Healing After Divorce

Recently a client contacted me who had just made a decision to divorce.  The decision is one he had considered for some time and was not easy for him to make.  He and I had discussed the decision in one on one counseling sessions to make sure he felt it was the right thing to do.  After he made the decision he experienced a variety of emotions that included relief, exhilaration, and exhaustion.  “Stress is stress,” I reminded him.  “Any change in our lives invites stress, whether it is seen as a positive or negative change.”

inspire558Because of the stress he had just gone through I suggested that he switch from one on one counseling with me and do a Peaceful Self Emotional Healing Retreat.  At first he didn’t see the need.  I showed him the list of Signs that You Need an Emotional Healing Retreat.  He confessed that he was feeling a lot of anger, guilt, resentment and anxiety about his decision to divorce, even though he had come to the conclusion that it was the right thing to do.  “Let’s just take some time on a weekend to help you clear your head,” I recommended to him. “Better to get it clear now so you can come from a space of power, or that anger, guilt, anxiety and resentment will just blow up into something larger down the road as the divorce goes through.  And, you don’t want the divorce attorneys to be the ones who benefit from manipulating your emotions at $350 an hour while they do!”

On the retreat that I designed for him the focus on the first day was primarily to help him handle the guilt.  Typically, the one who decides to start the divorce proceedings has a lot of guilt to work through.  Some of it is healthy guilt.  There were things he could have done differently earlier on that might have prevented things from heading in the direction they were in now.  He was able to see how much they had never really been a fit as a couple.  He had been drawn in by superficial qualities that didn’t lay the groundwork for a solid relationship later on to come.  Fortunately, during the first day of the retreat he was able to relax, get in touch with the healthy guilt and forgive himself.

inspire54The next day, the guilt when into a different direction.  We began to process what I call unhealthy guilt.  Unhealthy guilt happens whenever we start to take on the blame for things we didn’t really do.  We feel bad for things that are not really are fault.  Naturally, his guilt switched rapidly into anger.  He felt angry at himself for making the decision he did.  He felt angry at her for not being the woman he wanted her to be.  He felt angry that he had wasted a few years of life on something that had become a miserable situation.  As I wrote in my book Feeling Good and Living Great: How Handling Any Emotion Well Helps You Live a Better Life, anger is a useful emotion. It is a sign that we are failing to set boundaries fast enough and establish a field quick enough of mutual respect.  The more we can do these two things, the more anger stays at the level of minor irritation, burns up quickly, and goes away.  The less we do these two things, the more anger becomes an out of control emotion that either gets frozen into depression because we don’t want to feel it or deal with it, or gets expressed in a toxic way through rage.

Through a series of movement exercises and some body work he was able to discharge some of that pent up anger in a healthy way.  Though he wasn’t ready in just a two day retreat to totally forgive her, he was able to set better boundaries and let her be responsible for what she had done that made the relationship more difficult.  Best of all he was able to be a lot more clear about how to manage her going forward. Having spent a few concentrated days getting clear and having a chance to be supported while he was doing so in a peaceful and beautiful environment, he felt much more ready to move forward with confidence and calm than before.

Peace – Love – Light,

Dr. Lisa Love


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