4 Ways to Heal the ‘Homesickness’ That Follows Divorce

Depressed in a Dark HallwayOne of the most profound injuries of divorce and the end of a marriage is the loss of a sense of place. Marriage touches on our deepest sense of belonging, and without that grounded experience of knowing we are in our rightful place, we may feel terrified and alone. The feeling of being adrift without a “due north” can trigger a sense of panic that can only be felt when you feel no earth beneath your feet.

Several years ago, when my mom was first diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, she was often disoriented and lost. Never feeling solid in where she was, she would express a desire to go “home” even when she was already there. This was heartbreaking and hard to hear, but it made me aware of how our sense of place is not always about the external environment in which we live. I came to understand that feeling at home is as much an internal experience as it is a concrete manifestation of a place in time.

We all need a place in the world where we can go to feel safe. For most people, the first thing that usually comes to mind when asked where they feel the most safe is home. We associate our homes as being places of refuge, and it’s in our homes that we feel the most comfortable. This makes perfect sense, particularly since we feel the most at peace when we experience a sense of belonging and connection to where we are. Like you, perhaps, I spend a lot of time working on my home and trying to make it a place I can feel proud of and connected to. This is an important practice particularly when we’re coming off of an experience where our sense of place has been fragmented, as with divorce.

When my marriage ended, I was both emotionally and physically displaced from what I had considered to be my home. As the years pass, I have moments of homesickness where I long for the feeling I had when I was married with an intact family life. I catch myself getting sad and longing for something other than what I have in the present moment. I have learned to name this as homesickness because it helps me to remind myself that I belong where I am now, not in a life that no longer exists.

Coping with homesickness after a divorce is an essential piece of the healing process. When we feel like we don’t belong anywhere, we’re at risk of depression and other mental health issues. Feeling connected to a place is part of our human condition, and sometimes we need to create that when we feel lost and disconnected from what we know or knew.

Here are four ways to begin healing your homesickness post-divorce:

  1. Name the feeling: Homesickness manifests in many forms, and it doesn’t always present clearly. Homesickness can feel like depression, nostalgia, regret, grief, and apathy. If you think back to being homesick as a child while at camp or somewhere else away from your family, you’ll likely remember it was a very sad experience. It was clear, however, what you were missing because you had a place you were supposed to go back to eventually. With divorce there is no going back, so it’s a harder experience to identify because it doesn’t really make sense. Naming your feeling as homesickness may ease the suffering, and then you can take steps toward healing that loss in the moment.
  2. Establish a sit spot: A sit spot is a place one goes to often and regularly to look, listen, feel, smell, and even taste the surrounding landscape. A sit spot creates a feeling of consistency and routine, and it trains the mind and heart to seek out a particular place for relief. Knowing you have a particular spot in your garden or near your home that you can go to when you feel homesick will offer an active step and a way to feel some relief. You can also create a sit spot inside your home if going outside feels uncomfortable. The idea is about consistency and a deep trust that this is a place you belong.
  3. Make nature a second home: I have also extended my internal sense of home into the bigger landscape of nature. I have asked many people where they felt safest as a child, and the answer is often “in nature.” There is something about the trees, plants, and earth that welcomes us home and embraces us in a loving hug. This is a particularly great alternative to finding a home post-divorce when the actual structure in which you reside isn’t pleasant. Often, our homes become challenging spaces when a divorce is happening due to toxicity or bad memories. Nature provides relief and a clean space for healing and grounding into a place of belonging.
  4. Create an image: Imagery is as powerful as reality because it’s what surfaces from our dreams and deep beneath our consciousness. Activating an image of home can come from drawing or painting what you see as home. It doesn’t have to be a literal representation, just an image of what you see as this place. Allow yourself the space to dream and imagine your home will trickle into your nighttime dreams and a vision of what this means will take shape. If you’re an intimidated artist, you can cut pictures out of magazines and create a collage of home.

Know that whatever path you take, you have the right to both an internal and external home. Remembering that you can go inside or outside to create this sense of belonging and place may help you through the moments when you feel adrift and alone.

© Copyright 2015 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Andra Brosh, PhD, BCHN, therapist in Pasadena, California

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views 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.

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  • Lila

    Lila

    November 19th, 2015 at 7:51 AM

    and I even had to move out of my own house after the divorce so that feeling was only intensified. I lost my marriage and my home, thankfully not the kids but you know, the loneliness was still a huge issue for me

  • Lindley

    Lindley

    November 19th, 2015 at 12:40 PM

    As hard as it can be, you just gotta put one foot in front of the other and get back out into the world of the living. I know from experience that ti is whole lot easier to sit aorund feeling sorry for yourself then it is to go out and try something new. But think about which one is going to be better for you in the end. You have to get out there and make something of your life otherwise the divorce is the only thing that will ever come to define you. Is that what you want?

  • Zack

    Zack

    November 19th, 2015 at 2:13 PM

    This is a great way to describe how I felt when my wife and I split. I had to find a new home, only had the kids part of the time and I went from having someone pretty much do everything for me to having to do it all on my own. I know we made the right decision but that doesn’t make that feeling any easier.

  • Reena

    Reena

    November 20th, 2015 at 8:07 AM

    This could also be a time when you would want to look for a support group to help you find your way again. I know that I just said that about those who are caregivers but this could also apply to those going through a tough divorce situation as well. It can often feel like no one understands what you are going through but in a situation like a divorce it is nice to sit down and talk with other people who have gone through it too and see what they did to come out the other side happy and whole again.

  • Lori

    Lori

    November 20th, 2015 at 9:49 AM

    I might miss the feeling of family that I had when I was married but never once have I missed my ex

  • Barbara

    Barbara

    November 20th, 2015 at 5:06 PM

    Thank you for the article I had to move bc my roommate was the owner and decided to sell the house I had to scramble to find a place which I did fortunately But I feel so displaced and uprooted and yes homesick I lived in the other house for 2 years Someone to come home to (roommate) but we did a lot of things together I now live 1/2 mile from the old house I drive by it periodically just to see it One day there it was: the For Sale sign Shocked me I was heartsick It has 60 DOM but one day someone will buy it I know I can never return there but I mope about it and remember the holiday dinners and my favorite little nook a library area You live your life in that house Part of you gets torn out I hate apartment living A house is completely different I had a huge fear I would have to rent an apartment but I found a place in a house Plus I miss the home part in terms of living with another person you have more than a ships passing in the night relationship with even though it was not romantic but we were buddies I am heartsick over the loss of what I considered my home He just put it up for sale with no feeling about it A divorce from a house Who ever would have thought it would be so traumatic?

  • Joey

    Joey

    November 21st, 2015 at 6:06 AM

    This article really touched me especially at this time of the year when I always feel so alone. I want to spend more time with my children but they moved over three hours away so that is not always a possibility. I think that in many ways I lost pretty much everything when my wife left me and for spite she has even taken away the kids too.

  • Callie

    Callie

    November 23rd, 2015 at 6:58 AM

    Just when I think that my parents could ever be in the same room together something happens and they get irate with each other all over again. I wish that just for us kids they could find a way to get along at least for a little while.

  • Lonna

    Lonna

    November 24th, 2015 at 10:19 AM

    The thing for me is that I totally lost my sense of self when I got a divorce. I had no idea who I was anymore when I was no longer his wife. It was if I had given so much of me over to being his wife and their mom that I totally forgot about how to be me.

  • Tia

    Tia

    August 30th, 2018 at 2:49 AM

    I know exactly what you mean. I left my husband. I have worked hard. Got myself a job. Am keeping on but I don’t know who I am. SO much of my life was spent being his wife and now, I am lost. Not all the time but some days (like today) I feel utterly lost. He is still in the family home and our daughters are with him this weekend which is great of course but I feel so abandoned! Even though, clearly, I left so I was the one who walked away. I just didn’t realise that leaving my husband truly meant leaving my life behind. I walked through some weird metaphorical doorway which left me in another universe is how it feels sometimes with no way back. And I would do it again. Newborn in some ways. Blinking in the sunlight. But still, it feels so weighted with sadness. I am trying hard to get on and be positive and I am succeeding but oh, the sadness. It makes my bones ache. Homesick. yes. Good luck to all of us.

  • Sha

    Sha

    November 25th, 2018 at 2:55 PM

    Great article … Tia I get you your story is so like mine god bless you x

  • juniper

    juniper

    November 25th, 2015 at 2:16 PM

    whenever possible I would strongly suggest keeping close to your family and allowing them to help you when things feel the most dismal. holidays can be the worst, I am living through that right now, so be around people who can help you take your mind off of it somewhat.

  • Lois

    Lois

    November 27th, 2015 at 7:43 AM

    Others have said this too but there are some wonderful support groups that meet in towns all across the nation that can be a huge help for someone feeling lost after a divorce.

  • Kellen

    Kellen

    November 28th, 2015 at 8:28 AM

    I’m ok as long as I have my kids with me

  • Claire

    Claire

    November 29th, 2015 at 1:25 PM

    There will always be good days and then there will be the ones that are bad, but if you believe in your heart of hearts that you made the right decision then you do not have to feel down like this forever. I know that it can be sad and lonely but if you made the decision to divorce then there had to be a good reason behind that and you have to look to that for your answers.

  • Ria

    Ria

    June 22nd, 2016 at 4:02 PM

    So glad to find an article that explains what I am feeling, and also glad to know that I am not the only one who feels this way.

  • Dawn

    Dawn

    June 10th, 2017 at 4:59 AM

    Wow ….. this article finally captures what I have been trying to say ….. the pain is so real. Wow

  • Bonnie

    Bonnie

    February 26th, 2018 at 3:55 AM

    I am staying away from my partner, from my home for my sanity and safety. But since last couple of days I was feeling like something was amiss…I was not able to put a finger on what exactly was missing. Then today I started missing my home. Googled my feelings (!) and found your article. I could relate very much to what you have written. Thank you. Now I at least know, why I am feeling sad.

  • Nancy

    Nancy

    March 25th, 2018 at 7:32 PM

    I left my husband after 43 years in 2016, shortly following my mother’s death. I wanted to leave for so long but never did. He drank and became ugly. There were so many life changing events I can’t count them anymore. I too couldn’t put my finger on what I was feeling and ended up here also. Thank God. I still go down and visit my ex, we get along now better than we ever did. But the feeling of being caught between then
    and now is still overwhelming. He was such a great guy before the alcohol took over.

  • Jo

    Jo

    June 4th, 2018 at 12:41 AM

    This resonates. The sit spot is a fab idea. My waves of homesickness have continued for 25 years. It has come in waves and has interrupted my happiness and I have reacted badly to panic, fear and loss and this has harmed my familial relationships. Now I can heal and move on and recreate better relations with my original family of children and grandchildren. Deep thanks for helping me see to a solution. Forever grateful. X

  • TM

    TM

    July 27th, 2018 at 12:41 PM

    Totally resonates with me and came to article through Google. It almost a year a year of divorce and of leaving the house. I have now even moved to a new country and works keeps me busy traveling to different countries. But from time to time I do slip in to despair missing my home, friends, the familiarity, the routine and even my ex. know it was the right thing for us to separate and currently I am living a good life with nothing to complain but still some days the feelings of homesickness and loneliness overwhelms.

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