Five Remedies to Heal the Heartbreak of DivorceMay 20, 2013 • By Andra Brosh, PhD, Divorce / Divorce Adjustment Topic Expert Contributor
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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, CA. All Rights Reserved.
Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org. The preceding article was solely written by the author name above. The view and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.
elena dMay 20th, 2013 at 11:38 PM
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??
MagdalineMay 21st, 2013 at 2:30 AM
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!
LeeMay 21st, 2013 at 2:31 AM
Big, huge question: why do people even bother to get married?
ShirleyMay 21st, 2013 at 2:32 AM
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.
CathyMay 21st, 2013 at 2:34 AM
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!
BobbyMay 21st, 2013 at 2:36 AM
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.
GeoffMay 21st, 2013 at 2:38 AM
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!
KellMay 21st, 2013 at 2:39 AM
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!
ShandraMay 21st, 2013 at 2:41 AM
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!!!!!
KayMay 21st, 2013 at 2:44 AM
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…
MelvinMay 21st, 2013 at 2:46 AM
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 oMay 21st, 2013 at 4:00 AM
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.
BillMay 21st, 2013 at 1:58 PM
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 BroshMay 21st, 2013 at 9:24 PM
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.
bumberMay 22nd, 2013 at 9:13 AM
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.
JenniferMay 24th, 2013 at 5:53 PM
VERY good advice! I can relate… if only I had known then what I know now!!
DonnaJune 8th, 2013 at 5:47 PM
Same here !
mikeJune 16th, 2013 at 4:44 PM
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
ShariSeptember 22nd, 2013 at 8:58 PM
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.
LaDonnaNovember 18th, 2013 at 6:45 PM
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
RobSeptember 21st, 2014 at 5:54 AM
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.
MandiSeptember 21st, 2014 at 2:10 PM
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.
MandiSeptember 21st, 2014 at 2:18 PM
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.
JoSeptember 21st, 2014 at 2:58 PM
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.
tomDecember 23rd, 2014 at 5:01 PM
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?
tomDecember 23rd, 2014 at 5:09 PM
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.
SharonApril 8th, 2015 at 7:45 AM
It’s only been a week and a half since he founds rental in 5 days and moved out. Twenty years of marriage. I got very I’ll three years ago and am still considered Chronically ILL. We have two beautiful children and even though he loves them and hasn’t moved ‘ that far away ‘ I’m still CATATONIC which is really hard when a little girl and a thirteen year old boy look to me for strength. This is without a doubt hell on earth. And I’m a religious person. To watch your child sob for her father has made me suicidal. No I am not weak , have always been considered a fighter, or survivor because of my childhood too, but NOTHING AND NO ONE can feel the pain I do when I watch her cry for her father, my poor son just feels for me but won’t talk about it. Which is probably worse but he has Aspergers and is processing it all differently . I’ve never felt so physically and emotionally broken.
SharonApril 8th, 2015 at 7:49 AM
I Know! How can they just walk away? I just can’t fathom.
The GoodTherapy.org TeamApril 8th, 2015 at 11:41 AM
Thank you for your comment, Sharon. We wanted to provide links to some resources that may be relevant to you here. We have more information about what to do in a crisis at http://www.goodtherapy.org/in-crisis.html
The GoodTherapy.org Team
DeniseAugust 11th, 2015 at 9:10 AM
My husband filed for divorce on May 30th. I have tried everything to get him to give us a chance. He won’t agree to it. He doesn’t talk to me and avoids me. I still love him so much. I cry every single day. I have wrote him letters pouring my heart out but it doesn’t phase him at all. He is so emotionally disconnected from me. We have been married 21 yrs. Together 24 yrs. I am so distraught. I want him back so terribly bad.
liggyAugust 18th, 2015 at 12:10 PM
My wife and I have been married for 9yrs next week and together for 14yrs. Yesterday we signed papers and filed for divorce. We have two little girls who we both love and cherish. Although we’ve been separated for a about 4 months there have been a couple lapses of reconcilliation. However, she kept going back to her wanting to separate and ultimately divorce. However, I found out this weekend she had been talking to a man she met online, for a couple weeks and was trying to start up a relationship with him before we had even in my mind ‘officially’ termintated the relationship or the expectation we could come back together down the road.. which was the last straw for ME actually wanting to try and make things work. I still love her but have too much respect for myself and have lost faith and trust in her and our marriage ever getting back to where I beleived it could have. During our marriage we were committed to eachother, there were no aggregious offenses and I figured we’d come out of the “tough times” with finances and schedules, stress, and young kids to once again live a happier “freer” life. She couldn’t see that future and became unhappy and became resentful of the situation and of me. She said she fell out of love with me. Honestly I think she will someday regret her decision, but maybe not. I am hurt and confused as are the great majority of our close family and friends. I didn’t see this coming and never thought she would treat me with the indifference and uncaring and unloving attitude she now does. When I found the “love letter” to this other man, I lost touch with reality and as others have mentioned have felt like an electrified zombie with nerves fried and all synapses firing, yet with a dull and cloudy mind that can only focus and dwell in the negative and continuously asking why?! I am committed to moving beyond that space but it is so very hard.
liggyAugust 18th, 2015 at 12:20 PM
here are some of the mantra’s I’ve been replacing the negative thoughts with.. they have been helping me. Hope they might help someone else.. as this SUCKS.
– Love radiates from me and I am the source of that love. It is infinite in supply and it’s circulation depends on and is governed by my decision to give or receive it.
– I will NOT succumb to bitterness, jealousy, confusion, and hatred.
– Only the strong can forgive. You must forgive others in order to save YOURSELF.
– FOCUS on the positive. Your kids, your well being, and the future.
– Your worth, value, and contribution to this world and the people in it.. IS NOT determined by the opinion of one other person.
– Your worth and value is also self generated and determined only by you.
– RISE ABOVE. Be the better person. Think of your kids. Live your life. She lives hers.
– Work towards aloofness and indifference on all fronts relating to her.
– When with her keep your energy upbeat, positive, and to YOURSELF.
– Do NOT give away your power and energy to someone who is not willing to treat it as precious and valuable. I choose the flow of energy from me to others.
– No longer talk or THINK negative about her or the situation. Work towards the best solution possible.
– YOU WILL NEVER REALLY UNDERSTAND WHY. YOU MUST ACCEPT THAT. The why is irrelevant at this point.. it does not matter, she may not even fully understand why.
– Don’t think about or dwell on the idea of her with other guys. YOU NOW WANT THIS DIVORCE so that need not consume your thoughts. There are many other things that you actually have control over to think about. You are harming yourself with these thoughts and giving away your energy. Only you can control your thoughts and the stories you make up in your head.
– REMEMBER: One persons ability or inability to love you does not make you any more or less than you are. YOU DETERMINE YOUR WORTH.
– Forgive yourself again and again if you need it. Forgive her, but remain aloof and indifferent.
– I love myself! I love myself! I love myself! I good and pure, light, free, open to give and receive the infinite amount of love in this universe. She DOES not have a monopoly on your love.
ElisaSeptember 8th, 2015 at 1:40 PM
My husband asked for a divorce three months ago and it came out of nowhere! We had just moved to a new place and were making plans for the summer! All he said was he didn’t think he could be happy with me. I was shocked and asked all of the questions! He kept saying he needed time. Two days later he left the kids and I. I was in shock. For three weeks I just went through the motions. Three weeks after he left I found out he had cheated on me the month before he left and left us to be with her! Like anyone I completely lost who I was in that moment. I felt disgusting and ashamed! I was angry and still in love! How could he rip my whole world apart? What was wrong with me? Once I found out he tried to come back to make things right but he couldn’t handle my emotions and he was not willing to right his wrong. Right now we are still living together until he moves to another city. It is hard because we do everything a married couple does but in the back of my mind I know the end is near. I don’t want to let go and at the same time I am losing ny grip! I feel so much pain that at times I feel like I am dying! I replay the days after finding out just to relive the pain and feel alive! I talk to my PTSD councilor about it but just like war I see myself shutting down and wonder what do I do next?!? I don’t want to talk about it but at the same time it consumes my thoughts! I feel like I’m stuck in the middle of two worlds! It has only been three months so maybe time will everything!
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