Overcoming Depression and Grief to Reclaiming Your Identity and Intuition after Divorce

There is a very specific root cause when you’re talking about overcoming depression and grief from divorce. It is the function of emotional suppression, suppressing or repressing the nuanced and beautiful emotions that you experience day in and day out – and you may not even know it.

woman with short brown hair, pink pullover and jeans, kneeing down in a corner, holding her head with her hands, working on overcoming depression and grief. What is Emotional Suppression?

What is Emotional Suppression?

Emotional suppression means trying to hide or ignore your feelings.

It can be putting on a mask and not showing how you truly feel or you might try to push away or pretend your emotions aren’t there.

People suppress emotions to avoid conflict, keep up appearances, or because they think it’s not okay to feel certain ways.

The suppression of those emotions is what has led to you losing yourself. How do I know that? Well, because of the trauma-based researchers, doctors, and thought leaders I have studied. One of them is Gabor Maté.

Who is Gabor Maté?

Gabor Maté was born in 1944 in Budapest, Hungary. He turned 80 this year. His grandparents died in Auschwitz, and his parents were greatly affected. At a very young age, he was sent away to live with a stranger for several weeks to ensure his survival. So as he grew up, he made sense of the world by identifying that separation trauma and how that drove a lot of mental illness and addiction. He was fascinated with attachment psychology, addiction, and treatment.

Maté became a medical doctor and he had a family practice for many years in Canada, as well as researching trauma and its effects on the body. He’s written five books and what he shares is beautifully valuable and much of it impacts how this divorce happened, how you lost yourself, and how you can refind it all.

Maté teaches us that emotion is one of the keys to creating attachment and connection, and we often suppress emotion to preserve attachment.

Suppressing Emotions to Avoid Rejection and Criticism

For example, you suppress what you’re feeling and don’t tell your parents because you think that they will reject you. You suppress what you’re feeling and you don’t tell your husband because he will criticize, reject, mock, or just ignore you. It’s not always just about what people do, sometimes it’s about what they don’t do.

If you expressed your emotions to your husband and he never responded meaningfully, you learned not to go there anymore.

It hurts so much to pour your heart out and to have zero response. This leads, over time, to emotional suppression.

concrete room in rainbow light, box placed in the middle of the room. Suppressing Emotions Leads to Inauthenticity

Suppressing Emotions Leads to Inauthenticity

Emotional suppression also leads to inauthenticity. Vulnerability and authenticity require us to have self-awareness about what we’re feeling and how we feel it.

  • What do I mean by how I feel it?
  • How do you experience sadness?
  • How do you experience fear?
  • How do you experience anger? Or joy?

There’s a mind-body connection between what we think and feel. And when all of that has become shut off, we start to experience disease processes in our bodies, as well as mental illnesses and dissociation.

Bypassing all of these things, we lose track of our authentic selves, as our authentic selves are directly correlated to what we think and feel.

If we’ve shut off what we feel the majority of the day, we’ve now lost ourselves.

The Process to Overcome Depression and Grief in Your Life After Divorce

If I ask you: “Where do you feel sadness? When do you feel anger? When do you feel joy? When do you feel empowered? When do you feel grief? When do you feel anxious?” If you can’t answer those feelings from a body awareness perspective, we women need to work on suppression and repression. All day long, these complex processes happen in our minds and bodies.

woman with dark skin and blue shirt, having pink clouds coming out of her brain. Thoughts Create Emotions.

#1 Thoughts Create Emotions

This is the process: First, a thought pops into your mind.

You are not responsible for the thought that pops in.

Let that be a great relief to you.

Thoughts are going to pop in. Maybe they’re your thoughts, or maybe they’re somebody else’s thoughts. You’re not accountable for that. If you’ve got weird, dark, twisty thoughts that pop into your mind, it’s not your fault but it is your responsibility.

Based on the thought that pops into the brain, the amygdala and the limbic system pump out an emotion that correlates to your perception of that thought.

Now, if you don’t intervene in that thought quickly, then you will start a cascade of emotions.

After a minute or so, you can experience a vibrational shift that aligns with that thought and your reaction to it.

Let’s say the thought that popped in was negative, dark, and painful and you didn’t intervene, you catch a feeling and now you’re sitting in that feeling, and then that thought and feeling calls to another thought and feeling.

And now, before you know it, you are in a very sad place.

Damaged boxes in rainbow colors on top of each other. Emotions are Stored in Your Sub Consciousness.

#2 Emotions are Stored in Your Sub Consciousness

Let’s say this has been going on for years and years.

You have a stockpile of really painful emotions stored in your body because you probably haven’t been processing them somatically and getting them out of your body.

It’s like an episode of Emotional Hoarders. If you can picture coming to me because you have years and years of just stuff piled up in the houses of your body and mind.

Probably the first eight to twelve weeks of us working together is the process of gutting all the garbage out of the house. Gutting it, pulling up the dumpster, getting it all out of there, sifting, sorting through it, reorganizing, and then freshening things.

Somewhere in there, we are cleaning things, we’re disinfecting them, we are creating brightness.

#3 Cleaning Up Negative Emotions

When we women do things like EMDR, we are not just desensitizing and reprocessing painful things.

We’re also building in beautiful resources to help you feel lighter and brighter along the way.

But if there’s not a fundamental shift that happens inside of us, it becomes a struggle.

So there has to be not only this process of clearing things out but also a process of maintaining this new process, which means you have to know how it works.

Woman with short brown hair and dark pullover walking in the forest, overcoming depression and grief. Cleaning Up Negative Emotions.

Overcoming Depression and Grief by Recognizing What Causes Emotional Suppression

Now, let’s talk for a moment about why you are uniquely positioned in this stage of horrible grief.

Everything feels like a shit show. So many of us in the world today are numb. We are emotionally suppressed and repressed.

We’re going to talk about all the ways we do that. As you are in a place of deep vulnerability and feeling right now, you are much better positioned to be in touch with what you’re feeling.

You might as well lean into this season of regaining yourself and building a life after divorce that is better than the one that you ever originally had. I’ve seen it over and over again, and that is hard for people to believe.

When people sit in this post-divorce life and struggle for a very long time or struggle to build the life that they want, it’s often because they’re not mastering these tools for emotional suppression and processing.

So let’s talk about it. How did this happen? Let’s talk about the ways that you have stayed numb and maintained suppression and repression over the years.

Food, Drinks & Drug Substances

Food, drinks, drugs, or any substance. Whether it’s alcohol or pot, even prescription medications, they are all a way of numbing. Even when pharmaceutical antidepressants and anti-anxiety meds came on the scene, they were never meant to be the solution.

They were always meant to be a bridge while treatment was going on.

And so, medication is one of the ways that we women keep emotionally suppressed and repressed.

woman with long brown hair and t-shirt in rainbow light, staying super busy.

Staying Super Busy

Staying super busy, so you don’t have time to think or feel something, is another way that you’re avoiding dealing with your emotions.

Shopping

Shopping is a common one.

How often do you throw stuff in your Amazon cart and every time you throw something in, you get a little hit?

And then every time a box arrives, you get a little hit. And all that stuff keeps you suppressed.

Talking

Overthinking keeps you repressed, as well as overtalking.

Not always, but a lot of times when we’re just talking, talking, talking with our friends, even when we’re venting, it is not the same as radical vulnerability.

Appearance

Trying to be perfect keeps us emotionally suppressed.

If you can outrun judgment from other people, you feel okay. In our society, this can manifest as an obsession with our appearance. This is something I’m actively working on. I’ve given up Botox in the last year and am trying to reorganize my priorities and understand how brainwashed I’ve been around being obsessed over my appearance.

We women worry so much about how we look, and it’s one of the ways we avoid grieving seasons. We resist aging with such vigor. And we women never learn to grieve certain phases of life.

Whether it’s the loss of this marriage, your kiddos growing up, or aging, you can’t find acceptance or peace without processing the feelings.

It is impossible to accept your body or your appearance and to overcome depression and grief without processing your feelings.

Blaming Others

The obsession with our parents is one of the ways we repress emotion.

Blaming other people, seeking approval, and staying focused on what everybody else did wrong are some of the ways we avoid having to face ourselves.

Avoidance

I avoid fitness because it’s physically uncomfortable. I don’t want to feel that uncomfortable. So how many things do you avoid because you feel something uncomfortable?

If you avoid something, you’re not working towards your goals.

Then we blame other people for the things that are going wrong in our lives and we women make a little cozy bed of self-pity for us to lay in.

You are uniquely positioned to tackle this episode of Hoarders right now because if you don’t, you are going to repeat the same history over and over and over again.

You are uniquely positioned to create that vision board.  Identify and dig into what you want and start building that life after divorce today.

What are some of the things that you would need to get in touch with your intuition?

Our vibration, which is what dictates our manifestation, is very much driven by our emotional processes.

Sunset over the ocean. How Emotional Suppression Prevents Reclaiming Our Intuition.

How Emotional Suppression Prevents Reclaiming Our Intuition

How often have you said that you had a gut feeling about something and you suppressed it or you denied it? This is because honoring our intuitions, as Gabor Maté says, has become second nature instead of first nature. This is a flaw of modern living.

Our intuition is something that we push away rather than welcome in.

It’s because we women want to stay part of “the club” in modern culture – to look a certain way, act a certain way, think a certain way, and believe a certain way. We stay in our little tribes, and we’re afraid to function outside of that.

Embrace Uniqueness

When we embrace our uniqueness, the magic happens.

woman with shoulder long brown hair and blouse with flowers walking in the sand on the beach, overcoming depression and grief. Move Your Body and Choose Quietness.

Move Your Body and Choose Quietness

There was a phrase when I worked in rehab, “Move a muscle, change of thought.

  • When you’re having a negative thought, move your body, and that will start to shift.
  • Be in nature. If it’s winter and you can’t be in nature, sit quietly without stimulation. You have time to sit quietly without stimulation.

We women have to get comfortable with finding pockets of time. I guarantee if you sit quietly in a room with zero stimulation, with your phone in the other room for ten minutes, and you don’t fall asleep, you will feel some stuff come up.

The longer you can sit quietly without stimulation, the better your mental health will probably be.

Art

Making art. Scribbling and sketching and just grabbing your kid’s crayons and just drawing. It’s a beautiful way to process emotion and get in touch with what you’re feeling. Crafting has become so popular because it helps us to feel grounded and to have better mental health.

Breathwork

Breathwork is a beautiful key to being more embodied and processing our emotions. There are plenty of guides on YouTube or social media on how to incorporate breathwork into your daily routine.

journaling in a notebook, with a cup of tea, on a bed, white tulips in the background in the bedroom.

Journaling and Body Scanning

Journaling is a beautiful tool to help relieve suppression and repression, as well as a body scan. Let’s say we go back to sitting quietly. If you just pair a nice intentional in-breath and out-breath and do a body scan – where you’re just observing what it feels like to be in your body from the top of your head down, through your face, your jaw, your throat, your shoulders, your core, your stomach, your pelvis, your hips, your legs, your knees, your ankles, to your feet.

Journaling is a skill that takes practice, but you will ultimately be able to do that and note where you feel stuck emotions.

How Emotional Suppression Holds Women Down After Divorce

Emotional suppression and repression are some of the top things that keep us sick in this country – mentally, emotionally, and physically.

It is one of the things that is compromising our relationships and our sense of well-being, and it is driving all sorts of unhealthy processes, whether it’s mental or physical.

Now, these things we just talked about – moving your body, sitting in nature, journaling – they’re not enough to handle the hoarder situation.

Concrete wall with church style glass window. Understanding the Window of Tolerance.

Understanding the Window of Tolerance

You have to go deeper. Once you’ve got some body awareness and you’re able to do a body scan, you’re able to reconnect.

So much of what I do in my practice day in and day out is helping people get out of their heads and drop into their bodies.

When this happens, we women can go deeper and we can start processing. We can start cleaning the house.

However, something that I have to teach folks is to understand the window of tolerance.

What is the Window of Tolerance?

The window of tolerance is something where to effectively process emotion, you have to feel it enough and it has to be activated enough for you to process it.

If you’re too low in the window of tolerance and it’s not activated enough, you’ll just regurgitate it all intellectually. You’re not getting it out of your body. 

If you’re too activated and you’re above your window of tolerance, you’re in panic mode. If you know a little bit about collapse or freeze responses, we can’t process emotion effectively from those places.

So we women have to get into the window of tolerance – where we’re stable enough, we’re resourced enough, and we have a sense of security. 

What is Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs?

Abraham Maslow was an American psychologist best known for his work in psychology. I often use Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs to help women understand what drives their behavior and emotions. 

  1. Basic needs: These are things like food, water, air, and a place to sleep. Without these, it’s hard to focus on anything else.
  2. Safety needs: Once we have the basics covered, we want to feel safe. This includes having a stable environment, being free from danger, and having some predictability in life.
  3. Social needs: Humans are social creatures. We crave connection, love, and belonging. This means having friends, family, and relationships where we feel accepted and cared for.
  4. Esteem Needs: Once we feel connected and safe, we start to seek respect and recognition. This can come from achieving goals, gaining skills, and feeling good about ourselves.
  5. Self-fulfillment needs: At the top of the pyramid is self-fulfillment. This is where we women pursue our passions, express our creativity, and strive to become the best version of ourselves.

The idea is that we usually focus on fulfilling the lower needs first before we can move up the ladder. But life isn’t always straightforward, and sometimes, we jump around or revisit different levels depending on what’s happening in our lives.

Understanding these needs can help us figure out what’s missing in our life after divorce and how to work towards a more fulfilling life.

Tools to Reclaim Your Identity and Intuition

Overcoming depression and grief to reclaim your identity starts by reconnecting your mind to your body and becoming more aware.

Then, we women can get a sense of your window of tolerance. Ask yourself: 

  • Am I in an appropriate season of my life? 
  • Can I process in a place where I have a sense of security so it is safe for me to re-access these feelings and to move them through my body into the dumpster?

If your answers to those questions are yes, then we go deeper and reorganize your community. 

We talked about reorganizing your community in a boundary blog. It is one of the tools you use so that you can go deeper:

  • Who is in your inner circle,
  • who is safe,
  • where can you talk about your most vulnerable places and feel loved and accepted?

Mad, sad, glad, afraid, and ashamed are the basics that I encourage people to identify.

With all the people that you talk to, day in and day out, who responded most favorably to all of those emotions? That’s your inner circle. 

woman with brown hair, looking out of the window, picture in rainbow colors. What is EMDR Therapy?

What is EMDR Therapy?

EMDR, or Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, is a therapy technique used to help people deal with tough memories or experiences, especially those related to trauma or distress. I often use it with women who are going through a divorce.

How Does EMDR Work?

EMDR uses bilateral stimulation (right and left eye movement), tapping on the body, or auditory tapping.

It’s an experiential technique that helps process, reprocess, and desensitize stuff in the body. 

You’ll think about the tough memory or moment of trauma while also paying attention to something moving back and forth, like my hand or a light. This helps your brain process the memory in a new way.

While you’re doing the eye movements, we talk about the memory and how it makes you feel. This helps you understand it better and make sense of it.

We also talk about how you’ve coped with things in the past and how you can feel stronger and more in control now and then finish up with some relaxation exercises to help you feel calm and grounded.

What is EFT?

EFT Tapping, or Emotional Freedom Techniques, is a therapy method that involves tapping on specific points of the body while talking about a problem.

EFT is all about helping your body and mind find balance and feel better.

It’s a simple technique that many people find helpful for dealing with all sorts of emotional challenges.

How Does EFT Work?

We figure out what is holding you back from processing your emotions and what you want to work on in your post-divorce life.

You lightly tap on certain points on your body while focusing on the problem.

It’s kind of like acupuncture but without needles. While tapping, we talk about the issue and how it makes you feel. You might also say positive things to help shift your mindset.

After tapping for a bit, we see how you’re feeling and see if any emotions are released. It helps us know if the tapping is helping and if we need to do more or what we need to focus on.

woman's hand in rainbow colors in the background, fingers point against a concrete wall. What is Myofascial Release?

What is Myofascial Release?

Myofascial release is a way of moving the body in certain places to release stuck energy. 

Somatic releasing of stuck emotion of clogged energy that is keeping you trapped in resentment, overthinking, obsessing about your ex, and stuck in this season of life.

Takeaways

We’ve covered a lot about the topic of overcoming depression and grief to reclaim your identity and intuition, but my one main takeaway for you would be to work on feeling safe and sitting in stillness so you can feel spaces in your body.

  • Don’t avoid it.
  • Listen to your body talking. It’s trying to say something.
  • What does it need?

Emotional suppression is how you got here. Emotional expression is going to get you out.

Divorce recovery coach Dawn Wiggins

...helps people crack open. Challenging the status quo, she integrates multiple modalities from EMDR to EFT tapping, journaling, homeopathy, and movement, embracing remedies that heal both the mind and body. Divorce recovery coach Dawn Wiggins is on a mission to deliver life-changing therapy in an accessible, scalable, affordable way and make waves in the world of mental health with the same enlightenment that happens in her office. Part science, part essential oils, pure magic.

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