Getting a divorce can take a lot out of you. Apart from the loss that you may be feeling due to losing your spouse, you may be losing your home, money, friends, and time with your children if you have them. These losses and changes result in the powerful feeling of grief, described by the Mayo Clinic as the natural reaction to loss.
The Mayo Clinic further says that while grieving, emotions can be so strong as to overwhelm the person experiencing them and come and go for months, even years. Living in this state is draining on a person’s body, soul, and spirit, to say the least.
I wish there were an easy way to snap my fingers and make your grief disappear. But that is not how grieving works. Grieving a loss, including that of a divorce, is a process of time. We grieve for a reason. Sadness heals the pain we are experiencing. Every time we feel the sadness of letting go, we become a little more whole and complete. We attend to our wounds and they heal.
To attend to our wounds properly, we need strength. Likely, if you’re grieving your divorce, you already feel mentally and physically weak. However, if you don’t become proactive in your healing, that weakness you feel now might worsen. Grieving your divorce constructively becomes more difficult, prolonging your recovery. Instead, you potentially get stuck in this state, unable to move on with your life.
That means you, the griever, have a job to do. To facilitate your grieving, you must take care of yourself. It won’t be easy, but if you do it piece by piece, gradually, you will gain the inner and outer strength required of you to emerge better and stronger. Here are five tips on how.
1. Stay physically fit to deal with divorce grief.
Think of your body as a container inside of which healing can occur. When your body is strong and flexible you will move through your divorce and be able to process emotions more efficiently. You need energy to heal. It is the reason why it is so important to keep your body moving. Movement of any kind produces energy and strength. If your body is weak, it will drain you in every way possible — physically, mentally, and emotionally.
When you feel your best physically, it makes it easier to identify and process your grief. If you feel bad physically, it will be difficult to focus on what you must do to get emotionally well. All you will hear is your body screaming out to you in pain.
Divorce grief involves getting good at listening. Pain seeks attention. It will become quieter the more you attend to it. Therefore, if any part of you is in pain, practice turning toward it and showing it love and compassion. God’s Spirit is inside you. If you can’t show yourself kindness, seek more of your spiritual side.
You don’t need to run a marathon to stay physically fit either. However, you must keep your body moving and your blood circulating. Physical activity, any movement, can help prevent your emotions from building up or getting stuck in your body. Because we are grieving and in emotional pain, psychologically, we won’t want to move, a phenomenon called exercise resistance making this first step all the more challenging.
So start small. Stretch, do yoga, calisthenics, or go for walks. Low impact activities can have a high impact on your health. Plus, your brain releases hormones called endorphins when you are physical, causing you to feel happier. When you are happy, you feel less depressed and anxious, two widespread symptoms associated with grief over a divorce.
“Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” (Corinthians 6:19-20)
2. Start or maintain healthy routines while dealing with divorce grief.
When we grieve because of divorce, we are grieving because there was a change in our life. That change rocked us, it threw us off, and now we are struggling to get our footing once again. When there is a lot of change, as happens during a divorce, it becomes harder to stay grounded in a routine. Instead, we get caught up in the swirl, which can become a waste of time, if we are not careful.
Establishing a routine will enable you to find the time you need to practice self-care and fit in anything you must for your wellbeing. Your routine does not have to be complicated. It can be as simple as setting the alarm to get out of bed at the same time each morning, so you can shower, meditate, and eat breakfast in a predictable way.
Because your morning routine sets the tone for your entire day, it is probably the most important and where you should direct your efforts first.
I like to wake up around 5:30 a.m., shower, meditate with a cup of hot tea, finish getting dressed afterward, and eat a healthy breakfast, which consists of food I love and look forward to, like eggs, a smoothie or oatmeal.
The best part is that by 8:30 a.m., I have met with God, prayed, contemplated who I am, and feel ready for my day. It works. It worked for Jesus, and it works for countless executives and CEOs.
The other routines you should set center around food and bedtime. Figure out the times you would like to eat and stick to them as much as you can. Eat lunch and dinner around the same time each day, and work your snacks in accordingly. That way, you won’t overeat; plus, your mealtimes will become another way to do something nice for yourself, deliberately nourishing your body.
Moreover, by eating at the same time each day, you will be better able to maintain your energy level throughout the day. That limits mood swings, which can cause you to become tired and irritable, even sick. The same holds for vitamins or medication; arrange to take them at the same time every day.
Finally, and no less important than your other routines, is the one you create for bedtime. When you go to bed at a specific time, and not too late, you will give yourself the gift of a good night’s sleep. When you sleep well, you will have the energy to get up early and go through your morning routine with ease.
When you don’t get enough sleep, you will get up too late. You will rush into your responsibilities instead of making space for yourself to get into the right mindset and set your intentions for the day, causing you added stress. You will also have difficulty concentrating and, quite literally, throw off your entire day. This pattern can, in turn, negatively affect your physical and mental health, which can impact your routines for the next day, and so forth.
Your body and mind function as a system, with every part working with or against the other. It is your choice which way you want your system to function.
“Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.” (Mark 1:35)
3. Meditate daily to deal with divorce grief.
When you get your routine down, not only will you be able to incorporate a meditation practice into it, but you will also be able to meditate more effectively. But first, what is meditation?
Meditation itself is a broad term, meaning any contemplative practice. Christ-Centered Meditation builds on that definition by honing that definition to describe quiet time with God specifically. That practice can include prayer, readings from scripture, and chanting.
It can be as formal or informal as you like. The critical element is that you set aside time for your meditation and meditate in a designated space at the same time each day. That way, you can begin and then continue the work you need to do, to heal your soul.
If your bedtime and nighttime routines are reliable, you will be alert and awake throughout the day. You will have the capacity to look inward, to listen, and to talk to God, to have a conversation with Him. That discussion is very much a time to give and receive.
During your meditation, you will learn how to be honest and vulnerable with Jesus, which will help you become that way with everyone else, including yourself.
Being open can be difficult for some people, especially for those grieving a divorce. It is common to retreat into yourself and away from the world during a divorce; the outside world can remind you of all you have lost. The good news is what you experience during meditation will seep out into the world. When you are more open with God, you will be more open with others and new experiences.
It is this newness that will ultimately propel you forward. Think of your meditation, your time with God, as divine therapy, after which you will feel a little better. And then a bit better than that the next time. The more you meditate with God, the faster you will heal.
“Hear my cry for help, my King and my God, for to you I pray.” (Psalm 5:2)
4. Journal to help process your divorce grief.
Writing is one of the most practical ways to sort through your thoughts and organize them. When I was going through my divorce, I must have filled up 10 to 15 journals during that time. Looking back, I am not surprised.
I had a lot to work out, and writing about my positive and negative thoughts helped me find that neutral space to have the clarity to make clear and wise decisions for my new life.
Putting your pen or pencil on paper allows you to tap into that creative part of yourself, too. Doing this is immensely helpful, especially during a divorce, because you quite literally have to create a new life yourself. Journaling can help you clear out the past so that you can see the future.
If you shy away from writing, use the brainstorming method. Just pick up a pen or pencil and start letting thoughts flow. No need to have a goal or a purpose. Or ask the Spirit of God to help you find your truth in that moment.
Journaling can become a form of prayer. Write to God as if He is listening, because He is. Write about what you’re thankful for, what you need help with, and what your heart desires.
“For who knows a person’s thoughts except for their own spirit within them? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. (1 Corinthians 2:11).
5. Make time for fun amidst your divorce grief.
When we are going through a divorce, negative memories move to the forefront of our minds, and the good memories become tarnished as we adjust to an environment of bitterness, loss, and anger.
Our memories are stored in our minds, which is why we need to make new happy ones as soon and as many as possible. It’s up to us to renew our minds with positive, life-affirming thoughts. Even a walk in nature or listening to music we love can build a beautiful new memory.
As we impart or input new thoughts and happy, fun memories, hope is restored. The negative and sad memories get pushed back and we can consciously let go of those bringing us down. It is the precise reason you need to create balance in your life while grieving your divorce; you need to offset the dark with the light.
If you incorporate joyful activities into your life, you will feel happier. That will lead to the ability to laugh and feel lighter. Laughter is good for the soul and will help relieve your grief.
Look for joyful people who make you smile and laugh and be open to opportunities to have good old fashioned fun. Return to childhood pleasures, like bike riding, dancing, or blowing bubbles.
It’s what we do that makes us joyful, not what we have. When your soul bubbles up with joy and feels full, as though it is about to burst, you will recognize all the abundance in your life.
Life can and will be good again. Your grief will bring you a deeper appreciation for life. Completion, wholeness, and love await you as you let go of your sadness. You may come to realize God is the attachment you need the most.
“Though he brings grief, he will show compassion, so great is his unfailing love.” (Lamentations 3:32)
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.