The most intense feelings of anger and sadness during a divorce may not be directed at a spouse, but may instead be directed at yourself. You may feel frustrated that you stayed as long as you did or didn’t see the signs sooner. You may feel sadness that you couldn’t protect your children more. You may be asking yourself why you let your spouse treat you the way that he did. As you feel these feelings, I encourage you to acknowledge them, and then to give yourself grace.
Grace can be religious or spiritual, but it does not have to be. Grace is showing kindness and forgiveness. It is practicing self-care. It is a way of finding peace. Below are my suggestions for how to give yourself grace during this difficult time.
The Intensity of Feelings Does Not Last
Recognize that this is how you are feeling now, but please trust me when I say, these feelings will not feel this painful, this intense forever. However painful the current processing of these emotions are for you, that pain will change, become different, and you will feel differently. This change will happen sooner than you think it will as well. Give yourself grace through patience and knowledge that it will get better.
Do Not Take Blame For What Is Not Your Fault
Remind yourself that while it is true you may have made decisions that brought you to where you are today, that this does not excuse the decisions your spouse made. If your spouse failed to treat you with dignity, kindness, and respect, then that is on him, and it always will be. Do not take responsibility for someone else’s poor choices.
You Have Strength
Recognize that it has taken incredible strength, grit, and perseverance to get where you are today. Maybe you were strong for your children, maybe it took all the courage you had to leave, or maybe you are still with your spouse and drawing on all your inner strength just to get through the day. Wherever you are, it took strength, resilience, and courage to get there. Give yourself grace by recognizing how hard you have worked and how tough you really are.
Changing Your Internal Dialogue
Many of my clients have internalized negative dialogue from a spouse. They have been told that they were stupid, fat, or worthless. Recognize that these words are not your own, that they come from someone else. These words say more about the person saying them, than about you. You would never say these things to a friend or a sister, regardless of what she had done. Show yourself the same kindness, forgiveness and understanding that you would if a friend or sister confided in you. Give yourself grace and say positive things to yourself even if you do not believe them.
The Best Life Lessons Are, Without Exception, Painful
Most importantly, your experiences will give you a deep well of empathy for others, that may allow you to have deeper connections with friends and family, or it may help you serve others in your work and community. You will appreciate kind good people in a way that you never did before. You will be comfortable being by yourself in a way that maybe you were not when you met your spouse. When life brings you the next challenge (and it always will) you will know for certain that you are strong enough, independent enough, and smart enough to handle it. The most valuable, poignant character building moments are painful and make you cringe. There is no exception. You cannot learn these lessons by talking to someone else or reading a book. You have to go through them. Remember this, forgive yourself, and release some of the discomfort you have as you listen to your own thoughts. Find grace.