Is there such a thing as a healthy divorce? What does this process look like? There certainly is a way to manage the emotional fallout and heal from the pain. It’s important to recognize that divorce is painful for all parties. The waves of anger, grief, guilt, shame, anxiety, and fear can overwhelm you when you least expect it. Accept that these emotions are normal and be kind to yourself. Researchers have found that people who are kind and compassionate to themselves have an easier time going through divorce (Sbarra D.A., Smith H.L., and Matthias, R.M. Psychological Science, 2012). Cooperation, communication, and mediation with professionals can also make the divorce process healthier for everyone. Sometimes writing a script of discussion items or questions can be helpful and can take out some of the emotion.
Divorce can be a traumatic experience for children and their adjustment is often determined by the level of conflict they are exposed to during and after the divorce. Research suggests that ongoing parental conflict increases kid’s risk of psychological and social problems (Kelly, J.B., Journal of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, 2005). Keep the lines of communication open with the children, (depending upon their age), provide honest conversations about the family changes and avoid throwing your ex-partner under the bus. Kids do better when they maintain contact with both parents and know that the divorce is not their fault nor will it change the love that each parent has for them. Divorce can create upheaval in a child’s life, so it’s especially important for parents to be consistent, provide a safe and secure home, and give them an opportunity to share their feelings.
The changes brought on by divorce can be overwhelming to adults too, so make sure you take care of yourself. Stay connected to friends and family, get exercise, rely on your faith, consider a support group, find fulfilling activities/hobbies, and take the time to heal. I encourage individuals going through a divorce to wait at least one year before entering another relationship. It’s important to figure out what went wrong in your marriage so can avoid repeating any negative patterns in your next relationship. Professional help can be very helpful in the healing process and create greater awareness for future relationships. Eventually the goal is to forgive your ex-partner and yourself so that you can completely release them and let go of the emotional pain. Start the process today!