Wanna feel worse?  Look at old pictures of your happy family or your wedding album.  Watch a romantic movie and listen to sad love songs.  

Why do many of us gravitate towards our past and things we lack during times of grief, such as divorce?

Somehow, like a magnet, people are drawn to things that make them sad when they are actually trying to avoid it.  Looking at pictures of your happy times should make you feel good; but, actually those pictures can represent very personal representations of your loss.  They're not just pictures of a happy united family with two happy parents.  They're your happy family before it was divided.

While this is a somewhat skewed perspective based on your current state of mind following a divorce, it’s normal.  And while you shouldn't purge all of your family pictures and boycott sappy love songs and movies forever, sometimes it's better to avoid reminiscing and reminders of the parts of your life that are in a state of dissolution until you're ready.

Making connections

Developing connections with books, movies or songs that reflect your own life situation, as a means of coping, is natural to the human spirit.  It makes you feel normal, in that what you feel, is okay and that eventually the story will have a good ending, most of time.  You can usually relate to one or more of the characters, but unlike your seemingly endless situation, the story you read or movie you watch has a definite beginning, middle and end.  But life and real problems aren't that simplistic.

Real life

What happens when the story drags on or the ending is not happy?  What happens when the romantic comedy isn’t really much of a comedy as much as a sad satirical joke?  What do you do when your life feels like a really bad joke?  What then?

The first place to start is yourself.  Not the self that feels lost, sad and miserable.  Rather the person you're really trying to find in those movies, albums and songs.  She's someone who can endure the seemingly insurmountable odds, but still survive, succeed.

Become the lead character in your own story

To do that you should allow yourself some emotional latitude, while staying focused on getting your life put back together.  You are the only one who can really end the bad times in spite of your pain, anger and struggles. You know that while these feelings and a new living situation are definitely not your normal, you are going to be alright.  But, first you'll need to accept that sometimes your emotions may not always represent the new hopeful beginning.  Rather they represent the ending of what you hoped would never happen to you and your family.  

You’re normal to not feel normal.  You’re normal to cry for no reason.  And you’re normal to feel resentful that life just sucks right now and you really don’t want it to.  So, if it’s more than that, and you know when it's more than that, then get a counselor, psychologist or psychiatrist and lay it all out there.  

Now, even if you talk to a professional you are going to want to add some positive coping strategies into your life to start to counter the negative emotions you are feeling.  The more positive you add, the less time and energy you will have to spend on the negative.  As time passes, you'll begin to notice that the negative emotions are less powerful and no longer distract you from moving on with your life. 

Letting of of the past

One of the most important things to realize about a life changing event, such as divorce, is that while you and your family are trying to focus on today and tomorrow, rather than the past, letting go doesn't mean purging or pushing away everyone and everything from your life, as a married couple, to move forward.

Depending on how much your marriage was part of your life and family, some aspects of both will be fragile for a significant period of time, but eventually, will regain strength and resilience.  Taking a marriage out of either leaves a pretty big gap that many of us aren't sure how to repair.  The first year or so is usually spent not only realizing the gap is there, but how far off "there" really is from "here", the place you should be without a problematic marriage and/or difficult divorce.  Either really takes a toll on your own life picture, self-esteem and family dynamic.

It takes time, forgiveness and empathy.  It's not so much letting go of the past, which likely has many happy memories, gained wisdom and people who love and care about you.  It's about letting go of the stuff that gets in the way of all that.

Remember, you and your spouse are not the only ones affected by this event and your friends and family have feelings related to your divorce, too.  So, be patient.  Let go of the things that cause or caused you pain and work through that which is important enough to repair.

Here are five rules to help you get started:

Rule #1

Connect with your true self before seeking anything through other means.  Discover your new identity as a single person.  You won’t be the person you were when you met your spouse, the one in those pictures, or the person at the end of your marriage.  You'll want to discover your tomorrow person.  The one at your core.  Right now that person is cloaked in all the grief and pain that will shed naturally and eventually present her inner beauty and potential.  She'll be someone with less resentment and disappointment.  

The failed marriage will no longer be such a major part of your identity.  Once you find that person, you won't be haunted by the romantic comedy or the vision of who you once were.  Instead your tomorrow person will finally be present.  You and your family will have begun to heal and those pictures will be less likely to reopen wounds of the past.

Rule #2

Stay away from anyone who encourages you to vent too much about people or events from the past.  While a chat about your ex with a friend or family member is totally normal, try not to discuss old drama or talk about new issues about the same old problems too much.  It doesn’t help.  

It just brings up something that's painful and difficult to control when feelings are so strong.   Sometimes good friends think you need to talk about your situation.  Unfortunately, while their intentions are usually good, it can make you feel worse.  So, have your say (and yes, some things need to be said), but after a quick jaunt around the "I hate my ex park", change the subject to focus on your future, no matter how tempting it is to keep venting-on about old troubles.  It’s totally okay to tell them why you don't want to talk too much about old wounds.


Recognize your feelings about your ex may be misrepresented.  It’s easier to blame someone than something.  Many things that happen in a marriage contribute to it's failure.  Some that either of you could have controlled and some that you couldn't.  While most marriages may have one spouse who failed it more than another, usually both spouses own some part of the failure and/or ability to cope with the many challenges the marriage endured.

It’s not uncommon for your own guilt and frustration to be directed as anger and blame towards your former spouse.  It’s difficult to realize that sometimes the person you're angry with, is you.  

More so, it’s even harder to realize that you have to cut ties with that self-blame and accept that some things didn't work out the way we want and no matter what we did to make it work, the marriage was doomed to fail.   This is especially true when one spouse falls out of love with the other, makes drastic changes or suddenly seeks a surprise divorce.   

While you are very right to ponder the depths of your past in an effort to avoid the same fate, eventually you will need to just forget and forgive.  The longer you don't, the longer you'll wait to resolve the pain from the past in order to secure a better life in the future.

Rule #4

Find new outlets to deliver your anguish.  You don't have to suffer in the depths of your pain to improve your life.  Find support groups and energetic resources that encourage you to add good and let the bad stuff go, rather than focus on the bad stuff like you’re gonna find something valuable in it.  You won't.

You'll find that the more you cycle your grief away - walk or run towards a new you, choose guidance from empathetic friends and resources, reinvest in yourself and your family, rediscover your faith - you'll naturally extinguish the negative feelings and thoughts about your ex, your current situation and your future.