I am often asked, how long does it take to recover from divorce? Good question with no ‘one size fits all’ answer. People ask because they want their pain to go away. I want that for them, too. I know as they do that it feels never-ending. I let them know they are not alone. Most people ask the same question. After all, it’s an unchartered path for many. And while they traverse down this path, they are overwhelmed with sadness and grief. An emotional roller coaster filled with many mixed emotions, which often keeps them feeling stuck. Emotionally and physically exhausted, they are looking for the end. And although they recognize that there are things they need and want to change, just doing those things feels impossible. Thoughts about their ex, what it all means, and how they will manage often hijack any rational thoughts they might have.
But, that being said, how much time does it take to recover? Generally speaking recovery from divorce takes between six and eighteen months – with some variation. Some experts say it’s closer to two years. And if the divorce came as a shock or for many people, they felt blindsided, it can take even longer. I know. A long time.
Yet, I have worked with clients who seem to move through their divorce in less than a year and those who are still struggling close to two years in. To help people understand where they are and where they want to be, it is important to ask what stage they have reached. For example, is it a new divorce where one has just filed, are they a few months (or more) in, are they waiting to sign the final paperwork. These are a few examples of the different stages of divorce. The first question to ask is what stage the individual has reached. A great way to figure out where you are in the process is to take the Fisher Divorce Assessment Scale (FDAS).
Recovering from a divorce depends on several factors. For example, how long you were married, how good the marriage was, how committed each person was (or wasn’t), who initiated the divorce, or you were blindsided, whether or not there are children, and your relationship status as well as the status of your ex. In addition, factors such as how you are able to manage the emotional trauma, your history, personality, ability to manage the ups and downs of life, support system, your age, socio-economic and financial status. These are all factors that contribute to the recovery process. Adding to the recovery process and contributing to the essence of time includes moving through the stages of grief and taking the necessary yet painful steps of healing.
Generally speaking recovery from divorce takes between six and eighteen months – with some variation. Some experts say it’s closer to two years.
However, there are many things you can do to ease the pain and feel like you are making progress even in moments when it doesn’t feel that way. I have been there. I know what’s it like to be on both sides of a divorce. There will be glimmers of hope along the way, sometimes when you least expect it. And, when you do recover from your divorce, you will look back on your journey and be in wonder of how you DID persevere through it all. But until that day arrives, recovering from divorce takes time. A lot of time. And no two people will experience it the same way.
Some people are fearful of the process. This only leaves them stuck and feeling less empowered. Changing the lens in how you recover will help you make positive steps. How you begin to see yourself and your recovery is key. Some people want to hide from the process. But is this helpful or hurtful? I think the latter. Even in the moment when it feels difficult to put one foot in front of the other. Changing your lens gives you agency – for your life. Choosing to view your situation as one that can empower you (eventually) and help you recognize that you have the grit and perseverance to do what needs to be done – emotionally, intellectually, and physically.
Acceptance of the waves of emotions that will flood you at times, is simply part of the process. There will be setbacks and there will be high fives! But, the good thing about this (yes, there is a good part) is that in your recovery, there is a beginning, a middle, and an end. And the hard times and difficult decisions will eventually end. And you will be able to exhale.
When we rebuild we need a strong foundation in the way of support of family and friends. Recovery from divorce is not for the faint at heart. It takes grit, support, hope, humor, and a forward thinking mindset. So, what can I share with you to help you move through your recovery from divorce that will feel optimistic and hopeful?
Here are a few things you can do:
“Everything will be okay in the end. If it’s not okay, then it’s not the end.”
~ John Lennon
From Stacey Freeman: It Took Longer Than I Expected
“‘It’s going to take you years to get over this,” a member of my husband’s family told me.
She was one of the first people I called to tell the news, the news that my husband had left me for another woman. I barely remember the call, what I said to her, only the silence on the other end as she processed my words, something I had yet to do.
Nah, I thought. Years? No way. Six months. Tops. With my mother reassuring me every day that I would “meet someone else,” how could I be wrong? Just push through the legal stuff, go out on some dates, and I’d be over it. It sounded like a good plan.
As it turned out, not entirely.
I rushed through my divorce as fast as I could. I hired a lawyer within six days of finding out my husband was cheating, and while he was off on a whirlwind romance, I prepared for Discovery. Although I was committed to getting a divorce and paid a hefty retainer to prove it, I still held out hope we could save our marriage and begged my husband to try. Try we did, for five days three months after his big announcement. On day six, I pulled the plug. His head wasn’t in it. By that point, neither was mine.
“Get a lawyer,” I told him. “And get out.”
He did get out but dragged his feet on the lawyer part. I stayed on him, parroting my request until he found representation he liked. Our divorce took 11 months to complete. Less than a year-and-a-half after my husband told me he was done, we were done. Our 24-year relationship was over.
Why, then, wasn’t I over it?
I had a bruised ego and, as a result, my self-esteem was in the toilet. As I began to pick up the pieces after my divorce, I questioned what I missed explicitly from my married life. Did I miss my husband? The marriage? Our relationship? Once I clarified my feelings, only then was I in a position to work through my grief and give my emotions the attention they deserved.
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