DIVORCE
03/21/2016 08:32 pm ET | Updated Mar 22, 2016

How To Finally Get Closure After A Split, In 9 Expert-Approved Steps

You're not going to get over your ex overnight.

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Getting closure after divorce will almost inevitably take longer than expected, but there are steps you can take that will get you a little closer.

Below, experts share their best advice for moving on.

1. Recognize that there's no time table for moving on.

There is no “right” time for closure. If you try to rush the process, you may end up short-changing yourself, said Triffany Hammond, a life coach based in the greater Denver area.  

"Healing happens in layers, which means there’s no deadline by which you 'should have' healed," she told HuffPost. "Go easy on yourself; piling on guilt and self-loathing slows down the healing process, making it harder to put your divorce behind you." 

2. Give yourself permission to feel sad.

It's important to cycle through all of your emotions: sadness, disappointment, guilt, total rage -- but only up to a point. The goal should be to process and release those emotions, not dwell on them in an unhealthy way, said Chelli Pumphrey, a counselor based in Denver, Colorado. 

"Cry. Get angry. Feel the loneliness," she said. "Be present with your pain so that you can eventually release it. Ignoring emotion gives fuel to your pain and deepens the wounds over time." 

3. Forgive your ex. 

Extend forgiveness to your ex not for their sake, but for your own.

"You probably need to forgive your partner for not living up to who you wanted them to be, among other indiscretions," said Alicia H. Clark, a psychologist based in Washington, D.C. "What's even more difficult is forgiving yourself for your mistakes. Self-forgiveness helps you get to the bottom of why your relationship failed and prepares you for your next relationship." 

4. Accept that you may never get an apology from your ex.

On the other hand, you may never receive the apologize you need from your ex, said Vikki Stark, a psychotherapist and the director of the Sedona Counselling Center of Montreal. 

"Many people get stuck psychologically longing for an indication that their ex recognizes the pain they caused," she said. "You may need to accept that your ex has moved on and will never make that acknowledgement." 

5. If you have children, envision your future relationship with them.

If you have kids, tell yourself you're picking up the pieces and coming out stronger post-split to be a better parent to them. To start, ask yourself a simple question: When my kids look at me, do they see someone who can't put their bitterness behind them or someone who's standing strong on their own? 

"If you can't let go, you're compromising your well-being and your children’s well-being," said Elisabeth J. LaMotte, a psychotherapist and founder of the DC Counseling and Psychotherapy Center. "If you harp on the past and cling to a relationship that has ended, your children will pick up on it and it will cause them unnecessary stress and pain." 

6. Grieve the end of your marriage.  

We have rituals and ceremonies for most big life events (funerals, weddings, baptisms) but not for divorce: Give your marriage a symbolic send-off, whether you get friends together for a lighthearted divorce party or settle on something more somber, Pumphrey suggested. 

"You need to give yourself a clear message that you’re saying goodbye," she said. 

7. Ditch the marriage highlight reel. 

While you don't want to deny the memories you share as a couple, dwelling exclusively on the good times (and forgetting the negative moments) is sure to slow down the healing process, said Clark. 

"Recognize these thoughts for what they are: rooted more in fantasy than reality," she said. "Instead of fighting to accept today’s realities, embrace them along with the possibilities of a tomorrow that is now more in your control than ever before." 

8. Don't let obsessive thoughts about divorce clutter your mind.

Sure, it's a tall order, but try to shift your thoughts elsewhere whenever you start to replay scenes from your divorce, Stark said. 

"When you hear yourself going over and over the injustices of your divorce, you need to say to yourself, loud and clear, 'Stop it!'" Stark said. "Your focus needs to be your own life now -- focus on developing that."

9. Write your own happy ending.

Divorce is ultimately a chance to redefine who you are, Pumphrey said: You've been given the opportunity to write your own life narrative, a la Cheryl Strayed and her Wild journey or Elizabeth Gilbert and her Eat Pray Love trip.

"Instead of being angry at your spouse, which only leaves you feeling disempowered, try to find the silver lining in the experience of divorce and reframe your story," she said. 

 

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