Spring is a time for rebirth and renewal. It's a time for self-reflection. How well you will cope with the aftermath of divorce depends on whether you take the time to heal, learn from past experiences, envision a better life filled with more rewarding relationships, and take positive action. This month's blog post is by Marriage and Family therapist and divorce counselor, Juliana Neiman, who will explore these three important steps to heal from the aftermath of divorce.
"Divorce destroys our self- esteem and self-confidence- and shakes our core identity."
"Divorce shatters our dreams and plans for the future- the clear image we had of our lives–our past, present and future."
"Divorce brings about a roller coaster of intense feelings: sadness, grief, shame, panic, hurt, rejection, guilt, anger, confusion, terror, depression, anxiety, loneliness, fear , unworthiness, and a lot more."
All of these are quotes are from support group participants, patients, and even my own personal experience. They are all relevant to so many of us who have gone through the difficult experience of divorce. I run a 7 week Divorce Support Group at the Jewish Community Center in Manhattan, where women and men who are beginning the process of separation and/or divorce come to reach out for help and support, to learn and better understand the emotional and psychological process of divorce, and to gain insight into the healing journey. Participants of the support groups are a source of support and comfort to one another, and very often they stay connected even after the workshop is over, forming new friendships and a new support system.
I would like to share with you one of the themes of our sessions: "3 Steps in the Healing Journey," which includes mourning, self-awareness and envisioning a more successful life.
1. Begin to Heal
- Mourn at your own pace.
- Confront and be aware of what you are feeling right now, as difficult and painful as this is.
- Take extra good care of yourself: Make sure you sleep well and enough. eat healthy, exercise. Walk every day if you cannot get to the gym. Get a massage. Yoga and meditation with a yoga coach can help you with positive energy.
- Seek good help and support. Go to therapy or support groups. Reach out to family members and friends, but only to those who are not "toxic" and can support you and love you unconditionally, no matter where you are emotionally.
- Make sure you do not turn the anger you feel against yourself by engaging in self-destructive behaviors.
- Slowly and gradually begin to re-build your self-esteem. Remind yourself what is good about you, what is lovable and worthwhile, what you like about yourself, and what are your best qualities and strengths. Write them down. Writing helps you envision and reinforces your positive thinking.
2. Begin to Learn
- What are your coping mechanisms? What makes you feel better? Nurtured?
- What do you need more of right now? What is "toxic" and you need to stay away from, including thoughts, people, situations, etc.?
- What did you learn from your marriage? What were your positive and negative contributions and your spouses positive and negative contributions?
- How can you make the legal/financial aspects of the process easier, less conflictive, and less adversarial?
Again, write your thoughts down on paper, to solidify your ideas and reinforce positive thinking about your next steps.
3. Begin to Envision
- Visualize, accept, and relate to your new circumstances. Stop fighting it and wishing it were different. You do not want to be stuck in anger and resentment forever.
- Visualize a new door opening for your life, and begin to play around with different images of what you would like your life to look and feel like. There are new and exciting possibilities that lie ahead, if you can just envision them.
- Identify who you want to become. Start by envisioning positive behaviors.
- Identify what brings joy to your life. What brings about the better parts of yourself? What do you want to begin to add to your life in very small steps?
- Take baby steps into action. You do not want to overwhelm yourself.
Remember to be good to yourself, kind, patient and compassionate. Write down three positive things you look forward to or accomplished each day to reinforce positive thinking. This is indeed very hard work, but by taking time for self-reflection and creating a plan of positive action, you will begin to heal
Juliana Neiman, MA, is a Licensed Marriage and Family therapist and a Licensed Mental Health counselor. She specializes in couples therapy, sex therapy and is a divorce counselor. She has a private practice in Manhattan where she works with individuals and couples- and she leads divorce support groups. Juliana is fully bilingual- Spanish English- and she can be heard weekly in her radio show segment Sex after Divorce at http://www.divorcesourceradio.com/category/audio-podcast/sex-after-divorce/. Phone: 212 362 1524. Web: www.juliananeiman.com