What’s one of the best ways to get through divorce? According to researchers Gabriele Prati and Luca Pietrantoni (2009), posttraumatic growth following a major life crisis like divorce is fostered by having social support. Finding a support system for yourself was mentioned in my book Transforming Divorce as one of the first and most important things to do for yourself when faced with a breakup.
Find a group of supportive people in your life that will help lift you up (and not bring you down, put you down, keep you down…). Keep a list of these people with you–in your wallet, next to your bed, on your computer, and other places so you have it handy when you need to reach out to someone. Make it a point to seek them out. Having people in your life that help you see things from a different, more healthy and empowering perspective is invaluable. Optimistic people, hopeful people. loving and caring people–they will make a difference in your life. If you don’t have anyone in your life like this, consider hiring a therapist or a coach.
What else did the study find that is associated with posttraumatic growth?
- Religious coping (meaning that you use your religion as a way to cope), and
- Reframing the experience (or what the authors call “positive reappraisal coping”).
Reframing is when you find other positive and empowering perspectives of the experience. I’ll give you an example. After 17 years of marriage, 3 kids, and no college degree or job, I found myself separated (and subsequently divorced). It was not my decision and I was blindsided by something so incredibly painful that I was in shock for 2 weeks as I struggled to wake up to my new reality. I could have felt sorry for myself as I came to grips with my situation, but I decided to use this as a learning opportunity. I could be a victim (scenario #1) or I could reframe it into being the heroine of my life (scenario #2). I could wake up everyday mad and resentful or I could look for the lessons and grow. I reframed divorce as a learning opportunity to grow and expand from the lessons it presented me.
There are all kinds of ways you can make sense out of life’s inevitable challenges. You can look at them through a victim’s eyes or a heroine’s eyes.
So to recap–one of the best ways to get through divorce, or any painful challenge in your life, is to seek out a support system. Find positive, loving, caring, hopeful, empathetic, and compassionate people to help you through. While it may be tempting to find others you can bond with over how much of a jerk your ex is–you won’t get very far in terms of growth. It mostly manifests in pity parties if you go that route. You’re not a victim. You’re strong, you’re capable, and you’re valuable.
Prati, G. & Pietrantoni, L. (2009). Optimism, social support, and coping strategies as factors contributing to posttraumatic growth: A meta-analysis. Journal of Loss and Trauma: International Perspectives on Stress & Coping, 14(5), 364-388. DOI:10.1080/15325020902724271