After going through a divorce, the idea of moving on may seem frightening, frustrating, or downright impossible. You may be experiencing many intense emotions, and it can be challenging to comb through them. That said, it is possible to heal and move on. You can find new fulfillment and meaning in your life.
When moving on after a divorce, keep in mind that there is not “a one size fits all” approach for healing. Everyone is different, and each person will recover differently. With that in mind, there are a few universal tips worth considering. Let’s dive in.
Here are ten tips for moving on after a divorce include:
1. Prioritize Your Self-Care
This can be such a vulnerable time, and it’s essential that you take care of yourself through it. Self-care comes in many forms, but it boils down to honoring your physical and emotional needs.
You can focus on self-care by:
- Exercising regularly.
- Eating a well-rounded, nutritious diet.
- Making sure that you are getting enough sleep.
- Leaning on a positive support system.
- Engaging in meaningful hobbies and passions.
2. Focus on Your Gratitude
Although it may feel like everything is falling apart, it’s crucial to remember all the blessings you do have in life. Research shows that identifying your gratitude can profoundly affect your overall happiness, self-esteem, and sense of compassion towards others.1
Think about how you can implement more gratitude in your daily life. It may help to start by writing down the three best things that happened to you each day. Or, you can set a two-minute timer to close your eyes and reflect on your blessings.
3. Rediscover What Makes You Happy
Many people sacrifice some (or all) of their identities to merge with their partner. This isn’t usually intentional, but it can leave people feeling dismantled in the midst of a divorce.
However, this can be a profound time for self-discovery. What makes you feel happy? What makes you feel most alive? What are the things you used to enjoy doing before you were married? Are there any hobbies or interests you gave up because your spouse didn’t care to do them?
Now is the time to honor those joys or desires. And if you don’t quite know what they are, it’s time to harness more curiosity into your inner world.
4. Consider Joining a Support Group
Support groups provide meaningful connections and validation. You will be surrounded by like-minded people who have been through similar experiences and have even battled post-divorce depression.2 Some support groups cost money, whereas others are free.
All groups have unique formats, but some of the common benefits include:
- Feeling less lonely or judged.
- Feeling more comfortable talking openly about your personal experiences.
- Increasing your ability to cope with distress.
- Receiving useful feedback from your peers about your coping.
- Learning new life skills and resources.
- Increasing your sense of positivity and empowerment for the future.
5. Be Mindful of Numbing Behaviors
Many people self-medicate their stress by drinking, using drugs, overeating, or compulsively shopping. In fact, one in six American adults binge drinks about four times a month (averaging seven drinks per binge)3. While these habits may not inherently indicate a severe problem, they should never be your only coping skills.
Numbing emotions can work temporarily. But they don’t take the pain away- instead, they just prolong it. Additionally, you then have issues to deal with, because you’ve been avoiding the sadness, hurt, or betrayal.
Although it may be difficult to sit with uncomfortable feelings, learning how to master this skill is one of the best gifts you can give yourself. If you’re not sure where to start, consult with a therapist.
6. Set Boundaries Around Your Communication
Divorce can undeniably trigger messy feelings, and ongoing communication with your ex-spouse can exacerbate this stress. That’s why it’s important to think about how, when, and what you choose to communicate.
There are no right-or-wrong answers. If you two have children, you will need to work out the parameters of co-parenting (and it might help to see a co-parenting counselor). But it’s rarely helpful to maintain a friendship- at least in the immediate aftermath. You need time to fully process your emotions to allow yourself to heal.
7. Avoid Stalking Behavior
Today, it’s so easy to lookup an ex on social media. Most of us do it, but it’s not as harmless as you may think. In fact, this behavior often stalls healing and causes higher levels of anger, sadness, and grief.
When you lurk on an ex online, you’re never going to like what you see. If they share a carefree photo of a meal, you might be left reeling, how could they even be eating at a time like this? If they post a philosophical quote hinting at sadness, you may be wondering if they’re thinking about you. Even a photo of your kids may spiral you into a rage.
It’s best to delete, block, and avoid. As tempting as checking tabs may seem, obsessing over and ex on social media is its own form of self-harm.
8. Speak Appropriately to Your Children
We all know that divorce can impact even the most well-adjusted children. How you talk to your kids about the divorce will make a big impact. If you’re a parent, it’s important to do what you can to protect, validate, and honor their feelings.
As a general rule of thumb, do not badmouth your ex-spouse. Even if your kids start criticizing their behavior, don’t join in on the bashing. You don’t want to model this kind of childish tantrum – it sends confusing messages to children, no matter how young or old they are.
Moreover, don’t try to intellectualize or dismiss your child’s reactions. Their feelings are real. They may feel angry with you or your spouse. They may feel scared that nobody loves them or that the divorce was their fault. Allow them to speak to you candidly and make sure that you listen to them without judgment.
Finally, try and maintain a sense of routine. Stability is paramount for a child. They thrive with structure and schedules. Even though things will invariably change, try to work with your spouse to compromise for their sake.4
9. Allow Yourself to Date When You Feel Ready
At times, it may feel like you can’t win when it comes to dating after a divorce. Some friends will rush you to jump back into it as soon as the papers are signed. Others may raise an eyebrow when they see you out with someone (you’re moving on quickly!).
Keep in mind that healing doesn’t follow a linear timeline. This is your life, and you can choose the rules. There are no perfect timeframes for when you’re ready to date again. If you ask ten different people, you will receive ten different answers. Try to honor your intuition and focus on what feels best for you.
10. Be Kind to Yourself
Even if it sounds cliched, this tip is so important for your healing. Self-compassion matters when going through a divorce. You need to be loving, patient, and forgiving with yourself. In other words, you need to have your back during this painful time.
You can practice internal kindness by:
- Engaging in positive affirmations several times a day.
- Allowing yourself extra time for self-care.
- Reducing or eliminating toxic people or behaviors in your life.
- Setting healthier boundaries related to your time and energy.
- Reaching out for more support when needed.
- Meditating or praying.
Remember that self-compassion isn’t a set destination. It’s a journey you take each day. And as difficult as it may feel, this kindness makes forgiveness and healing much more accessible.
Moreover, research shows that self-criticism tends to make us weaker, more emotional, and less likely to bounce back from adversity.5 It’s much better to treat yourself like a friend than a mortal enemy.
It’s Okay To Grieve After a Divorce
Grieving a divorce is a natural emotion that we often experience after a loss. In this case, divorce may represent the loss of many things such as loss of a potential future together, certain hopes and dreams, a particular family dynamic, financial stability, and a sense of partnership. This loss hurts, and it’s okay to acknowledge that pain.
Sadness, anger, and confusion are all normal responses. These emotions can and will emerge at different points during the process. They are expected, and they can even be embraced.
Remember that healing doesn’t mean forgetting or numbing the pain. It simply means learning how to live despite it. With time, the pain stings less, and the future feels a little brighter.
What Might Keep Someone From Moving on After Divorce?
A sense of stagnation after a divorce is typical. Divorce can shatter someone’s sense of identity and livelihood. It’s reasonable to feel somewhat untethered and uncertain afterward.
While there isn’t a timeline for moving on, some people feel frozen for many months or years after the divorce. This frozenness can be detrimental- it can result in low self-esteem, declining mental health, and physical ailments. If the couple has children, divorce can adversely affect a child’s development.
People feel stuck for different reasons, but some common risk factors that prevent individuals from moving on include:
- Unresolved anger related to the nature of the divorce
- Trauma resulting from a betrayal
- Feeling like a victim of the divorce
- Low self-esteem
- Fear of moving on and fear of letting go
- Unwillingness to contemplate or explore future relationships
- Dealing with a midlife crisis
- Intense loneliness
- Co-occurring mental health issues like depression or anxiety
- Substance abuse
Any of these variables may impact someone’s ability to heal from the ramifications of a divorce. Combined variables can add even further complications.
When to Seek Professional Help
If your feelings of grief or sadness reach the point of persistent depression, you should consider reaching out for support. Therapy can help you navigate this difficult time in your life. It offers a safe and nonjudgmental space for you to process your feelings and learn new ways to cope.
Many therapists specialize in helping people move on from divorce. These therapists may work with both individuals or couples (who have already decided to separate).
How to Find a Therapist
A few strategies can help you choose the appropriate therapist for your unique needs. First, it may help to obtain a referral from a friend or family member. Today, many people are relatively open about their therapy work. If you know someone who has reported a positive experience, it’s worth asking if they recommend their therapist.
You can also check with your insurance provider—many in-network therapists contract with insurance companies to provide subsidized clinical care. You may just be responsible for a small co-pay. You and your potential therapist will determine if you are eligible for medical coverage.
The length of therapy will depend on your particular goals and individual progress. Most people start noticing some improvements after a few sessions. Therapy fees also vary based on your geographical region and the type of professional you see. That said, you can expect to pay between $75-$200 per session.
How to Support a Loved One Going Through a Divorce
Witnessing someone else’s divorce can feel heartbreaking, particularly if you feel close to one or both people in that particular couple. It’s important to know how to offer support and guidance during this rocky time.
The best gift you can offer is your willingness to listen. That’s right- just be there, be present, and listen. Try to refrain from dumping advice onto your friend or family member. They may already feel overwhelmed or regretful, and well-intentioned advice can come across as invalidating.
Respect their privacy. Don’t press for details. If they want to offer the story, they will tell it to you on their own accord. And don’t rip apart their ex- it’s reasonable to want to support your loved one, but it’s rarely helpful to say, I never liked them, anyway! That kind of line may make someone wonder why you didn’t say so in the first place.
For Further Reading
- Divorce Mag: This resource offers comprehensive resources for nearly every issue of divorce. They have full archives of articles, FAQs, newsletters, podcasts, and access to various divorce professionals.
- Divorce Care: Divorce Care offers online and in-person groups for people healing from divorce. You can access a directory to show which groups meet in your local area.
- Survive Divorce: Survive Divorce offers guidance, tips, and professional resources designed to help you cope with your divorce.
- HelpGuide: This site offers tips for everything related to co-parenting and joint custody, to having difficult conversations about divorce to small children.
- Woman’s Divorce: This site provides a state-by-state directory allowing women to easily access information about divorce laws, child support guidelines, calculators, and referrals for divorce lawyers.
- Best Books on Separation and Divorce
Infographics for Moving On After a Divorce