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Five Remedies to Heal the Heartbreak of Divorce

Wedding photo torn in half

Everyone wants to believe in forever. Even if we know it’s not real, we hold the hope that our love will prevail, and that our marriages will last a lifetime.

When you got married, you deposited all of your hopes and dreams into your partner and the marriage with the belief that your investment would flourish and grow. You trusted that your return would come in the form of forever.

Now that your marriage is over, you have to reconcile what you thought you had, the future you imagined would be. Letting go of hopes and dreams is a painful process. This experience of loss feels like a betrayal because you feel you were promised forever and got never.

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As hard as this is, if you don’t work toward relinquishing this disappointment, you will be stuck clinging to a belief that no longer exists. In the face of uncertainty, your tendency will be to return to what was or to focus on what could have been. However, you need to turn your attention to what is.

The rug has been pulled out from under you, which means you have to find your footing again.

Your dreams have been crushed, which means you have to reimagine a future grounded in a new reality.

Your fantasy of forever served you at the time you got married, but now you need to apply these healing salves to your wounds so you can find your way back to your own truth.

Five ways to get there:

  1. Define the meaning of forever: Forever is a term that comes from fairy tales and romantic movies. Most married people expect to grow old together, and remain married until death. This still isn’t forever. Reflect on what you really expected because sometimes the fantasy can create more suffering than necessary.
  2. Find your center: When your world changes overnight from certainty to surreal, and everything you thought you knew to be true is in question, it’s time to find your center. Your center is where you go to find peace and the answers to your questions. For some people, this is faith or spirituality. For others, it’s a meditative activity such as exercise or painting. Your center is your grounding, what will keep you sane.
  3. Reaffirm your values: It’s hard to feel confident in your own values and what’s important when everything you thought you trusted and knew is up in the air. You most likely held certain principles about your marriage and your commitment. You need to remember that your values are still in place even though your marriage isn’t. The standards to which you uphold yourself don’t need to change just because things didn’t work out as you planned.
  4. Reconnect to your dreams: You may feel that all of your hopes and dreams went down the drain with your marriage. While your dream of this marriage lasting forever has been crushed, you still have an imagination and capacity to create new dreams. It feels like you’ve been robbed of the future you thought you had, but you can still begin to imagine a new life worth living.
  5. Stay inspired: Despair is on the other side of hope, so once the hope is gone, things can become dark. It’s essential that you stay inspired to stay afloat. You can draw inspiration from role models, quotes, blogs, even your own children. You will want to give up, but you have to work at taking one step forward every day.

© Copyright 2013 by Andra Brosh, PhD, therapist in Los Angeles, California. All Rights Reserved.

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  • elena d May 20th, 2013 at 11:38 PM #1

    my divorced wrecked my life.having invested myself in my marriage for over a decade the divorce was a bolt of lightning in my life.never could recover from its impact even now that three years have passed.

    how do I cope?by no having expectations any more. expectations are what bring the disappointment I the first place so why have them??

  • Magdaline May 21st, 2013 at 2:30 AM #2

    OMG. Totally just found out my mom and step-dad are getting a divorce. They have two young kids, my half brother and sister. Since I’ve been through divorce once with my mom and dad, I am sooooo sad for them. I know the pain they are getting ready to deal with and absolutely hate it for them. Divorce sux!

  • Lee May 21st, 2013 at 2:31 AM #3

    Big, huge question: why do people even bother to get married?

  • Shirley May 21st, 2013 at 2:32 AM #4

    All very good tips. Hoping this will help many. No resource available when I got divorced way back when. Everybody had no problem judging me and even less problem not helping me. Not easy being a single mom of three back in the day.

  • Cathy May 21st, 2013 at 2:34 AM #5

    I am in love with #4. So in love, that I am living it!! After my husband who cheated on me with our neighbor for all 12 years of our loving marriage took a hike, I decided to go back to school and do what I’d always wanted to: be a nurse! It took awhile, but nothing has ever made me happier than finally finding my way to persuing my true dream when I was at my lowest. It’s true that helping other people helps you feel better and I get to do that every day!

  • Bobby May 21st, 2013 at 2:36 AM #6

    When I read article like this, I realize I am the luckiest man alive. I’ve been married for 18 years now and I am still madly in love with my wife.

  • Geoff May 21st, 2013 at 2:38 AM #7

    Oh, lordie. I am on wife #5.
    My kids tell me to quit trying.
    but I ain’t ready to throw in the towel just yet.
    I am thinking this one probably wasn’t meant to be either.
    I think I am just a hopeless romantic and get bored.
    With what is right in front of me.
    I guess I should probably do better.
    But the heart wants what the heart wants.
    But is sure is expensive!

  • Kell May 21st, 2013 at 2:39 AM #8

    I volunteer with a group at my church. Of people who are divorced. And I’m always looking. For new ways to help them. I can’t wait to show them this. Do you have any more ideas? For divorced people? Sometimes it’s hard to come up with new stuff. Because some of the people have been in my group. For like 5 years. I am glad they like me so much!

  • Shandra May 21st, 2013 at 2:41 AM #9

    Why does divorce have to be so hard? It’s what we both wanted, so why are we both so miserable? And, would we be less miserable if we got back together? Heck no!!!!!

  • Kay May 21st, 2013 at 2:44 AM #10

    I am struggling the most with suggestion #2. I can’t seem to find an activity that I can depend on as a source of comfort when I am upset and stressed. I’ve tried those suggestions, but I just haven’t hit on what will work for me yet. It is getting frustrating as I’ve tried different things for the last six months. The main thing I want to do is watch TV on the sofa with my blanket and pillow. I think that falls more under an avoidance behavior rather than a coping or centering behavior…

  • Melvin May 21st, 2013 at 2:46 AM #11

    Um, yep, so totally wanted to give up but just couldn’t b/c I had my child to look after. i had to be strong for her even when what i really wanted to do was crawl into a hole and not ever come back out. but she needed me more than i needed a hole to crawl into so i’d get up each day and put my clothes on and run around after her and guess what. at the end of the day i’d feel much better.

  • Britt o May 21st, 2013 at 4:00 AM #12

    I think that there are times when most of us come to believe who we are and our self worth is all tied up in how we relate to another person. We somehow along the way forget who we are on our own. These are the people that I would think would have the most difficult time when hetting a divorce. When who you are has become so enmeshed with someone else then it is hard to go through that separation from another. I know that all of your tips are great ones, and once you can find yourself again then I think that all of them could be integral to the whole healing process.

  • Bill May 21st, 2013 at 1:58 PM #13

    This hit home. After 12 years she just unexpectedly pulled the plug for no reason except that she just “wants out.” We were perfect for each other and didn’t cheat, fight, have child or financial problems, or experience any other reasons for divorce. She just lost her mind and can’t keep her wedding vow.

    I hope it haunts her the rest of her life. I know I don’t deserve this, I’m a good guy and someone else will find their diamond in the rough some day. It really is a struggle for me right now though.

  • Andra Brosh May 21st, 2013 at 9:24 PM #14

    Thank you for all of your comments! I wish I could comment individually on them, so I’ll give some general responses. Divorce isn’t what’s hard, it’s ending the dream and the idea of forever. It’s the heartbreak that hurts the most. I’ve written about the physiology of heartbreak on my website. I also have lots of ideas and blogs about helping move through the end of a terminal marriage so check it out for more reading. With regard to #2, go to the bookstore and look through the books on spirituality until you find one that speaks to you. Find quotes and affirmations that resonate and read them daily. Try walking on the beach, swimming and being in nature. There’s nothing wrong with staying under a blanket and watching TV as long as it doesn’t become too much of a habit. You all need to heal.

  • bumber May 22nd, 2013 at 9:13 AM #15

    Before ANY of you marry, do your research into Narcissistic Personality Disorders FIRST. Before 29 years of controlling heart numbing agony passes and you are ALONE, BROKE and without help. Trust me. I am finally getting out.

  • Jennifer May 24th, 2013 at 5:53 PM #16

    VERY good advice! I can relate… if only I had known then what I know now!!

  • Donna June 8th, 2013 at 5:47 PM #17

    Same here !

  • mike June 16th, 2013 at 4:44 PM #18

    well its been 1 1/2 years this is #2 after 20 years I accept all the blame don’t ask she filed.. but my anger and guilt is killing me I moved 650 miles to my home state, left my kids there now i don’t know to help my kids deal with her new friend, I cant say want I want to, I cant do anything ,I am so below the despair line,i cant help my self, I never wanted this I cant fix it. for any guys out there this sucks and women yes men do cry a lot, no insurance no therapy no help

  • Shari September 22nd, 2013 at 8:58 PM #19

    It has been 2 years. I am trying new activities. I have dated. I currently have a guy friend who seems crazy about me.

    I still think about my husband everyday coming home from work. I still cry some everyday.

    I am doing all the right things to move on. But my heart still hurts.

    I was married for 23 years. We were about to become empty nesters. I was looking forward to the new chapter in our life. The rug wasn’t pulled out from under me. It still feels like the was a dig kicked out of the car in the country. Then I got hit by the Mack truck but I lived and I am still licking my wounds.

    It really does take time.

  • LaDonna November 18th, 2013 at 6:45 PM #20

    17 years and I am devestated. Although he took his money affection and moved out I still find myself hoping things will change. I still want him. The pain I feel in my heart wont go away. It hurts so much. Any advice. .. words of wisdom

  • Rob September 21st, 2014 at 5:54 AM #21

    Can’t stop dreaming about my ex. Got remarried to a much older, wiser more experienced woman two years ago. Thought I could move on. Even preach in church how The Lord Jesus is the only answer to the Soul Wound. Now I am on a long vacation and that ends tomorrow. Don’t want to go back home and ‘ face life ‘ without being whole. Divorce is like being a living dead person.

  • Mandi September 21st, 2014 at 2:10 PM #22

    That is exactly how I feel. Just like an empty shell going through the motions.It hurts today just as much as it did 3 years ago.

  • Mandi September 21st, 2014 at 2:18 PM #23

    It’s been 3 years. It still hurts every time he comes to get or son for his weekends. I feel like an empty shell going through the motions. Every thing I do is because I have to. I want to curl up in my bed and never get back out. I push on for my son only.

  • Jo September 21st, 2014 at 2:58 PM #24

    I wish you the best. This November is our 25th anniversary and I am still profoundly in love with my husband. Yet, he has left me and our family for his teen crush who wouldn’t give him the time of day in high school. He ‘got bored’ and moved on. Suddenly we no longer matter to him.

  • tom December 23rd, 2014 at 5:01 PM #25

    23 years…my wife said she isn’t happy…I wasddevastated and still am. I have driven my family crazy with constant hashing over why. I am done. Think about it….1 person should not define you. I know its hard, I am with you, try this. Get your phone..download astreaming music app put in your head phones and llisten to music the you know makes you feel empowered. For me its 90’s hip hop what’s yours?

  • tom December 23rd, 2014 at 5:09 PM #26

    Mike, remember to love yourself…….just because another person abandoned you emotionally ( it hurts I know ) does not make it OK to abandon yourself brother. Put your headphones on and go do whatever it is your good at man, and love yourself……it will make other people wonder and want to know what it is that makes you love yourself…that’s what made her love you in the first place. There are other fish in the sea my freind.

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