Isolation after divorce: It comes unexpectedly
When you decide for divorce, isolation may not be something that you think of right away or expect. You’re still seeing yourself as participating in your married life in a sense, even while it’s falling apart. You’re busy dealing with the emotional, mental, and practical challenges of the break-up. It fills your days and nights.
But then, once you have moved on and are beginning to establish your new life, and perhaps even before that, you will most certainly experience this something that you did not imagine or expect. Isolation and loneliness.
It can feel as if the world around you has disappeared. It feels as if you cannot reach anyone and they cannot reach you. Or maybe they don’t want to.
You will, of course, try to disregard it and create a normal life for you and your kids. Yet there may be this deep sense of being all by yourself. As if not only your marriage but your entire world has fallen apart, and you’re left with the pieces, alone.
That’s when you start asking yourself: Why? Why is this happening to me?
Why isolation happens after divorce
There are multiple reasons why isolation is part of the divorce. To name the most common ones:
- The person you were most close to (even if in negative ways) is no longer around and you’re left with emptiness by your side
- His friends and family, who you thought were your friends and family too, have turned their back on you, even if not openly. They just stopped reaching out or responding to you.
- You may have relocated and don’t know anyone in the neighborhood. You don’t belong, yet.
- Some of your own friends and family may be reacting with judgment, fear, and avoidance. Irrational as it may be, married couples are often afraid of divorcees. Perhaps they don’t want to think about the problems in their own marriage. Perhaps they think that divorce is contagious somehow or that the divorced woman is on the lookout for their next husband (even if it’s is the last thing a divorced woman thinks of).
- On a more general note, people are afraid of other people’s pain. It reminds them of their own pain or makes them feel inadequate and awkward. This too leads to avoidance.
- None of the above is exactly supportive and it contributes to your feelings of having failed (even if you haven’t) and a fear of experiencing more judgment. It makes you withdraw and perhaps even hide from others.
So what can you do about it? First, consider a different perspective:
Temporary isolation is not a bad thing
While isolation is caused by a number of unfortunate circumstances, there is another perspective on it that I’d like to share with you, as it may help you move through it:
To explain it let me use the example of a job transition (divorce is a job transition too, in a way). When leaving an old job and before starting on a new, wouldn’t you want a break in between the two? You need a time where you can let go of the old and prepare for the new. Psychologically, a similar need is present when you leave a marriage and before you build a new life for yourself and your children.
Temporary isolation is an opportunity to feel whatever you feel, to think whatever you think, to deal with the pain and the changes you’re going through. It’s a necessary part of healing (which is why escaping the pain only prolongs it).
Also, there is an essential need at this time to get to know yourself again, to find out who you are without the ex, without the life that defined you previously, what your needs are now, what your beliefs are now, what your values are now.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m certainly not saying that you should deliberately bury yourself in more isolation than what is there already. But it is important to acknowledge that isolation is part of this journey. You cannot just skip it. You have to move through it somehow.
How to move through isolation
There are three equally important ways to move through isolation:
- Connect with others in a similar situation. If you haven't yet, join the DivorcedMoms Community. It’s a private, safe, and caring place for divorcing/divorced moms/women to come for emotional support and advice during and after divorce.
- Spend time alone in ways that you will enjoy, especially in the evenings. Download these free resources created to bring you more peace and joy, even when you are alone.
- As soon as you feel you’re ready, start exploring ways to meet new friends (in real life, not just online) and engage in your local community.
Remember, isolation is a stage of the journey – it’s not the end of it!