5 Emotional Triggers after Divorce that Might Catch You by Surprise

Divorce is in your rearview, and you feel like you’ve cleared out all the marital cobwebs that kept you stuck in the divorce grieving process for so long.

You know you can move on. You’ve experienced glimmers of what your glorious new freedom is all about.

And then – boom. Something triggers you and sends you spiraling downward. What? You thought you’d done the work and moved on from your divorce!

What are emotional triggers?

Emotional triggers are unexpected (and usually uncomfortable) responses to things, people, situations, or places rooted in your past. Out of the blue, triggers can cause the re-experiencing of the pain from emotional wounds, unfulfilled dreams, and unmet needs. 

While it’s common to get triggered after a huge life event like divorce, holding on to the feelings that surface can cause self-defeating behaviors. Triggers can become a barrier to your life moving forward, leading to anxiety and depression.

Read: Tips for Boosting Your Mental Health

Why you should know your triggers

You won’t be able to arm yourself against everything that might trigger a bout of sadness or negative emotions. But if you’re aware of your personal triggers, you can use this knowledge for personal growth.

Triggers don’t have to control you. Instead of letting them call the shots, understand that what you’re going through is okay. It’s perfectly normal. Then, turn the perspective. 

Time will eventually heal the wounds. But in the meantime, knowing your triggers allows you to understand and avoid them as much as possible until the healing starts to take hold. 

5 emotional triggers after divorce

You thought you’d gotten beyond it – the anger, the blame, the sadness. And yet, here you are, holding back a torrent of tears because you heard your first dance song in the produce aisle at the supermarket. 

There’s no telling when or where those triggers will raise their nasty little heads and catch you completely off-guard. But here are some triggers you can (probably) count on.

1. Rediscovering a belonging  

Whether it’s a meaningful little note or an old sock at the back of a drawer, it can catch you off-guard to find an item that belonged to your former spouse. But it will probably happen, even if you’ve gone through the house with a fine-tooth comb.

2. Being invited to a friend’s wedding 

Ouch! This one is jam-packed with potential triggers just waiting for unsuspecting you to show up by your little solo self. Go into it knowing what you might be facing, and try to brainstorm coping strategies beforehand.

3. Holidays and birthdays 

A holiday or birthday is another trigger-fest occasion just ready to conjure up memories. Know this: The happy times seem so much happier in retrospect than they really were in reality. Especially if you have kids together, you’ll probably have to navigate holidays and birthdays with your ex-spouse in some fashion. It’s moments like these that text messages were invented for. 

4. Social media trolling

If you’ve been trolling your ex’s social media, you know all about triggers. The new car. The new “friend” they brought to the company picnic. The ski vacation when they never had any interest in going skiing when you were married. Stop the trolling. Unfriend. Block. Even close down your account temporarily. Do it now. 

5. Those elusive hidden memories 

You went to the beach and tearily remembered the time your ex saved the baby sea turtle. You remembered that June 21 – usually the happy first of summer – was also the day you found out your ex had spent the afternoon at the local upscale hotel with a sales rep. These hidden memories can smack you front and center. There’s not much you can do but let them run their course and try not to give them too much of your precious time.

Read: 5 Co-Parenting Hacks You’ll Use ASAP

How long will I be subject to these emotional triggers?

Healing isn’t linear, and there’s no one-size-fits-all approach that will help you skate beyond these difficult emotions after your divorce. The intensity and frequency of triggers will eventually reduce with time, but some may linger years after the divorce papers are signed. 

What can I do to overcome my triggers?

Moving on looks different for everyone. But triggers will hit you hardest when you’re not prepared. Arm yourself with some simple things to help keep the triggers at bay.

  • Pay attention to what triggers you. Naming it can shine a light on the monster and take away its power.
  • Avoid ruminating about it. Repeated thoughts gain momentum in your mind. Acknowledge the trigger, and then let it go. You have more important things to focus on. 
  • Remove yourself from the situation. Once you understand what’s triggering you, leave. Calm yourself, and understand that your response was normal, but right now you need space from the trigger. 
  • Don’t beat yourself up. The aftermath of divorce is a difficult time. You have the right to feel what you’re feeling, and processing this will happen in its own time. Give yourself a break, and load up on some serious self-love.  

A divorce support group may be just what you need. You can meet others in similar situations, swap stories, and be reminded you’re not alone. Many support groups can be found online.

Divorce is never easy, and you can expect a few bumps in the road as you find your way toward healing. As you create a new life and make new memories, the old ones will lose their power. But that takes time and perseverance. 

At Hello Divorce, we are here for you no matter where you are in your divorce journey. In addition to our DIY divorce plans and other services related to the divorce process, we have a library of helpful resources that can help you through the rough patches. Schedule a free phone call with an account representative to learn more. 

Divorce Content Specialist
Mediation, Divorce Strategy, Divorce Process, Mental Health
Candice is a former paralegal and has spent the last 16 years in the digital landscape, writing website content, blog posts, and articles for the legal industry. Now, at Hello Divorce, she is helping demystify the complex legal and emotional world of divorce. Away from the keyboard, she’s a devoted wife, mom, and grandmother to two awesome granddaughters who are already forces to be reckoned with. Based in Florida, she’s an avid traveler, painter, ceramic artist, and self-avowed bookish nerd.