Published On: October 8, 2021
Reviewed On: October 8, 2021
Updated On: November 2, 2023
Life after divorce can be hard, regardless of how badly you may have wanted out of your marriage. Even if you know that your separation is ultimately a positive thing, you’re still grieving a loss and divorce recovery can be difficult. And it’s okay to acknowledge that. It’s really the only way that you’re going to be able to learn how to cope with divorce and overcome the loss.
Understanding first and foremost that divorce can be incredibly painful and difficult on your mental health is essential. Divorce-related depression is real, and the challenges that you’ll likely face can feel almost impossible to deal with during the divorce process.
But the truth is, there are several ways you can survive life after your divorce. Divorce counseling is an excellent option if you find that you’re experiencing post-divorce depression and you’re struggling with being able to move on. Read on to learn how you can overcome your own divorce depression.
Life during and after divorce can feel overwhelming. Be patient with yourself because what you’re experiencing is a deep loss. The grief that comes after any loss is an emotional challenge that can be hard to navigate on your own.
During your divorce or divorce recovery, you may feel like you’re unsure of yourself. You might question if you’re making the right decision. You may be stressed about finances, wondering if you’ll find love again, figuring out how to help your child deal with divorce, and more.
Many people going through a divorce even have feelings of guilt or shame. They often feel that it’s their fault they couldn’t make their marriage work. You may find that you’re angry or that you’re resentful toward your spouse.
The single most important thing you can remind yourself while you’re going through a divorce is that all of your feelings are valid. And more importantly, they’re all very normal.
Divorce can impact your mental health in a number of ways. During the process, you may find that you’re:
You might expect that once your divorce is final, you’ll suddenly feel better. You may think that you’ll feel like you have a new lease on life, or a huge weight has lifted. But in reality, many people experience post-divorce depression that’s just as burdensome, if not more so, as what they were feeling during the divorce process.
You may even find that you have similar depressive symptoms (sleep difficulties, food issues, strong emotions, etc.) after your divorce is finalized.
Expert Insight“Every single person I’ve treated during a divorce has been impacted in ways they had not foreseen. Coming to the decision to end a marriage is never easy. The emotional bandwidth is already limited by the time they come to therapy. The completed divorce is a means of gaining emotional stability and satisfaction, but the journey to get there can be draining. Feelings of sadness or grief are unexpected, yet typical. Managing the ups and downs of the process is a marathon. Focus needs to be consistently directed toward self-care, processing, and establishing healthy boundaries.”
There are many signs of divorce depression to be aware of. It goes beyond just being sad. Depression is a serious medical condition that can have a huge impact on how you think, act, and feel. Symptoms of divorce-related depression can include any, or a combination of, the following:
Symptoms of depression can vary from mild to extremely severe. They can also present very differently in men versus women. For example, women tend to have symptoms like sadness, feelings of worthlessness, or guilt. Men, on the other hand, may become overly irritable or have difficulty sleeping. Men also are more likely than women to begin abusing drugs or alcohol to cope if they’re experiencing depression after divorce.
To be diagnosed with depression, you generally must be exhibiting five or more symptoms. However, the best way to get a diagnosis and help is to see a therapist or other mental health care provider. There are many different options for treatment, including both in-person and online therapy.
Expert Insight“Feelings of grief and loss are normal. But many people experience shame about the divorce itself and feelings of sadness, especially if they are the ones who initiated it. Even when the decision feels right, it’s still a very real loss.”
Although it’s very common to experience depression after a divorce, you should take comfort in knowing that there is hope. There are several ways you can focus on overcoming your depression.
In the midst of a divorce, it can be difficult to differentiate between sadness and depression. If you aren’t sure how to tell, start with our depression test to learn more.
However, if your depression is affecting your daily life or if you’re starting to have thoughts of suicide or self-harm, it’s time for you to get help. Reaching out to a therapist or someone else who’s removed from the situation can be beneficial. Especially if you are having feelings of shame or guilt, a mental health professional or licensed therapist can be particularly helpful.
Common recommendations your doctor or therapist may suggest for overcoming your divorce depression can include:
The important thing to remember is that if you need help with divorce depression, it’s there for you. You can heal from your divorce. If you need help, connect with a licensed therapist from Talkspace today.
American Psychiatric Association. Published 2020. Accessed September 3, 2021.
Craft, Lynette L., and Frank M. Perna. Primary care companion to the Journal of clinical psychiatry vol. 6,3 (2004): 104-111. doi:10.4088/pcc.v06n0301. Accessed September 3, 2021.
Allison Aubrey, Rhitu Chatterjee. Npr.org. Published 2019. Accessed September 4, 2021.
Ashley Ertel, LCSW, is a Nationally Board Certified Licensed Clinical Social Worker. She has over a decade of experience specializing in trauma and depression, working primarily with first responders, military personnel, and veterans, and sexual assault survivors.