Navigating Divorce

March 2, 2016

Divorce can impact men in many different ways. For some, it’s a welcome change after years of struggle and conflict with their partner. For others, it’s a devastating blow, one that can challenge their identity, change their family dynamic, and even cause feelings of anxiety or depression. But there are things you can do to get through this difficult life transition.

Expect to feel a range of emotions: Feeling exhausted, sad, angry, and even confused is normal. You’re experiencing a huge loss, and grieving a way of life you had grown accustomed to. Change is never easy, but giving yourself permission to feel these emotions can help you process what has happened and move on.

Summon the courage to open up to others about what you’re feeling: Reaching out to friends or family, joining a support group, or going to counseling can go a long way in lessening your loneliness. You’re used to relying on your spouse, but turning to other important people in your life and/or making new connections can help you move forward. Here are a few places you can start:

The Fatherhood Project offers an innovative program, Divorcing Dads, which is a six-week class to increase fathers’ confidence and competence in meeting the challenges of this difficult time for every member of the family.

The Greater Boston Divorced and Separated Support Group is a peer-led group with over 600 members who share many of the same feelings that you may be experiencing right now. During meetings confidentiality is respected and you are encouraged to speak on your own terms and when you are ready. Meetings last approximately two hours.

Rebuild your identity: Divorce can make you feel like you’ve lost your identity but you need to remember the other important roles you play in life besides husband (for example, father, son, brother, uncle, friend, coworker). Spend this time investing in your own hobbies, volunteering, and forming new friendships.

Take care of yourself physically: Not only can physical activity help you feel more confident about yourself, it also can help alleviate feelings of stress, anxiety, and depression. Taking the time to eat healthily and take care of your body can help you sleep better, increase your energy, and boost your mood. If you find yourself using substances to cope, you should reach out for help.

Take care of your mental health: Men are nearly twice as likely to suffer from post-divorce depression as women. If you have persistent feelings of guilt, worthlessness, hopelessness, or irritability, or if you experience sleep problems or loss of interest in activities that were once pleasurable, it is important to check in on your mental health. Visit www.MassMen.org for an anonymous educational screening for depression and get connected to local mental health resources in your area. If you have thoughts or feelings of suicide, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255), dial 9-1-1, or go to the nearest emergency room.