Getting Through Divorce with Self-Compassion and Mindfulness

In our culture, it’s popular to practice tough love—with ourselves. We practice “self-discipline”, like to “push ourselves”, and build up our willpower. We encourage a “no pain, no gain” approach to bucking ourselves up and pushing ourselves forward. Now, these aren’t terrible strategies in and of themselves, but they tend to obscure another, gentler approach that is also effective in helping us reach our goals. That approach is self-compassion.

How Self-Compassion and Mindfulness Can Help Throughout Your Divorce

The idea of being compassionate with oneself comes from Buddhism, and is, simply put, a way of “relating to oneself—with kindness”. It’s a way to create distance between actions and the person. That means that bad decisions do not make you a bad person. This may not be an easy mental adjustment to make and may require some time to get used to.

But the rewards for making the effort to learn the emotional stages of the divorce process can be enormous. Embracing quiet contemplation, reflection and mindfulness—“maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and the surrounding environment, through a gentle, nurturing lens”—can help you navigate the big emotions that come with a change as significant as divorce.

Beginning the Divorce Process

Starting the process of ending your marriage, as anyone who’s gone through it can tell you, isn’t a quick or simple decision. It may take years—or decades—to come to the conclusion that being apart is the right move. There is no “right time” to get divorced, only the right feeling.

Step One: Deciding to Split

The first stage of divorce can sometimes be the most painful emotionally. That’s because it’s all internal. It’s making a decision that puts you on a path different from the one you (and your partner) imagined for yourself. Practicing self-compassion in this stage means resisting judging your former self for your decisions and not beating yourself up for the part you’ve played in an unsustainable marriage. It means considering yourself with kindness and compassion—as you would a dear friend or family member.

Step Two: The Separation Process

During the process of divorce, it’s easy to let emotions like anger, shame, jealousy, resentment, and sadness overwhelm you. That is perfectly natural. Practicing mindfulness during the divorce process teaches us to take a mental step back and let the emotions move in waves over us. You do not have to react to them, simply watch them pass, like clouds. This technique can help you avoid some of the mental exhaustion that is often a side effect of divorce.

Step Three: Rebuilding Your Life

When you employ mindfulness throughout the whole separation process, you may be able to avoid some of the worst mental and physical exhaustion that is often a side effect of this process. But even if it doesn’t, mindfulness can help you move through the emotional stages of the divorce process can help you emerge without the shame or fury that often lingers after a separation. Once you separate a person (you OR your partner) from their actions (yours OR your partner’s) you release yourself from the heavy weight of blame, anger, guilt, and resentment. It’s liberating! And an excellent first step toward rebuilding your life.

An Attorney Can Help You Through the Emotional Stages of Divorce

If you’re considering divorce but would like to try an approach that might mean a brighter future, call my team to schedule a confidential consultation. Our Westchester attorneys can stand by you throughout the different stages of divorce.