This is a question I am asked many times by people who come to our divorce workshops and support groups. Is there a one size fits all answer?
Of course, like anything in life, people react to major life events in different ways. Some people are able to function after a separation and some people aren't. Some people allow the 'story' of their divorce to become their life narrative for many years, telling it as if it was yesterday and allowing it to inform and explain all sorts of reasons why a job was not applied for, or there hasn't been another relationship, or why they have lost their friends or why they are permanently depressed. To make separation or divorce your life narrative is to be stuck in time and stuck in an event that seems impossible to get round or move out of the way. For others, there is the mourning process which in time enables you to say goodbye and move on, transferring love, affection and joy for life elsewhere.
For some, separation triggers earlier losses that haven't been fully processed and therefore the grief in the present is amplified more than it might otherwise be. Apart from the bereavement and ensuing grief that comes with divorce, there is also the question 'is this normal?' Should I be feeling like this? Many people at our workshops talk about their friends thinking its time they moved on and they should be over it by now. It is impossible to 'get over' something unless it is properly mourned and dealt with. What is needed in order to heal is patience, support and feeling that you are not the only one. Sharing experiences and learning how others cope in similar situations is undoubtedly helpful. Understanding your emotions and therefore making sense of them and creating some order out of them is also invaluable. Feeling you are not the only one goes a long way to feeling that what you are going through is normal.
The question how long does it take to get over divorce is asked because it is too difficult to contemplate that the pain that is felt will last one day longer than absolutely necessary. Just as when you have an operation or are ill, you are keen to know from the Doctor when you will feel better, you would like to know by what month you will feel more like your old self. There is no specific answer but I can say, that after a year things should feel better and after two, much better. If after two years the grief, anger and upset feels as though it is the same as it was in the beginning then you will need some professional help to look at what is stopping you moving on with your life. Many people use the anger they feel at their divorce as a way of stopping them looking at an unplanned for future or looking forward. If you can keep looking back at what has happened, you have the false feeling that you are still somehow hooked into a relationship of a kind instead of letting it go and feeling the fear of a future that you haven't planned for.
To let go means to look forward rather than back and to let go means letting go of something that is familiar and therefore comfortable even though it is also unbelievably painful. It is relatively easy to get a legal divorce, getting an emotional one is a whole different story. Just like bereavement, getting over a divorce takes time and the process can be made quicker with professional help.