Homeless In Life: Overcoming Emotional Isolation After Divorce
I had two conversations recently with two different people about the isolation and sense of desolation after divorce. About waking up every day already exhausted at the effort. About filling the time with activities and get-togethers, but never really feeling connected.
It’s a sense of being homeless in life. With the worst homesickness imaginable for the life you lost.
But just like a night spent on the street doesn’t mean a person will never have a bed again, time spent homeless in life doesn’t predict your future.
So how do you find and create your home again?
It starts with sleep.
If you’re not rested, everything becomes an insurmountable obstacle. Your mood will be even further depressed, your thinking will slow and your emotions will be amplified.
If sleep is difficult to come by, get help. I needed medication to sleep and eat those first few months. And that’s okay.
Be aware if you’re sleeping too much, as it may be a sign of avoidance or, more seriously, depression. Again, there is no shame in asking for help. It’s there for a reason.
This is intensive work. Push when you need to and don’t forget to rest when you can.
Shift your focus away from your ex.
If you’re thinking more about your ex than you are about you, you’re looking the wrong way. Start by clearing away physical reminders, including those lurking on your technology.
Then, start to do the same with your thoughts. Begin with the intention that you want to release the hold these thoughts have on you and the belief that letting go, although it seems frighting, is the way to freedom.
There are many tools that can be effective here. Journaling is one of my favorites. But use what works for you. Be prepared to some trial and error. After all, none of had “Personalized Divorce Recovery 101” in school:)
Thoughts about your ex will surface. And that’s okay. Think of them like a bird landing on your deck. You notice it, but you don’t have to chase it. Attend to your negative thoughts the same way. Acknowledge that they are there. And then let them fly away on their own time. Here’s yet another way to think about it.
If you do better with boundaries and structure, create your own ritual to interrupt those thoughts. Yes, the rubber band on the wrist trick really can work!
Pay attention to when you feel the most you.
When are you out of your head and in a flow? If you haven’t achieved that recently, think back. What activities, people or locations are correlated with this feeling? What key elements need to be present or must be absent for you to be fully in the moment.
Then invite those moments into your life as much as possible. It’s not selfish, it’s self-preserving. And you are worth it!
Beware of busyness for the sake of busyness.
When we’re lonely and feeling isolated, we often try to fill every little nook and cranny of our lives with something to do. And much of that is positive – It keeps you active, allows you to try new things and meet new people and it leaves less time for rumination.
But taken too far, and this strategy backfires. Not only can it become a way to avoid doing the processing you need to do, it also feels inauthentic.
And the whole goal is to get you back to your authentic self, not a facsimile of you just going through the motions.
Be ready to say “no” to people who think they know what’s best for you. Set boundaries with those that intrude too far and ask too much. This isn’t about trying to make other people feel good. It’s about you cultivating the good in you.
Attend to the physical.
I don’t know about you, but my brain is a slow learner.
So I trick it:)
If I’m anxious, I go for a long run which forces me to breathe deeply and slowly, thus telling my brain that everything is okay. If sadness is my emotion de jour, I play with Tiger and enjoy the oxytocin boost. When I’m feeling unsettled, I pile a heavy comforter over top of my prone body, the weight helping to anchor my unmoored mind.
This is another area where you’ll have to engage in some trial and error. Identify the thoughts and emotions you want to dampen and strive to find physical ways to trick them into submission. Here are some ideas to get you started.
Give yourself a goal.
Humans need purpose. And after divorce, it’s easy to feel as though you have no purpose. So create one. Make it moderately big. Something that will take some time to achieve, but with an end that is in sight. Make in tangible and measurable. Write it down. Decide how you will be accountable. And then start taking those baby steps to your goal.
Here’s one suggestion. But again, find what works for you.
Take time to be with you.
I remember post-divorce feeling like I had just suffered some horrific injury and I was afraid to look too closely to survey the damage. Because I’m a goober, I actually scheduled a day to just be with my thoughts a few months after he left. I dreaded that day.
But the day itself?
Because once you know what you’re dealing with, you can begin to act upon it.
So much of that isolation you feel isn’t because you’re apart from your former spouse. It’s because you’ve tried to distance yourself from your own pain. It’s time to meet back up with yourself again.