No matter why you and your husband got divorced, your anniversary will always mean something to you. Whether the divorce took years to finalize or seemed to happen overnight, your wedding day will ring in your heart for the rest of your life. How do you deal with the first anniversary after divorce?
When I wrote 5 Ways to Renew and Recreate Yourself After Divorce I wasn’t thinking about the first wedding anniversary. I was thinking about the future, about marching forward with confidence and creativity! But no matter how positive and optimistic a divorced woman is, she’ll always remember her wedding day. How do healthy, happy divorced women deal with their anniversaries? Maybe it’s different for everyone: some women celebrate with a “divorce party” instead of an anniversary party. Others pamper themselves, travel, or take the day off work to do their favorite things.
I’m not big on celebrating anniversaries and I didn’t enjoy the process of getting married (I dislike being the center of attention, and the bride is in the spotlight for a whole day!), but I’ll never forget my wedding day. Anniversaries are special, even for me. How about you — how are you dealing with the first anniversary after your divorce? Maybe you’re thrilled to finally be free of your husband because you wanted the marriage to end before it even began. Or, maybe you’re mourning the fact that you and your husband are no longer married…and maybe you hope he comes back.
Maybe you’re both happy and sad that the divorce is finalized. Some divorces take years to unfold and involve too many judges, lawyers, mediators, counselors, doctors, social workers and even the police. Often the longer the divorce process takes, the uglier and messier the custody and alimony agreements are. So maybe you’re glad the divorce process is over, but sad to be facing your first anniversary as a divorced woman.
How Do You Deal With the First Anniversary After Divorce?
Yesterday while researching reasons marriage counseling leads some couples to divorce, I realized that many couples try really, really hard to save their marriages. Divorce wasn’t their first option — nor was it an easy decision to make. Deciding to divorce is often agonizing, even filled with guilt, regret, and shame. This makes dealing with the first wedding anniversary particularly painful.
These five tips will help you deal with your first anniversary. After divorce, you may feel like you’ll never be happy or loved again. My ideas will help you rediscover the roots of your own joy, peace, and happiness. They’re based on an article called “10 Ways to Get Happier” in an old Best Health magazine. In this blog post I share author Lesley Young’s best tips for getting happier — all of which will help you deal with your first wedding anniversary as a divorced woman.
1. Forget about trying to be happy on your anniversary
Your expectations affect how happy you are — especially when you celebrated many happy wedding anniversaries with your husband. This year is different. Your friends and family are different, too. They feel awkward. They don’t know what to say on your anniversary without mentioning the fact that your marriage is over. They don’t want to remind you that you’re divorced (as if you could forget) or cause pain. They want to make you happy, but they don’t know how.
While researching this article, I discovered that “what to say to a divorced friend on anniversary” and “how to acknowledge anniversary when separated” are popular searches. This means friends and family share a divorced woman’s pain and are dealing with divorce grief, too. You are not alone.
This first tip on how to deal with your first anniversary is about lowering your expectations. Allow yourself to feel whatever you feel on your anniversary without expecting anything from yourself, your family, or the world. Don’t try to find ways to be happy, or even to distract yourself from your grief and loss. You lost something huge, after all! If you give your feelings the attention the deserve, this first anniversary after divorce will help you heal and grow forward.
2. Avoid the “retail therapy” trap — especially on your first anniversary after divorce
I described the problem with retail therapy (shopping and buying stuff to ease emotional or spiritual pain) in 7 Ways to Be Happier on Your Birthday After a Breakup. Whether you like shopping or not, don’t buy yourself gifts or any material possessions to avoid your pain. Retail therapy is a trap that will make you feel lonelier and sadder in the long run. In fact, material possessions can actually make us feel worse about ourselves. We buy stuff and we’re happy for a while. Then the feelings we were fighting — such as depression or grief about dealing with your first anniversary after divorce — come back even stronger.
“Material possessions cannot deliver on their promise to make us happy,” says researcher and professor of marketing James Roberts in 10 Ways to Get Happier. “As human beings, it’s how we feel about ourselves, our relationships with others and our involvement in the larger community that brings happiness and contentment.”
3. Remember that you’ll never have to experience this “first anniversary” again
This wedding anniversary will be the most difficult to deal with. After divorce, it’s the first year of “firsts” that are the most painful for many women. If you’re struggling, remember that you won’t always feel this way. You’ll get through this anniversary, you’ll handle your first birthday after divorce, and you’ll even deal with your daughter’s graduation or your mother’s funeral without your husband. Your life will get easier, your spirits will lift, and your heart will heal. And the good news is you’ll never have to experience this anniversary again.
If you’re happy to be celebrating without your husband, share your joy in the comments section below! How do you deal with your first anniversary after divorce? What is the upside of being a divorced woman? Your positive outlook might be just what another reader needs to hear.
4. Believe in your heart’s ability to heal after divorce
“We find our way to happiness even when things aren’t working out the way we want,” writes Lesley Young in her article on getting happier. “Research shows that people tend to get over negative events much faster than they expect. The theory is that we have an emotional immune system—much like our physiological one—that fends off negative emotions.”
How do you boost your emotional immune system after getting an unwanted, unexpected divorce — especially if your husband left you for another woman? Revive those old “tried and true” activities that make you happy. Or, start exploring new-to-you ways to rediscover who you are, what you like, and where you want your life to go. Rebuilding your life as a divorced woman involves exploring parts of your personality, neighborhood and world. Try different things and find what fits you. The timing is perfect: it’s your first anniversary after divorce and you’re free to treat yourself to a new experiences.
5. Know that you’re more important than you realize
Some divorced women feel unimportant, unloved, unappealing. Are you searching for ways to deal with the first anniversary after divorce because you feel alone and unwanted? If so, you’re believing lies that will keep you feeling unhappy and unworthy. In What to Remember When You Feel Like No One Cares I wrote about the moment I learned that I matter to people more than I realize. I was at a friend’s for dinner; I told her I want to move to a different city because Vancouver is expensive and crowded. My friend said I’d be missed. I waved her away — I haven’t connected with many people and really believe nobody would miss me. She disagreed, saying I have no idea how much my friends and community appreciate me.
It’s the same for you: you matter more than you know. Right now you feel lonely and sad because it’s your first anniversary after getting divorced. But you have to keep reminding yourself that you matter more than you realize! I wrote this article for you. It wasn’t an accident that you found my blog, or that you’re wondering how to deal with your anniversary after divorce. You’re here — not just on my blog, but on earth — because God wants you to be here. He created you, loves you, and has a purpose for your life.
Don’t let this divorce overshadow the rest of your life. Take it for what it is, and grow forward into a new season. You’ll be happily surprised at the good things God has in store for you!
With His love,
Is your relationship in trouble? Get free advice and a free marriage assessment from marriage coach Mort Fertel.