As they say, the problem with pain is that it hurts. The even bigger problem with emotional pain is that we will do everything not to feel it. We try to get away from it, resist it at all cost, medicate it, anesthetize it. We stuff it, numb it, try to drink it away, shop it away, or binge-watch it away. As a result, we don’t heal or grow, and in the process of trying to run from it we sabotage our entire lives.
There are even more problems with divorce pain because of the added elements of anger, resentment, and fear. It is much easier to stay angry than to admit we are heartbroken and sad underneath. It is easier to worry ourselves to death about our future than to grieve our losses. We prefer pretty much anything, even other uncomfortable emotions before we choose to face our pain.
Even people who tolerate physical pain well enough have a hard time with emotional pain. Few of us have learned healthy ways and methods to handle sadness and emotional hurt as children so we either picked up the numbing techniques and coping mechanisms of our parents or came up with some of our own. If used on a regular basis, these comfort blankets can easily become addictions and will ruin our lives.
Statistics show that substance abuse significantly increases during and after divorce. If we had any issues or problems with alcohol or drugs in the past, it is very likely that it will worsen if we don’t take serious actions to prevent it. Even if we don’t consider ourselves the “addictive type”, divorce pain might drive us all to destructive coping ways. Just like drugs and alcohol, anything we use to numb the pain will not just stuff it, but prolong it. Unresolved pain and grief always leads to depression. The more we try to get away from it the longer we will be stuck in it.
Here are three easy sounding but extremely hard things to do when dealing with our divorce pain.
1. Experience it.
Many of us are afraid of pain, because we don’t think we can handle it. We are afraid of falling apart, going down with it, and never stop crying if we start. We don’t think we can survive it if we let ourselves feel it. These fears are natural and valid but not true. The only way to survive and eventually release emotional pain is to feel it, sit with it, stare at it in the face. Letting ourselves completely be with it as it washes over us. Cry, lament, wail, curse and do anything that helps us feel it in our bodies and souls. Providing space and time for it, being patient, gentle, kind, and compassionate with ourselves, the same way we would be with a grieving friend. Allowing ourselves to feel our pain does not make us victims or powerless bystanders of our lives. It simply honors our humanity and our capability of loss and grief and love. By experiencing our own pain we will learn how to be with others in theirs.
2. Express it.
Healthy expression of pain is a necessary part of the healing process. We need to do it both on our own and in the company of others. By writing about our pain in a journal and talking about it with a trusted friend or counselor we put words around the feelings which make them less scary and more bearable and universal. If we can describe them we can endure them just like others did before us. If we can talk about them we can also withstand them and let them pass by like all other emotions do. Another way to express and eventually release our pain is through art, like dance, music, painting, creative writing, photography, etc. When we create something using our pain as fuel we let it change us for the better and also forms a pathway for it to leave our bodies. Creating art from our pain can be a cathartic and healing experience for many.
3. Exchange it.
Only by experiencing and expressing our pain we recognize areas we need to heal and grow. Only by listening to it carefully and paying close attention we will find what we are holding onto and needs to go, be it anger, resentment or even hatred, very familiar and common elements of divorce. When we hold onto these things they prolong our pain and keep us stuck in it. When we become aware of them and choose to let them go, even when we feel like we have the right to them, we help our pain turn into potential and eventually into emotional and spiritual growth. Our wounds turn into wisdom, our heartache into helping others. We go from hurting to healing to helping. As hard as it is to believe, divorce can be one of the most growth producing period we will ever experience in life. If we let it. If we choose to turn our pain into strength, wisdom, and even purpose. We all have the power to do it with awareness, acceptance and positive, conscious action.
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