Most people who have been through a divorce would probably find it one of the most challenging times in their lives. It’s a time of grief, mourning, upheaval, and changes that you never dreamed you’d have to make. Social support, emotional support, and self-care are completely important during this painful transition.
For centuries, writing has been used to express people’s deepest feelings and find meaning and purpose in their lives. By using well-thought-out prompts, you can do the same thing and experience the benefits of expressive writing.
Introspective writing, for example, can help lift up your spirit. It can also benefit you emotionally and physically.
Writing can help you in practical ways as well. How?
Below are some great examples:
Sharing the news
For one, you can use it to plan how you are going to tell your family and friends about your impending divorce.
It can be uncomfortable and awkward for everyone involved. This makes it critical that you carefully plan how you’re going to tell them the news.
Try writing about how you would like your divorce to be perceived. You will probably need a page or more to explore this in writing. Eventually, you’ll be able to narrow it down to a sentence or two.
Focus on what you would like the divorce to be like and decide how much you are willing to share with different people. You will have different versions for the children and for family and friends.
Preparing your answers
Children will need to know concrete facts, like where are they going to live and how often they will see each parent. Anticipate the questions they might have and plan your answers.
For friends, focus on the ideal way that you are aiming for. You might say something like, “Peter and I have been struggling in our marriage for a long time and we have decided to get a divorce. We would like to remain friends.”
However you decide to word it, practicing on paper will help make conveying this difficult message easier.
You can also support yourself during this time by writing a letter to yourself, expressing encouragement and love.
It is vital that you forgive yourself for your part in the dissolution of your marriage. And also give the assurance that you can successfully move forward. Then self-address, stamp, and mail it!
Another enlightening exercise is to sit down and write the complete story of your marriage, with a beginning, middle, and end. Do it in a few short sessions as it can be overwhelming.
Forgiving your ex
As you write the story, remember that the good memories are still yours to cherish. And feel the relief that the bad times will soon be over.
It is vitally important that you begin to forgive your ex – no matter how hard that may be. There is a Buddhist saying that holding onto anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else – you are the one who gets burned.
Planning your future
Most importantly, when writing the history of your marriage, do not end the story with the divorce as that isn’t where your story ends!
Extend this story into your future, describing how resilient you inherently are and how bright your future will be. Detail what you learned from your mistakes and how your next relationship will be different. Then, go on to describe your ideal future!
The very best way to heal is to begin living your dreams. So, list your goals in the next five years and what you would like your life to look like ten years down the road. And when you are ready, list baby steps you can take to realize those goals.
Finally, one of the simplest but most powerful practices is to write a daily gratitude list. As I wrote in my book Write For Recovery:
“No matter how bad your life is at any given point, even in the worst of times, there are always things for which we can be grateful. A practice of appreciating the good things in your life nurtures feelings of optimism and joy. It also gets your ego out of the way so your spirit can shine.
A minute of gratitude is like a vacation for your heart and mind. And just as the runner gets a second wind and is stronger with every run, gratitude is strengthened by repeated effort.”
The act of acknowledging our blessings has been shown to increase serotonin and dopamine, the feel-good neurotransmitters in our brains. A practice of appreciating the good things in your life nurtures feelings of optimism and joy.
A minute of gratitude is like a vacation for your heart and mind. You cannot hold anger at your ex and bemoan your past while you are busy being consciously grateful for all the precious little gifts in your life!