No matter what the circumstances are, divorce is hard. It's a process that's extremely tough from start to finish, and you can still feel emotional weeks, months, and even years after you and your former partner have split. The residual anger, hurt, confusion, depression, and even self-blame don't just disappear once a divorce is finalized. Even if you're the one who pushed for it, divorce still creates all sorts of emotional pain, so don't be surprised if you're still feeling the pain of divorce and struggling to move on in your life. It's completely normal, and you're definitely not alone.
While each divorce is unique, here's a list of some of the reasons why it's so hard to move on and heal post-divorce.
You Lost Someone You Loved
Divorce means losing someone you once loved—and even post-divorce, you might still love them. It can create a grieving process that's similar to what we experience when a loved one dies. There might be times when you're angry at everyone and everything, you'll blame yourself or your ex for the end of your happiness, and you may even withdraw from friends and family in an attempt to protect yourself from further hurt. You might think back fondly on the relationship and maybe even feel some divorce regret. Your life has been flipped upside down, so it's understandable that it might feel difficult or nearly impossible to move on. "It’s normal and healthy to relive both good and bad moments in time when you were married. It’s an unavoidable part of the grief process," says licensed therapist Susan Pease Gadoua.
Give yourself adequate time, honest self-reflection, and if needed, time with a therapist, in order to process. Remember, even if you wanted the divorce, it's a huge loss.
Your Family Is Fractured
A lot of time and emotional energy during a marriage goes into keeping the family unit intact. Parents strive to give their children a happy and healthy family, and when their marriage breaks up, they may feel as though they've failed their kids. They have trouble dealing with the emotional fallout of the family breaking up, and again, they mourn the loss as they would a death. However, it's important not to let this pain come at the expense of children's wellbeing. Though you may be struggling to move on, find the energy to start fresh, celebrate raising children alone, or begin dating again find a new life partner.
While dating can help you move on, many therapists advise clients to wait at least one year post-divorce to begin dating again. This will give you time to heal and help you avoid a rebound relationship.
There Are Unrealized Dreams
Every marriage is lived in both the present and the future. You were probably constantly thinking about where both of you, as a couple, would be 5, 10, or even 20 years down the road. "Two married people are like two trees that are growing side by side. The longer they grow next to each other, the more entwined the root systems become and the harder it is to extricate one from the other," says Pease Gadoua.
Divorce naturally takes away any dreams and expectations the two of you shared, leaving you confused and forced to learn how to build a brand-new life that doesn't include your ex. This is why newly divorced individuals find it so difficult to look forward. You could find yourself feeling stuck in the past, unable to reconcile that this chapter of your life is over, continually replaying what went wrong, and caught up in pain and negativity.
You May Feel Shame
After a divorce, feelings of failure are normal. They're casualties of personal accountability—our responsibility for the role we played in the ending of our marriage. Admitting to ourselves that we've made mistakes can leave anyone vulnerable and filled with shame. And even though divorce is so common, many of us still experience tremendous shame and embarrassment due to a feeling that we're somehow "less than" because weren't able to save the marriage. Having to face family members, coworkers, friends, and acquaintances only stirs our perceived shortcomings more, and these feelings can be very hard to get past when you're constantly beating yourself up.