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Separation and divorce is tough. When you’re right in the middle of this tricky transition time, it can feel like nothing is going right. Here’s how to find gratitude, even when everything seems upside down.
A separation or divorce is one of the most difficult and significant life changes a person can go through. Some say that it’s more difficult than dealing with a death.
Whether or not you believe that’s true, we can all agree that divorce sucks. It can wreak havoc on your emotional, financial, social and spiritual well being — at least temporarily.
I’ve heard so many divorcing people say, “I just want to get through this time.” That’s something to which all of us who have been through it can relate.
At these times it often feels as though we have nothing to be grateful for. But this simply isn’t true, and having a gratitude practice has been shown to be one of the most effective things we can do to increase happiness and life satisfaction.
Plus, we don’t want to lose sight of the biggest blessings in our lives: things like healthy kids, a peaceful country, a roof over our heads. If we lost any of these, we’d immediately regret forgetting to take joy in them just because we were going through a separation or divorce.
How then, when we’re going through a gut wrenching, stressful experience like this, can we remember to be grateful? While you may have to dig a little deeper to find current life blessings, doing so can help propel you faster through this tumultuous time.
Here are some tips to finding gratitude despite the anguish of your current situation:
1. Keep A Journal
This type of journal isn’t about whether you’re a good writer or whether you can even express your thoughts on paper. Several people to whom I have recommended keeping a gratitude journal have found it as helpful as I did. It’s so quick and easy to do, and the benefits can be amazing. I used to write in mine each night before I went to bed, but you can find five minutes for your gratitude journal at whatever time during the day that works best for you.
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Here’s what you do: Each day, write down three things for which you’re grateful. These could include simple things such as “I’m grateful that I didn’t have to make dinner tonight,” or “I’m grateful that the drive-thru line wasn’t long when I got there.” Or it could be a moment when you shared a laugh with your kid. These can be just tiny events in your day, but by acknowledging them, you’ll begin to change your thought patterns to focus on positive things instead of the negative.
2. Make a ‘Big Stuff’ List
Make a list of all the big things you’re grateful for: family, children, friends, food, a job, etc. Whatever your big things are, record them on the first page or inside cover of your journal. The little, daily things should be saved for your daily entries.
This list serves two purposes. First, you can review them daily to remind yourself of the big stuff you don’t want to take for granted. But secondly, recording the big things once forces you to find smaller things to be grateful for each day. This will make your gratitude journalling experience much more effective.
3. Listen to a friend
Hopefully you’re relying on friends and family as your sounding board, your support system and your cheerleaders while you’re going through the various ups and down of the separation or divorce process. But now is also a good time to turn the tables and be the listener. You can help someone so much just by simply offering a sympathetic ear. But by listening to what’s going on in your friends’ lives, you’ll also shift your focus away from your own problems. Plus you’ll regain needed perspective that everyone’s life has challenges.
Of course I’m not suggesting that we celebrate our friends’ hardships. But offering support to others does tend to help us balance our own emotions a bit better. And it may just allow us to be grateful for what we have, as well as to experience that sense of purpose and value we derive by being there for someone else.
4. Focus on your haves, not your have-nots.
When a relationship is coming apart, it’s very easy to fall into a pattern where we focus on what we’ve lost. Turning these things around in our minds is another way to help our brains flip the switch toward gratitude. For example, instead of focusing on the fact that you don’t have a plus one with whom to attend a party, you could focus on the pleasure of getting there that evening on your own time frame. You can arrive when you want, socialize with whomever you choose and depart when you’re ready, instead of having to take your date’s preferences and feelings into account. This can be very liberating.
Likewise, instead of fixating on the fact that you may have had to sell the marital home, you can take pleasure in setting up your new, smaller pad and making it all your own, no spouse to negotiate with about paint colours or furniture choices.
This time of upheaval will pass, but while you’re in it, finding gratitude can make your journey easier.
I wish you luck, strength, happiness and — of course — gratitude.