How to Let Go of Bitterness after a Breakup or Divorce
When I was a teenager, my family was acquainted with a woman who had been divorced for many years. This woman had a couple of grown-up kids and seemed to be in relatively good health.
Now, as a divorced woman with a couple of near grown-up kids myself, it would seem to me that she had the makings of a pretty good life. Good health, grown-up kids, independent lifestyle, no-one to hold her back from doing what she wanted to do.
Yet. There was something kinda scary about this lady. She was forever harping on about the unfair hand she’d been dealt. She believed she’d been short-changed in her divorce; she regretted ever having gotten married. She was angry. She was BITTER. The bitterness seemed to ooze out of her pores.
She regularly dished out her own brand of angry wisdom:
‘Never get married… all men are shit and leave eventually’ and ‘Men are only good for one thing… breeding’. Now, as I said, this lady had been divorced a LONG time. She had a place to live, a couple of great kids and good health. At the age of fifteen, I vowed never to be like her.
Letting Go of Bitterness after a Breakup or Divorce
Well, as fate or universal forces would have it, approximately twenty-five years later I found myself facing my own unexpected and very much unwanted divorce.
To say I was blindsided by the turn of events would be an understatement. I felt as though the carpet had been ripped from under my feet, my world turned around and upside down. I was hit with a ton of feelings and emotions – a lot of them quiet foreign to me (hello anger).
I didn’t know at that stage that I was grieving, not really. I just knew that I felt angry, shocked, depressed and sad. Then came another feeling. BITTERNESS.
I felt bitter at the injustice of what my husband did to me and our kids, and I felt bitter at the world for letting it happen. I felt that I’d wasted twenty years of my life. I was heartbroken and I wasn’t thinking straight.
Yet somewhere deep inside of me there was a light. I wasn’t completely gone; I wasn’t completely lost. I knew that I wanted to feel better. I knew that I didn’t want my divorce – the fact that life hadn’t turned out the way I originally planned – to be a life sentence.
More than anything, I didn’t like where my thoughts sometimes headed; they scared me. And I sensed that left unchecked, the bitter thoughts had the potential to turn me into somebody I didn’t like. Somebody I didn’t want to be. Somebody like that lady all those years ago.
So I threw myself into the process of grieving with the knowledge (shaky as it was at times) that the only way out of it was through it. I reassured myself that I would get better. That life would get better. That I had control over my destiny and that everything ultimately began with ME. With my thoughts, and outlook, and attitude.
Do you feel stuck in bitterness? Here are three things you can do to help you let go and move forward:
GRIEVE. Feel it ALL!
First and foremost, accept that you will need (ABSOLUTELY need) to go through a process of grieving. Just as you would any loss. The good thing is that if you allow (not suppress) the painful and crappy emotions as and when they present themselves, you should find that most of the bitterness will, in time, dissipate naturally – along with everything else.
You may be struggling with feelings of anger and disappointment for all that has transpired. Allow yourself to feel disappointed. Allow yourself to be angry. Acknowledge that you were treated unfairly, that life hasn’t happened the way you thought it should and that you hate your ex more than you ever thought it possible to hate any living thing.
Find a healthy release (punching bag, journaling, talking to a friend or therapist) and then do your best to let the feelings go. Let them dissipate as they will – DON’T become attached to them. Remind yourself that you are grieving and that the grief will not last forever. Tell yourself that you will not be this way forever.
Channel the negative energy POSITIVELY
If you’re feeling stuck in resentment, it may be that you are unknowingly committed to outdated beliefs – beliefs that are holding you back from creating a new life and story for yourself.
Remind yourself that your past does not define you. Learn to use the pent-up emotions and energy productively – start by planning a new and beautiful future for yourself, a future where you’re in charge; a future in which you use past mistakes and lessons as fuel and impetus for improvement.
One of the keys to life, I believe, is learning – really learning – from our past mistakes and hurts. Too often we become trapped in our past and our pain and find ourselves unable to move forward. Before we know it, ten or twenty years have passed and we are still lamenting what happened to us all of those years ago. This is not a healthy way to live.
Understand that ultimately, only YOU can decide to let go of the bitter feelings
Bear in mind:
Letting go DOES NOT mean that your ex has won, or that the painful things didn’t happen, or that you weren’t treated poorly.
Letting go DOES mean that you stop allowing your ex, and your past, to take up valuable real estate in your head. Holding on to bitterness is allowing your ex to continue hurting you. Tell yourself that he doesn’t have that kind of power over you. No-one has that power over you! YOU have the power, and YOU get to choose how you feel, and how you live your life. Always.
Are you currently struggling with feelings of bitterness? Please, share your story in the comments!
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