Written by Monica Borschel, PhD and Christopher Meyer, Family Law Practitioner
Divorce carries a lot of grief with it. There is a possible loss of time with your children, your partner, parts of your identity, and your possessions. On top of the grief, there can be some trauma. The trauma can be from feeling like your partner has been living a separate reality, affairs, abuse, court, and custody evaluations.
The court process can feel unpredictable. Your ex-partner might even try to abuse you through the court system. This abuse can look like false accusations, continuous filing of claims, and trying to take as much from you as they can.
Custody evaluations might make you feel like your ability as a parent is in question. It might feel like you have to be perfect to pass. The truth is, no parent is perfect; you need to be good enough.
It is common to have symptoms of anxiety and depression during a divorce. However, others might develop some trauma symptoms. These symptoms can look like a lack of trust and feeling of safety, nightmares, hypervigilance, and a deep fear of the ex-partner. This deep fear can transfer to the children. They might see how afraid you are of the other parent and resist access. The fear is valid if your ex-partner has abused you and your children.
Sometimes these trauma symptoms resolve with calming practices, physical exercise, and a sense of community. However, when the symptoms aren’t resolving or worsening, it is time to seek help from a trauma expert. Here are some pointers to help you through your divorce safely.
- Have a Family Attorney. A family attorney understands the laws and how to keep you safe. They will do their best to protect you and your children through the court system.
- Decompress Daily. Find time to relax every day. Relaxation can look different for everyone. For some people, it is listening to music, Yoga, meditation, music, or dancing. Decompressing daily will help keep your stress levels down. This will help you to tolerate more stress in the future.
- Practice Self-Compassion. Speaking to yourself like you would someone you love will help to reduce any symptoms of depression or feelings of negativity. Everyone makes mistakes; you do not need to be perfect.
- Physical Exercise. Physical exercise helps us feel more confident, releases feel-good hormones, keeps us healthy, and removes stress. Exercising with others can also help you to find a community.
- Finding safety in the World. If you have been feeling unsafe, look for what is safe. What are the safety cues in your environment? Do you have safe friends? Sometimes, our brain is wired for threat when we have been through trauma. This threat detection can make us feel hypervigilant and send out false alarms. When you notice these alarms going off in your body, ask if it is a real or imagined threat.
- Finding Trust Again. It can be hard to trust again if you were betrayed or abused. Do your best not to think that no one can be trusted. Think about the people in your life that are trustworthy. Trust is on a spectrum. You might trust some people with some things and others with others.
- Don’t Avoid What is Making You Anxious. Avoiding what makes us anxious only makes the anxiety worse. Facing your fears helps you see that you can tolerate them and are safe.
- Embrace Meditation and Mindfulness. Meditation and mindfulness are beneficial tools during divorce and trauma recovery. They offer a calm and peaceful respite from the stress and emotional turmoil that divorce inevitably brings. Meditation helps you to relax, focus, and reduce anxiety. It promotes inner peace and enables you to maintain balance amidst the emotional whirlwind. On the other hand, mindfulness allows you to be present in the moment and not be overwhelmed by what might happen in the future or what has happened in the past. By practicing mindfulness, you learn to observe your thoughts and feelings without judgment, helping you to handle them more effectively and with more resilience.
- Adopt a Balanced Diet and Regular Exercise. A healthy body can better cope with stress, anxiety, and emotional upheaval. During extreme stress, it’s easy to neglect our physical health. However, maintaining a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains can enhance your energy levels, mood, and overall well-being. Regular physical exercise keeps you fit and releases endorphins, often known as ‘feel-good hormones.’ These hormones can alleviate feelings of sadness and depression and promote a sense of happiness and well-being. Remember, caring for your physical health is a significant part of your mental and emotional health.
- Maintain an Objective View of the Situation. While it’s natural and expected to feel a variety of intense emotions during a divorce, try to step back and view the situation objectively. This can help to separate the emotional aspects from the factual ones. Seeing the situation objectively can allow you to make more rational and calculated decisions than those dictated purely by emotions. Remember that this is a challenging phase, not a lifetime sentence. Emotions will become less intense over time, and life will regain normalcy.
- The journey through a divorce can be painful and challenging. However, utilizing these strategies – seeking help, engaging in calming practices, maintaining a healthy lifestyle, and keeping an objective viewpoint – can become a journey of growth and self-discovery. It’s essential to remember that everyone’s path is unique and that healing takes time. Above all, show compassion to yourself during this difficult time.
Christopher Meyer, Family Law Practitioner
Christopher Meyer, a U.S. Army veteran, is a dedicated family law practitioner who brings a unique blend of military experience and legal expertise to his practice. Having served his country in the army and later utilizing his G.I. Bill to attend Thurgood Marshall School of Law, he found his true passion in family law, with an emphasis on divorce cases and domestic violence. Christopher’s service in the military has left him with an understanding of the challenges many veterans face when transitioning back to civilian life. This perspective has been instrumental in his advocacy for veteran issues, including his successful efforts toward securing free bus and rail rides for disabled veterans in the Houston area. Beyond his work in the courtroom, Christopher is committed to promoting mindfulness and emotional well-being among his clients. His popular podcast, where he shares advice on emotionally approaching situations, is a testament to this commitment. This podcast provides valuable insights for those involved in litigation and anyone navigating post-divorce life or other significant life changes. Still need to subscribe to his podcast? à https://bit.ly/3zD9rO9