The emotional pain of divorce can be temporarily ignored through distraction, but won’t completely go away until we face it.
Two summers ago, my son had major surgery on both of his legs and spent a third of his summer vacation in thigh high casts. What a trooper! The things that kid endured, both during the surgery and recovery, boggles my brain; yet, it was necessary to correct some chronic problems that would affect him the rest of his life. In preparation for his procedure, friends and family gathered many things, such as books, movies, and games, to keep his mind off the pain and misery of those evil casts. Heal he must; but, if at all possible, he could be distracted from the pain!
Divorce pain isn’t much less heinous than the agony of having bone and muscle sawed through. Often, we try to “keep our minds off of it” by thinking about anything else we possibly can and busying ourselves with both everyday responsibilities and meaningless pursuits to ignore the destruction and suffering all around us. The problem with disregarding the pain of the end of our marriage is that it won’t go away just because we pretend it’s not there!
Have you ever played hide and go seek with a young child? Sometimes, they’re not very good at it, and they seem to think that as long as their face is hidden and they can’t see us, that we can’t see them! Maybe you’re not acknowledging the pain of divorce, but it will patiently sit and wait for you until you’re ready to face it!
The emotional pain of a break-up is different than a physical recovery. My son’s bones and tissue continued to heal, even if he threw himself into a good book or video game to occupy his mind while his body mended itself. Heartbreak, however, insists that we feel every bit of the experience and address how it affects us. In short, it won’t go away until we give it its due time and attention, so we might as well face the music and get it over with!
My question for you, then, is are you allowing yourself to heal, or are you simply distracting yourself from the inevitable? Are you hoping that by focusing on work, friends, hobbies, or even vices that the bad things in life will just disappear?
While I do recommend having a variety of positive things available to motivate and help take our minds off of divorce, we have to be careful of how much we bury our heads in the sand versus taking a temporary respite from all things negative. It would be too overwhelming for any of us to only think about all the ways our lives suck during divorce; however, we have to eventually confront everything that is happening and work our way through it!
Additionally, we must choose distractions carefully. Not only should they not completely block us from feeling or being a participant in life, but we must be sure that attempts to block pain do not cause new complications to develop for us. Namely, we need not turn to dangerous distractions, such as alcohol, drugs, or sex, which could become addictive or cause us harm.
How many of us have even joked about the therapeutic benefits of a little “retail therapy?” As with most things, everything is best in moderation. A little shopping (or stress eating, gambling, adrenaline, and so on) is fun and not especially harmful; but, the endorphin release and ability to replace sad feelings with happy ones can quickly let them get out of control!
The moral of this story is that while we can ease emotional pain, we can’t entirely hide from it-nor should we! If we wish to completely overcome all that we feel because of divorce, we will have to engage in the grieving and healing process until we finally emerge whole again.
There’s no need to suffer through every inch of the journey toward healing; yet, it’s important to know that distractions may only draw out the process because they keep us from facing off with our problems. Healing doesn’t require obsessing over our pain, but taking on each emotion and new situation will allow us to come closer to the other side.
What are you using to help you get through your divorce? Are you taking it all without the anesthesia of distraction or hiding from the hurt because you don’t want to face reality? Reality is very patient and will wait for us until we’re ready. Pain is unwelcome but doesn’t have to a long-term companion.