Divorce is Trauma

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In my practice, I often see people going through divorce or who have gone through divorce. I also work extensively with people struggling with trauma. Do these seem like two different things to you?

They are not.

Guess what? Divorce is trauma.

This is how the American Psychological Association defines trauma: “Trauma is an emotional response to a terrible event like an accident, rape or natural disaster. Immediately after the event, shock and denial are typical. Longer term reactions include unpredictable emotions, flashbacks, strained relationships and even physical symptoms like headaches or nausea. While these feelings are normal, some people have difficulty moving on with their lives.”

For those of you going through divorce, does any of that sound familiar?

Even if your divorce feels like a good thing, it is a terrible event in the sense that it challenges your entire sense of self and well-being. You have to re-invent who you are to get through it because before your divorce, your hopes and dreams were tied to somebody else, somebody you have to let go of. That’s not small. Your entire concept of you who you are and who you are going to be just got steamrolled.

In my ‘Healing Through Divorce’ group on Facebook, I often see women lament that they are having difficulty moving on and if that’s where you’re at, I encourage you to have some compassion for yourself here and read the last line of the APA definition of trauma.

The reason you’re having trouble moving on is because you’re going through something traumatic.

How do you heal through trauma? First and foremost, make sure that you feel safe. Set healthy boundaries so that you are safe physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Next, be present — if you connect with the here and now, you will notice that most of the time that you are okay. So take a moment to check in with what’s happening right now— feel your breath, have a sip of water. Finally, be compassionate with yourself. This means upping your self-care — make sure you’re fueling your body, staying hydrated, getting good sleep, exercising and doing things that make you feel good and supported.

Be kind to yourself right now. Divorce isn’t just hard. It’s trauma.