You’ve undoubtedly heard others speak about the need for “closure” after a relationship ends. You’ve probably needed it yourself, whether that was after you left a job or you grew apart from your first love. Now, it’s if you’re ending your marriage.
But accepting that your marriage is over and truly moving on without letting it hold you back isn’t easy. And it is crucial in order to make sense of what happened, learn what you need and can’t tolerate in a partnership, and ultimately move on. How do you get closure after such an earth-shattering, soul-sucking experience? We’ve compiled six ways to get there ASAP.
Honor your feelings & grieve the relationship you lost
When Hello Divorce guest blogger Jessica Knight learned her ex had a new romantic interest, the grief hit her hard. But she chose to honor her feelings—and her grief timeline—instead of pushing herself to just “get over it.” The process took a while. It involved frequent journaling and lots of extra sleep. But by allowing herself to truly experience her feelings, Jessica made it through to the other side.
The grief process involves five general phases in no particular order: anger, denial, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Honor the phases of your grief and the feelings that accompany them, and know that your journey may look different than Jessica’s. Right now, you might be caught in the “denial” stage of grief. You might be consumed by anger. But make no mistake: You are entitled to grieve your divorce, and you must grieve your divorce, even if you’re the one who initiated it.
Remember, divorce is not just the loss of a spouse. It’s the loss of roles and routines that formed the fabric of your life. Your grief process may require the expertise of a therapist or the positive energy of a life coach. If professional assistance would help, get it. Nobody expects you to do this alone.
Looking back on your relationship, some “what ifs” and “if onlys” may cross your mind. While it’s okay to reflect on what happened and learn from your mistakes (or your spouse’s mistakes), it’s not okay to torture yourself with guilty thoughts. Why not? Because you are human. You did the best you could with the tools you had at the time.
Do not blame the failure of your relationship entirely on yourself. Do not blame it entirely on your ex, either. A series of events led to the end of your relationship, some or all of which were out of your control. You now have a chance to start a healthier life chapter—seize this opportunity! Roadblocking yourself with “what ifs” and “what onlys” is unproductive self-torture. It prevents you from gaining closure and moving on.
Forgive your ex
You may be harboring a lot of anger at your ex. That’s okay. Don’t ignore it. Work through it, whether with a caring therapist, time with friends, physical activity, journaling, or whatever works for you. You owe it to yourself to forgive your ex.
That’s right: You owe it to yourself to forgive your ex.
The American Psychological Association reminds us that angry thoughts cause muscle tension, headaches, and an increased heart rate. Anger can prompt unsafe behaviors such as erratic driving, substance abuse, and inappropriate risk-taking. It encourages others to view us negatively. And it can lead to hypertension, stroke, heart disease, ulcers, bowel disease, and even some types of cancer.
How can you gain closure when anger stands in the way, blocking your peace of mind, your safety, and your health?
Well first off, accept that you may never get a meaningful apology from your ex. Assuming you deserve it, it takes A LOT of emotional work for someone to own up to their part of a relationship-gone-wrong and well… most people aren’t up to that challenge.
Steve Kane, Hello Divorce guest blogger and author of F*** It, Get a Divorce, provides four reasons why you should forgive your ex:
- You can do it.
- Forgiveness is a satisfying form of revenge.
- The ability to forgive is a skill and a “gift that keeps on giving” long after divorce, in other relationships.
- Learning to forgive others builds your self-esteem.
To read more about Steve’s take on forgiving your ex, go here.
And, if you aren’t yet ready to fully forgive them, at the very least – end the blame game. Don’t waste time looking for whom to blame. It will seriously only bring up negative emotions when what you want to focus on now is your best next chapter – not everything that has gone wrong in the past.
Block your ex on social media
The digital era allows us to preserve ties with anyone and everyone. And while it may be harmless to maintain contact with your third-grade best friend or your high school chemistry teacher, it’s not such a good idea to have easy digital access to your ex. All it takes is a tap of a button for you to creep on their profile, peruse their pictures, and get swallowed up by all those old unsettling feelings.
Of course, if you’re co-parenting, you need to stay in contact with your ex somehow. But be choosy about which avenues you use. Following them on Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, and TikTok isn’t necessary.
Ditch the social media sites that pick at your freshly healed wounds. Stick to plain old texting, or better yet, use an app designed specifically for co-parenting like Onward, which helps with shared expenses related to children and/or pets. Onward allows you to compartmentalize that stuff instead of cringing every time you get a text about who owes what.
We also love Fayr. This app has a messaging interface and other features to help avoid the “he said, she said.” Read our interview with Michael Daniels, who developed Fayr as a solution to his own co-parenting problems here.)
Lean on your tribe for emotional support
You may be surprised to learn that some Hello Divorce subscribers aren’t going through a divorce themselves. Rather, they signed up for a membership to learn more ways to support a friend they care about.
If friends and family want to help, let them. Asking for or accepting help is a bit of an art, so give it some forethought. What would you appreciate most? Maybe you just want a listening ear. Maybe you could use help managing the kids or running errands. We explore how to “help them help you”—including how to set boundaries as needed with friends and family members—here.
If you have a friend who wants to help but doesn’t know how, invite them to read one of our most popular blog posts of all time, The Good Friend’s Guide to Divorce. It’s full of helpful ideas, and the popularity of this post is a testament unto itself that friends want to help.
If your tribe is full of married people or you’d like support in a different form, consider joining a divorce support group. These groups are available in-person and online. Share your story, hear the stories of others, or just sit back and soak in the comforting realization that you are not alone in this.
Practice self-care routinely
What makes you feel good? Do that. We’re not talking about detrimental activities like binge drinking or an unaffordable spending spree. But you might enjoy a glass of wine as you spill your guts to a caring friend. Or you might appreciate a small indulgence like a new pair of shoes as you step into your new life.
Self-care is more than a glass of wine or a new pair of shoes. It’s getting enough sleep, taking your vitamins, journaling, meditation, making a doctor appointment, or whatever nurtures your well-being. In the words of my friend and colleague, psychotherapist Annie Wright, “Self-care doesn’t always look like sleep, yoga, or green juice.” And I propose that spending a minimum of one hour on yourself per week is not too much to ask.
Many people are not self-care minded. Other obligations—kids, job, house, aging parents—seem to crowd out the time they might otherwise spend on themselves. If this sounds like you, start small. Check out our list of 101 self-care suggestions, some of which take five minutes or less. Completely doable! Let these activities rejuvenate you, and you might be surprised how much more time and energy you have—for yourself and everyone else.
No doubt about it: Your divorce is likely one of the hardest things you’ll ever do. But you can and will get through this. We’ve helped thousands of people through divorce, and we’ve learned a lot about the human heart (and its ability to heal) along the way. Tuck these six tips into your hip pocket, and use them when you need them. (Or bookmark this page and revisit it often!)