Getting a divorce, with or without kids, whether wanted or not, is agonizing and traumatic. You are grieving many things – loss of your primary intimate relationship, daily contact with your children, some level of financial security, and a future as you had envisioned and understood it. Day in and day out, you probably find yourself faced with these losses. When you allow yourself to fully grieve these changes, you can begin to heal.

Grief is defined as “keen distress or sorrow” or “keen mental suffering or distress over affliction or loss.” Thus, grieving is the process of allowing ourselves to feel the depth of our distress and sorrow, to be present in that place beyond doing anything, without making ourselves wrong, or trying to shift out of our grief. When you allow yourself to grieve in this way, you begin to open yourself to the possibility and power of healing.

As we grieve, we often find ourselves reflecting upon what happened and asking questions such as “how did this happen?” or “why did s/he act like that?” As we linger in this place, we may begin to mourn some of our choices and the situation as a whole. Mourning is the process of being present with the sorrow and regret while asking ourselves why we made those choices. This inquiry begins to allow us to explore how we can make different choices in the future; ones that we are less likely to regret.

When we remain stuck in our grief without moving through it, it can be difficult to reflect upon our choices and learn from our past. We want to protect ourselves from the agony of our choices and thus deflect responsibility from ourselves. Our ego wants to safeguard us from the common precursor to healing – self-judgment and criticism – out of the fear that it will crush our very being (i.e., who we believe ourselves to be). It is hard to take-in the depth of our pain and regret. Instead, we project our anger, fear, and hurt onto the other person. It can be extremely challenging to examine the motivations beneath our behavior and allow ourselves to deeply grieve choices that we made that negatively impacted others or ourselves.

Once we begin to heal, we can hold the competing tensions of being upset with ourselves or our ex and knowing that just because we made a mistake does not mean that we are fundamentally a bad person. We can learn to separate our behavior from who we are as a human being and instead reflect upon, mourn and grieve our choices without having them crush our very soul.

When instead we fail to grieve and mourn, we hold onto old hurts, pains and regrets that end up controlling our present and our future. While we may physically have moved on to a new place and time, we remain emotionally stuck in the past.

In order to heal, we need to be able to tap into the depth of our emotional experiences (grief and mourning as well as joy and celebration) and simply, and fully, feel them all. To do so is liberating; we free ourselves to move on from the past and being living in the present, without the ongoing doom, regret and sorrow. When we heal, we are able to approach ourselves (and others) with compassion rather than judgment. Dealing with yourself and your ex from a place of compassion will bring clarity and strength to your interactions.