How to Deal With Divorce Without Failing at Work
Sometimes, we encounter situations that threaten to bring our entire lives crumbling down. If you have been through the devastation that is divorce, you understand this intimately.
When you meet someone you click with, that you cherish and want to be with for the rest of your life, the feeling is magical.
You then get married, and the more you live with them, the more they become a part of you.
Regardless of the nature of your marriage (unless it was a totally toxic marriage), and as cliché as this might sound, the two of you become one heart, you become extensions of each other.
You can think of divorce as cutting that one heart in half. You were one, but now you have just been ripped apart, and that hurts a lot.
The pain and the trauma from a divorce is so severe that it’s almost impossible for it not to leak into other areas of your life and affect all your other relationships.
If you are not careful, it might even start affecting your work and how you relate with your bosses, colleagues, customers, and other people you interact with at the workplace.
The trauma from the divorce might also take its toll on your productivity and the quality of your work.
Some people might go to the other extreme and become workaholics – drowning their pain in work – and that isn’t good either.
In today’s article, we are going to take a look at how to deal with divorce and at least get a grip on yourself while you are at work to ensure your productivity and workplace relationships don’t suffer.
TAKE A FEW DAYS OFF
In the days following your divorce, when the wound is still raw, your pain is extreme.
During this period, it can be very difficult to concentrate on your work because your heart is still in anguish.
Naturally, your mind is going to be assailed with dark thoughts of guilt, regret, or anger.
In such a state, you won’t be able to focus on interacting with clients or completing projects.
For some, divorce comes with depression or at least an acute case of melancholy.
If your job requires that you interact with others on a daily basis, it might prove impossible to go out there and smile at people when you are sick with distress.
In such situations, it is okay to take a few days off for some emotional recovery. While work is important, self-care is also important because you are a human being, not a machine.
Unlike a robot, you are emotionally and psychologically vulnerable.
Taking some vacation days off work after the divorce can help your refocus, plan your future, figure things out.
You can then return to work with a clear plan of action, instead of just trudging through each work day, trying to put on a smile while you are dying inside.
ACKNOWLEDGE, ACCEPT, HEAL, MOVE ON
Ignoring physical pain is a recipe for disaster. The same is true for emotional pain.
The emotional wounds we try to cover up end up rearing their heads again in future and causing much more damage in our lives.
For instance, there is the guy at work who looks okay, but he’s struggling with an alcohol addiction.
Having drinks after work was a way for him to escape his pain, but it turned into a habit he is now unable to give up.
In extreme cases, he might even have a bottle of whisky in his desk at work which he sips from during work hours. Dealing with such addictions becomes another challenge that they have to deal with, on top of the initial trauma.
There are many people who develop addictions after going through something like divorce. These addictions usually develop as a way of covering up for the pain they are feeling.
Later on, the addiction becomes toxic and affects other areas of their life, including their work life. They start coming to work late, untidy, intoxicated, disorganized, or they miss work altogether.
To avoid falling into such addictions, don’t ignore or try to repress your feelings after going through something like a divorce. What we bury has a way of growing stronger within us and then one day exploding.
When we ignore emotional pain, the pain grows inside us, corroding our souls, and gradually leaks its toxic influence on various aspects of our lives and causes even greater problems and heartache, sending us down a slippery slope that can be difficult to come out of.
After the divorce, have the courage to acknowledge your pain. Don’t fill your free time with endless activities just so you don’t have to face your pain or think about your situation.
It’s okay to sit and think things through, write in a journal, talk to a close friend or a psychiatrist, and so on.
Anything that allows you to face the truth of your divorce, acknowledge it, accept it, heal from it, and acquire the mental/emotional resources to move on, in that order.
Note, however, that there is a morbid, self-indulgent, kind of introspection, which dwells on your hurt – that is not what we are talking about.
It’s not about fixating on what you did wrong and spending all your time wishing you could go back in time and change what happened.
It is about acknowledging that mistakes were done, acknowledging and accepting that the divorce has happened, and then picking your lessons and moving forward.
After the divorce, you will note a tendency in yourself to ask questions such as “why?” or “what if?”
This is ruminating, and it is not at all helpful. No matter how much you obsess over what happened, thinking about it won’t fix it.
This may seem to clash with our previous point, but allow me to explain the difference. In the previous point, I said that you should acknowledge, accept, heal, and move on. Note that the emphasis is on progress.
When you ruminate obsessively, however, you are not accepting, you are not healing, and you are certainly not moving on.
You are just indulging in a feedback loop of self-pity and self-loathing. It’s not healthy.
Do not think about your divorce just for the sake of thinking about it. Think with the end goal of healing and moving on.
That’s why when you have to think about your divorce, instead of asking questions such as “why?” and “what if?” you should ask questions such as “what next?” or “what do I do next?” or “what’s the plan?”
Such questions force you to think of a post-divorce future. In fact, they force you to acknowledge, accept, and motivate you to move on. They force you to start planning for the future. They make you realize that though you have just had a divorce, the world is not over.
There is still more to life. There is your work, your family, your friendships, your hobbies, your career goals, and so on.
All these are things that need your attention, and becoming aware of them can help you cope as you realize that although you have lost something, you haven’t lost everything.
Unless your introspection is systematic and geared towards moving on, you will lose control of your thoughts and end up feeling bad about yourself, with nothing gained.
Looking towards the future, on the other hand, helps reduce some of the feelings of disillusionment or hopelessness.
Think of it as planting a seed. Thinking is like planting seeds in your mind. Thinking about the future in positive terms plants a seed that can help motivate you to move on with your life.
“Gratitude? How can I be grateful when I have just gone through a divorce?”
This is what you are probably asking yourself, right? Well, let me explain.
Think about a situation in the movies where a character loses a job they loved, a relationship, or something else that defined them. After losing this thing, they seem to have lost their spirit.
They get dejected and become unkempt, looking like someone who just crawled out of wreckage. When they speak, they are thoroughly pessimistic. You might hear them say that they just lost everything.
As someone watching the movie, you probably get dumbfounded by this statement. You can see all that the character has going for them in their lives.
They usually still have people who care about them, but in their fog of defeat and self-pity, they can’t see what they have or who they have. All they can see is what they have lost.
Does that sound familiar?
In all such cases, if you look carefully, you will note one unifying theme: they lost something that defined them. In other words, it felt to them as if they had lost themselves.
Having lost that thing or person that defined them, they felt lost, rudderless, helpless, and hopeless.
Doesn’t that sound exactly like what happens when one goes through a divorce?
As we said in the introduction, loving and living with someone for a long time makes them a part of you.
You are so in sync that you can tell what the other person is thinking, feeling, or how they would react to situations.
When you undergo a divorce, the divorce splits you in two, and that’s why it’s so devastating.
It’s like having a body part cut off without anesthesia – the emotional/psychological equivalent of that.
Just like that the people in the movie, you have lost something/someone that defined you, and now you feel completely lost and rudderless.
Like them, you feel like you have lost everything.
However, just like the people in the movie, you are wrong.
You still have a lot going for you. You have your job, career goals, friends, family, pet, kids, and so on.
As difficult as this might sound, you have to actively make yourself reflect on the things you should be thankful for.
Do you know that it is impossible to be grateful when you are in a negative mood, and equally impossible to be in a negative mood when you are feeling grateful?
If you don’t believe us, test it. With this in mind, you should use gratitude as a hack to positive thinking.
Negative thoughts focus your attention on what you lack, what you have lost. Gratitude directs your attention towards what you do have.
I am not asking you to lie to yourself that everything is alright and whip up false emotions of positivity. Far from it – in fact, I am asking you to be more realistic.
Thinking that you have lost everything is the lie. Acknowledging that you still have much to be thankful for in your life is simply a means to bring back emotional/psychological balance.
If you don’t know how to start, get a notebook and call it your gratitude notebook.
Every night before you go to sleep, or every morning before you start your day, or whenever you are free during the day, or whenever you are feeling particularly negative, write down the things in your life you are grateful for.
There is always something to be grateful for, even if it’s something as simple as the roses in your garden blooming, or the fact that you are still alive.
CLOSE THE CHAPTER GRACEFULLY
This might be the hardest thing I am going to ask of you, but it has to be done.
You have to release your partner now that you are divorced. When I say release, I mean releasing them emotionally.
If you are angry at them, that means you are still grasping onto them in your heart.
Contrary to what most of us believe, forgiveness is not about letting the other person off the hook. In fact, forgiving somebody is more healing for us than it is for them.
When you hold on your bitterness against someone inside your heart, it eats you and slowly corrodes your soul. It makes you a vengeful, bitter, ugly person, and totally warps your mind.
This can have workplace repercussions when you start to hold grudges and vendettas against your colleagues, customers, or boss.
Just as you can train yourself to be a grateful person, you can also train yourself to be a forgiving one. Forgiving your partner is about moving on.
Meet with them and talk – as amicably as possible.
No matter how what or how much you said about each other or did to each other during the divorce process, especially if it went to court, try your best to end your relationship on a mutually respectful note.
So long as you are angry at each other, neither of you will be able to move on, and your anger at each other will spill into all your future relationships, whether romantic, with friends, in the family, or even at work.
Closing the chapter is not just about forgiveness. It is also about acceptance.
Sure it’s possible that the two of you could get back together again (though unlikely), but for the moment it is assumed that your marriage is over.
To hold on to the hope of getting back together is a cruel thing to do to yourself. It prevents you from moving on.
When you see them move on with their life and start seeing other people, it will really hurt. It’s best to accept that what has happened has happened, pick up the pieces, and move on with your life.
Instead of thinking of it as an end of something, why don’t you think of it as the beginning of something new? It could be the beginning of a new life, a new adventure.
The possibilities are limitless.
HAVE A SUPPORT NETWORK
Isolating yourself is the worst thing you can do after a divorce. When you pull away from others, that’s when you start to ruminate and to ask destructive questions, playing unhelpful scenarios on your head.
To avoid this, you must have a support network to lean on when things go sideways. These are people who will listen to you nonjudgmentally and slowly guide your healing process.
Unfortunately, not all of us have truly close friendships. Furthermore, our friends can desert us in times of stress.
In addition, the friends that do stay on may be the judgmental – friends who encourage our anger and hatred against our partner. Such friends may be fun normally, but when you are going through a bad patch like a divorce, that’s not what you need.
You need a friend who will listen to you nonjudgmentally, without giving negative opinions, friends who will help you heal and move on.
Sometimes all you need is someone to listen to you without judging either you or the person you are talking about.
Few people are able to give you this kind of safe space.
That’s why you should look for divorce support groups in your area, if they are any. If there aren’t, you can always join a divorce support group on social media – they are many.
If possible, look for a local one, especially one that organizes meet ups for the members to interact and share their stories.
Such groups provide a safe and open space where divorced people can open up without fearing judgment. In such a group, you are free to be vulnerable.
Furthermore, many of the people in such groups have more experience than you in dealing with divorce and may give you great advice on what to do or not do to make the process easier for yourself.
One of the main reasons why people find it difficult to move on after a divorce is the fact that we often define ourselves by our relationships, especially marriage.
When they fall apart, we no longer know who we are.
As we have shown before in this article, perspective is everything is everything when it comes to surviving a divorce.
Adopting a different attitude can make all the difference and free you from a lot of pain.
Instead of looking at it as losing your identity, now that you are no longer part of a couple, look at it as an opportunity to redefine yourself. Who are you going to be now?
In other words, don’t look back – look forward.
There are many ways to put this in practice.
For instance, you can develop a new hobby – maybe take pottery classes, start writing or dancing.
Alternatively, you could starting learning a new work related skill, one that will make you more valuable at the work place.
You can go out and start meeting new people, and I do not mean romantically.
Make new friends.
These new friends don’t know you from before your divorce, and therefore will always look at you as the person you are post-divorce.
They don’t have a pre-divorce memory of you to compare with. They will therefore accept you as you are now and love you for who you are.
You too will learn to love the new you through their nonjudgmental eyes.
DON’T LET YOUR DIVORCE BECOME AN EXCUSE AT WORK
Whether or not it’s appropriate to tell your boss or colleagues that you went through a divorce will depend on the type of relationship you have.
For instance, if you have a more open work environment, where members of your family are free to attend company events, it might be necessary to let them know.
Anyway, if you decide to let them know, take care that you don’t overdo it. Don’t be confessional.
Don’t go into the details, as a workplace is not the environment for discussing the intimate details of your marriage.
You can leave it at the bare minimum of just alerting them that you are no longer married. Informing your boss and colleagues ensures that awkward situations don’t happen – like someone sending a holiday card or gift basket addressed to you and your partner.
Whatever you do, don’t let your divorce become an excuse for poor performance at work.
That’s why you should avoid going into the details. When you go into detail, it makes you a victim. The victim mentality makes you seek sympathy from others.
When you do something wrong, like coming in late, the victim mentality leads you to thinking that everyone will understand you are going through a hard time.
Try as much as possible to maintain clear boundaries between your work and personal life. These boundaries are there to protect you.
They ensure your divorce doesn’t spill into your workplace and ruin your reputation or career prospects.
Fortunately, if you will have gone through the other steps described above, it will be much easier to maintain the boundaries between your work and personal life.
WRAPPING IT UP
Divorce is one of the toughest things you can go through on an emotional level.
It’s literally the death of something – a relationship that defined you and meant so much to you. Post-divorce, it is normal to grieve over what we have lost.
Unfortunately, this grieving process can spill onto other aspects of our lives.
If we are not careful, the bitter feelings that we carry in our heart can poison our other relationships and ruin our performance at work.
I hope that the strategies shared in this article have enlightened you on what to do to avoid falling apart at work following a divorce.
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