what we value.
An added bonus of cultivating new interests is that, depending on what they are, we can gain new connections with the outside world from them, which can likewise help with our healing. Surrender to your grief and let it take you where it may — anywhere from a pottery class to a mountain climbing meet-up. The beauty and value are in the possibility.
8. Avoid dangerous coping behavior.
Grief doesn’t come without its dangers and temptations. Facing grief is painful, and what will our instinct be when experiencing pain? To make it stop. But be careful; temporary fixes usually cause more problems down the road.
Think of that wound I talked about earlier. You wouldn’t put a bandage on it without cleaning it out first. The same goes for your grief. Drugs, alcohol, and any other vice you can think of will only cover up the infection, causing it to worsen rather than improve.
Change and loss are a part of life and will come again, which is why it’s important to establish new, healthy coping mechanisms. A daily meditation and prayer practice, walking, and sharing feelings are all positive ways to deal with pain.
9. Try to avoid a lengthy divorce process.
When we’re grieving, when we feel bad, we often lash out. During a divorce, the person nearest to us on our radar is, of course, our soon-to-be-ex, the operative word of which should be, and remain, soon. In other words, don’t succumb to the temptation of torturing your spouse, and ultimately yourself, through the divorce process by making the experience worse and, with that, longer than it has to be.
This goal should be especially relevant if you have children because you don’t want them to be caught in the crossfire. Lengthening your divorce process will only serve to prolong your grief, and possibly your children’s, and not productively.
As soon as I could stop being bitter and angry, the healing began. I gained back a certain amount of power when I could pray for everyone involved. Yes, including my ex, even though he continued to hurt others around him.
10. Seek professional help.
In addition to turning inward during your divorce to comfort and heal your self and your soul, several professionals can also help you through this challenging time. I do have one caveat: Make sure they share your same values and beliefs, or you might find it confusing and costly.
Those people can include mental health professionals, a divorce coach, a life coach, a dietitian, and, of course, your clergy who can help clarify God’s words and message for you, most notable of which is to have faith and hope that better experiences are waiting for you.
Going through your divorce may be the hardest trial you’ve had to face in your life thus far. But if you take the above suggestions to heart, you’ll eventually discover that by turning toward your pain, what’s making you weak right now, instead of away from it, you will emerge stronger and more confident than you were before your divorce.
By placing your trust in yourself and, accordingly, in God, because we all have the potential to be mirror-images of Him, He will not only show you the way through your grief but also direct you to the new life that lies beyond it. “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” (Psalm 34:18)
Tonyah Dee has studied the Bible and wisdom traditions of the world for the last 30 years and teaches about finding ways to increase inner strength, stability, and confidence through practicing spiritual disciplines and healthy habits daily. Tonyah is a nutritionist, registered dietitian (R.D.), and earned her B.S. from Loma Linda University. She also holds certifications in Christ-centered life coaching, equine therapy, and meditation. Tonyah has been published in Scary Mommy, MSN, The Mighty, Mantra Wellness, CoveyClub, Thrive Global. Follow Tonyah on her blog, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, LinkedIn, and Medium.