The overwhelming feeling of being lost during and after divorce is almost like you’re in a rowing boat in choppy waters with no oars and no sight of land. It truly feels like you’re being battered from side to side without any hope of control. The loss of identity and meaning in life is powerful and devastating. I would burst into tears simply by walking out of the house. Being surrounded by all those people who look like they have everything in control was terrifying. Finding yourself after divorce is tough and it took me a long time.
How to Find Yourself After Divorce
Loss of Identity
The most painful realization for me was my loss of identity. Who was I as a single person? What did I even like or enjoy doing? It almost feels as if someone has cut away a piece of your soul. You feel naked going to parties with no one by your side. Suddenly nothing has meaning and you wonder why you’re here. Finding yourself after divorce isn’t just about moving on. It’s also about rediscovering your self-identity and where you fit into the world again.
Self-identity is an important part of being human. This is something we develop as we grow up into adolescence through various influences, including social interaction, according to the psychologist Erikson. When we get married, we generally gravitate towards people who believe and uphold that identity so when they leave and ‘abandon’ us, it’s almost as if that identity was wrong. It has failed us. Of course, that’s the brain making a dangerous conclusion in order to try to protect us. The brain sees: something went wrong, our emotions are through the roof therefore let’s not do that again. With time and perspective, we can see the issue with that conclusion but we need to rebuild ourselves before we have the confidence to do that.
How to go about finding yourself after divorce.
Accepting change and understanding your skills
Your self-esteem is shattered and, if like me, you didn’t have much before then you’re in a world of pain and confusion. I know it’s irritating when people say “one step at a time” but it really is true. Also, it’s important to remember that the brain focuses on negative emotions more easily than positive ones so sometimes we have to force ourselves to remember our strengths. Being grateful for what we have and what is constant around us can also help us stop focusing on what we are losing and what is changing.
Have a go at listing 5 achievements or your top 10 qualities that you like about yourself. And if you’re not sure, ask your friends and you’ll see realize that you have a lot to bring to this world.
Being curious about the pain and what it can teach us
Looking back, I can now confidently say that I am grateful for the experience of getting divorced. It started me on my journey of self-discovery and personal growth, including mindfulness and meditation. Without it, I would never have questioned how I reacted to people and situations. I would never have spent the time to understand my pain and the cause of it. I would never have learned to be brave to just try things because, at the end of the day, everything changes. Nothing is forever. And yet, today, I feel grounded, content and at peace with who I am and the world around me.
One of the first exercises I did which I highly recommend is to draw out your lifeline. This exercise can help you take stock of your life and understand your patterns and behaviors. The idea is to plot the key moments in your life according to moments that were positive, above the line, and negative, below the line. It’s the starting point of understanding how we interact with the world, attract certain people into our lives as well as our overall approach to life. All this feedback will be key in finding yourself although I realize it is painful after divorce. But it gives you somewhere to start.
Isn’t it great that you can finally do all those things you wanted to do? All those compromises are gone. You can finally start those hobbies you’ve been thinking about for ages. I know it takes a while to truly believe that but I could now go out with my friends till whatever time of night. I could meet interesting new people and be the center of attention. I didn’t always have to explain about ‘my other half’. It’s liberating. And let’s not forget self-care and pampering to help you.Glow up and reconnect with the positives of life.
There are so many hobbies out there from online activities to doing creative arts and crafts at home. You can also take yourself out for dinner either on your own or with a good book. Finding yourself is about reconnecting to yourself and spending time alone whilst learning to appreciate yourself again.
Friends can help you rediscover yourself
Reconnecting with friends and even getting feedback from them can be therapeutic. People always see you differently when you’re a couple versus being single. Ask them what the differences are. What skills and traits in you stand out now? Was anything being eclipsed before?
It’s not just about your existing friends but it’s also about new ones. I remember joining a new book club and rediscovering my passion for dance, both of which gave me access to whole new communities. What can you learn that can help you meet new people? Or perhaps you find an online forum about a topic that interests you? But remember that this time is about you so it’s okay to say no and not commit to everything you find.
Take a break and find your priorities
Divorce was the most eye opening experience for me in terms of learning who I was and what I enjoyed in life. It was therefore a long journey of connecting with my values and beliefs and finding my purpose in life. I literally had to start at square one, as I’d never done this for myself as a developing child due to a dysfunctional family. If this is you, the wheel of life can be a great way to identify which life priority you should start with.
However, sometimes this also means getting away from it all and taking time to think and be with yourself. Of course, if like me, you start uncovering deeper issues, then help is sometimes necessary whether through coaching or therapy. Remember that asking for help is a sign of strength. Only by accepting ourselves as humans with vulnerabilities can we hope to grow and find the happiness we all deserve.