Divorce: Emotional Impact and Steps to Recovery

Surviving Divorce: Dr. David Sbarra 

Post-Divorce Recovery Strategies

After a divorce, you are likely to find yourself in emotional highs and lows such as sadness, joy, anxiety and a sense of freedom. However, the reality of your loss could be hard to accept, and might become a threat to your well-being, and that of others especially if children are involved. If you experiencing a divorce, here are four positive steps that could help you to heal, and move on with your life after a divorce.

Allow Yourself to Grieve

Jeanne Segal et al. (2013), explain that divorce involves loss of companionship, support, hopes and dreams, and as such people need time to grieve. This grieving process includes a wide range of affective states including sadness, anger, and depression, but releasing these emotions is normal and healthy.

Be patient with yourself, don’t be afraid to express your emotions, and face your loss and the accompanying feelings. However, researcher Dr. David Sbarra warns against “systematic emotional expressions” that comes through journaling. His research indicates that journaling could keep people stuck in their pain.


Signs of depression include persistent feelings of sadness and unhappiness.
Image by naseer123

Seek Support

Receiving emotional support from others is very important, so take advantage of available support resources such as close friends, support groups or your physician. Sbarra encourages people who experience divorce to “reconnect with people who enhance sense of self.” You may also need to talk to a mental health professional to deal with emotional issues and learn to adapt to the major changes in your life

Redefine Yourself

Divorce requires redefining yourself as an individual, for your role as a married person is now lost. This means finding time for new interests, hobbies, activities, and promoting your self-esteem.

An important focus too, is to learn from your mistakes. Strive to be honest with yourself as this could be an important part of your healing process. You will need to examine your past choices and behavior, and try to learn from your mistakes

Nurture Yourself

David Sbarra emphasizes the need fo people experiencing divorce to cultivate self-compassion which is “providing compassion for yourself and your own suffering.” This will help you to come to terms with your divorce and move to the next level.  He lists the self-kindness, mindfulness and cultivating a sense of common humanity as key elements of self-compassion that you can learn.

Recovery After Divorce: Balance is Key

After a divorce, pay attention to your needs, and work at restoring balance to your life. This means taking care of your spiritual, psychological, and physical well-being. Get adequate nutrition, exercise, and rest. For example, Sbarra warns against compromising sleep after a divorce, as this could result in serious health risks. In your transition, cultivate an attitude of thankfulness, and chart a new course to find purpose for your life as you move forward.


Gottman, J. & Silver, N.  What Makes a Marriage Work. Psychology Today. (1994). Accessed September 2, 2013

Sbarra, David A., et all. Marital Dissolution and Major Depression in Midlife. (2013). Sage Journals. Accessed September 3, 2013.

National Institute of Mental Health. What is Depression? (2011). Accessed August 28, 2013.

Sbarra, D. A., Emery, R. E. & Beam, C. R.  Marital Dissolution and Depression in Midlife: A Propensity Score Analysis. (2013). Clinical Psychological Science. Accessed August 27, 2013.

Segal, et. al. Coping with Breakup or Divorce: Moving on After a Relationship Ends. (2013).  HelpGuide.Org. Accessed August 31, 2013.

Ward, M.  The Family Dynamic: A Canadian Perspective. (2006).  Toronto, ONT. Thomas Nelson.

© Copyright 2013 Yvette Stupart, PhD, All rights Reserved. Written For: Decoded Science
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  1. churchintv says

    Thanks, Dr. Sbarra. Good suggestions.

    I’d like to underscore the importance of a support group. It’s an environment where a person going through separation or divorce can be around people who understand what the are going through … and a place where they can get practical information about the divorce recovery process.

    Our DivorceCare support group network has equipped 13,000+ locations worldwide with curriculum for weekly DivorceCare groups. You can find a nearby DivorceCare group by using our search tool at http://www.divorcecare.org

    Steve Grissom

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