Letting go after divorce. Oh man, is this one hard and complicated. But we can handle it! I’m going to break it down for you so that as you start feeling ready to face life after divorce and what it looks like, you can laser in on the part that you need extra support with. Sometimes it’s just that little nudge that helps us get to the next breakthrough and layer of shedding. Those moments are so delicious.
If I were going to break down letting go after divorce into more bite-sized bits, I would break it down into two main ideas:
- how to overcome grief and
- how to fix your attachment style.
The first one – grief – is kind of obvious.
“So much of the process of letting go is grieving your losses.”
And that’s not a new concept. But often, we have a hard time navigating grief because it’s overwhelming and because it’s naturally a lower energy state. So it seems kind of like a crazy juxtaposition, or like one of life’s great ironies (or frankly jokes), that while you’re grieving and in this low energy state, you’re simultaneously figuring out where to live.
- How to pay your bills.
- How to separate your finances.
- How to not stab your ex in the eye.
- How to fix the toilet.
- And what to do with your last name.
All the freaking things! Not to mention, if you’re now single parenting, you need more energy than ever at a time where you’re being literally called to grieve as though there’s been a death. Because there has been. And that is why letting go after divorce is so hard.
“It’s like a crazy math problem that doesn’t have a clear solution no matter how many calculators you use.”
So you’re called to grieve in the moments where it comes, right? Like those shower-floor crying sessions. Or late at night when you’re trying to fall asleep but can’t.
“When this happens, stop trying so hard to sleep and instead grab your journal, because that’s grief begging for your attention in those dark, quiet moments after divorce.”
During this grieving process, we’re looking for places where we can be fully seen, heard, and understood. Because we’re feeling especially misunderstood and small.
This is one of the things that divorced women or women going through a divorce in my membership community say to me:
“I feel comforted here because it’s a place where I can be fully seen, and without judgment.”
When you’re going through a divorce, the moms at school get to see one part of you. And maybe your therapist sees another part of you. And then at work, they see yet a different side. And your kids – well, you can only say so much to them about the divorce. And you can only vent to your friends for so long, but if they’re not divorced, or are not going through a divorce, at some point they’re kind of like, “OK, let’s set you up with someone.” But who’s ready for that?!
“You need a place where you can show all of it to someone.”
“I wish I could hug you. And I wish I could pause time for you so you could go ahead and cry it all out at once, so it could be done and over with.”
I don’t know why you were called to this trial. And I know this wasn’t the plan. But I believe on a very deep level that your soul was called to move through this experience for some reason. I don’t know what that reason is, but I believe that you’re called to discover what that reason is for yourself. And I believe that that’s part of why you’re here. Because you’re searching for meaning in all this pain. And that discovery is part of overcoming grief – shedding and realizing the new fresh skin that’s underneath this experience.
Now, you may be wondering, “Do I need to forgive as a part of letting go and the grief process?” There are a lot of people who are going to tell you that you do. And I want you to know that forgiveness is noble. And it is a worthy cause. But I am also not telling you to bother with forgiveness right now. I’m not dismissing its value or its importance at some point in your life.
“But I think that the more noble cause right now is to find some acceptance. Of your new life after divorce. Of your new quest. Finding a way to accept things how they are, versus how you think they should be.”
Because that’s just your mind chattering at you with a bunch of thoughts that are not true.
“I should be this. This should be that. He should be this. They should be that. Right? No. That’s a bunch of mind chatter and it’s not real. But you’re believing it and it’s fueling your resentment and it’s fueling pain.”
That is not grief. It’s a distraction from grief.
Grief is sad. So sad. But forgiveness can often be a distraction from the grief process. And that’s because it’s complicated.
So I want you to sideline forgiveness for a minute or consider exchanging it for acceptance.
What is Acceptance?
Acceptance is acknowledging that how things are is how things are. And they shouldn’t be different than they are, because they are this way.
- This is now.
- This is where now is.
- This is how now is.
I’m going to stop trying to fight with that.
- Let go of trying to get him to be different.
- Stop trying to get my finances to be different from how they are in this moment, meaning that overspending is pretending things are different from how they are.
- Being on dating apps before you’re really ready is pretending things are different from how they are.
If you haven’t grieved this loss, it’s like arguing with reality.
Fixing Your Attachment Style
The next thing I want to cover in the realm of letting go is your attachment style.
This has become a fantastic new thing that the world of psychology and mental health is looking at. And I love it!
“Because I think how our attachment style, and how we relate to people in relationships, is really at the core of a lot of our pain and suffering.”
And if you can come to have a deeper understanding of your attachment style, and you can work to fix it and to create a more secure way of attaching to other humans, there is a whole world out there waiting for you.
“A world where there’s less pain. And more ease and less anxiety. And less self-loathing. And less angst about does he like me, does he not like me? Oh my goodness what did they think about me? I want them to like me. And all of that kind of nonsense.”
So. Letting go after divorce and fixing your attachment style.
What does letting go and attachment have to do with one another?
Well, here’s where your childhood comes into play. (You knew I was going to do that at some point!) When choosing a partner, we picked from this unconscious place of how we relate to our parents. I’ve never encountered a divorce where the people weren’t being called to have a deeper understanding of their childhood self, and how they give and receive love. And I guarantee it’s the same for you.
“This divorce is calling you to have a deeper understanding of your childhood self and the childhood trauma you have experienced. And how you give and receive love. And there are a lot of different ways of relating to how we give and receive love.”
Avoidant Attachment Style
When we’re talking about attachment styles, there’s an avoidant attachment style, which is:
“Getting too close to you hurts too much, so I’m gonna make sure I’m not super emotionally available. Because to lose someone or something I love would be way too painful. I learned that early on and so I’m going to kind of shut that down and I’m going to keep you at arm’s length through various behaviors.”
Anxious Attachment Style
The other is an anxious attachment style, which is:
“I am terrified to lose you. Therefore, I’m going to keep you close all the time and constantly seek for you to be near. I’m going to people please. I’m going to experience a lot of anxiety when there is separation. And it’s very, very hard to be alone.”
Changing Your Avoidant and Anxious Attachment Style
Now. There are a lot of shades of gray and potentially some overlapping in between and amongst those two attachment styles. But, when it comes to letting go after divorce – letting go of the marriage you were in and the person you became – what I want you to consider is who you were as a child. And how your parents related to you. How they loved you and how you experienced that love. Part of why it’s hard for you to let go after divorce is because there’s unresolved work there.
“There’s unresolved healing around how your parents loved you. I am nearly sure they loved you deeply. But they may not have loved you well.”
That’s two different things, right?
- They may love you, but not know how to be close.
- They may love you, but not know how to know you deeply.
- They may love you but not know how to let you separate. Have your own identity. Have your own way. Have your own opinions.
All of these ways of relating to our children and to our parents shape how we pick a partner.
And if you don’t realize you have unresolved anxieties or resentments, or griefs from your childhood experiences, guess what?
“This marriage and its ending is where that is being worked out. So part of why you keep rehearsing power struggle and rehearsing resentment and rehearsing “did I do enough in this marriage?” is because there are places that you have not yet accepted in your childhood. And you are being called to heal that.”
Healing Childhood Trauma
And what’s in it for you to heal all of that? Once we find acceptance and love and healing, and how we related in our childhoods, all of a sudden, all we’re left with is some grief with this marriage that we can work through and get past.
“And now we feel worthy. And now you are free to pick a new partner who is solid. A partner who wants to know you deeply and wants to love you well. And wants to really see you for who you are and accept you, warts and all.”
And that, my friend, is the best feeling in the world. That is a secure place and a soft place to land. And a strong backing on the hard days. That is a place where you want to spend the rest of your days.
And so the whole point of this thing that you’re being called to face, to let go of and to heal from after divorce, then and now, is so that you can find a place where there is not suffering.
Is there stress?
Sure. Life is always going to be stressful. There will always be day-to-day stressors. Things break. Money comes and goes. People hurt. Your kids are going to misbehave. Your parents are going to age. Life is stressful, right? But it doesn’t have to mean constant suffering.
“Even if you can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel – even if you don’t know how to look at the big picture – just focus on the next step.”
I believe in you so much. I know you can do this. And I cannot wait to see what you bloom into. Because you are so beautiful my friend.