How to Cope With the Shame and Stigma of Divorce

We often talk about what goes into a marriage, but seldom we openly discuss what happens when it ends. The journey of love has a unique language. We all strive to find people capable of understanding that unique language, our intricacies and in turn understanding their complexities. No one ever plans or expects to get a divorce when they get married but sometimes it’s the only and the best way for everyone involved. Today, I want to talk about the stigma of divorce. 

Divorce does not mean defective

In the South Asian community, perhaps more than other cultures, the stigma of divorce is very strong. When people hear about you being divorced, they try to speculate about what went wrong, whose fault it was, and what failed the marriage. They want to know about the struggles of the relationship, how much are the families involved – the chugliyan (gossip), the rumors, and all the dirt is investigated by the relatives.

And while they want to know all this information about you, they don’t really want you in their presence. People label you as bad luck or a bad omen and scatter when you come to functions – as if you are contagious and divorce is a deadly disease that they might catch. I once went to a friend’s wedding and her older divorced sister was asked to stay away from the altar because she was recently divorced.

Whatever the little voice in your head, your culture, or society may try to tell you, divorce is not a failure and it does not mean you are inadequate.

Divorce is not a failure

On top of the stigma of divorce, people who go through it feel an enormous amount of shame and guilt. The same friend of mine who was asked to stay away from a wedding expressed how naked she felt with all the glares and judgment from everyone around her. The silent whispers and the never-ending rumors were slowly attacking her and quietly killing her well-being. 

[Read More: Divorce: How to Survive While Maintaining Your Physical and Mental Health]

A message for self-love + healing

If you have gone through a divorce, then you know the shame and guilt I am talking about here. You hold your breath at family gatherings and hope the conversation doesn’t turn to you. You feel this pressure of getting remarried just to be able to lift this label of failure off your head.

And if you are one of the many who are silently struggling through the shame and stigma of divorce, LET THIS BE HEARD LOUD AND CLEAR!

You are not a failure, you don’t have to feel terrible about yourself. I want to remind you that you don’t have to hide or have to feel like disappearing from the world. There is nothing wrong with you. It takes a strong not a weak person to stand up for their happiness. Yes, your marriage may have ended, but your life has not. Your divorce does not define you. 

How to cope with shame

Do the internal work to help you get clear on who you are and what your authentic personality and qualities are aside from the perceived societal layers. Reducing the inner critic and the judgment will cultivate self-love from within. When you get to this comfortable inner truth about who you are, you will not feel the need to put on an act and there will be no reason to be another person. When you know yourself and are at peace with it, there will be no reason to hide or run away. I promise you can get to this point through self-care, compassion and authentic truthful living and a journey from within.

When you start listening to yourself, your intuition will guide you to a healthier balanced state. The key to healing is to learn to love yourself the most. Commit a part of each day to be kind to yourself and take care of yourself. Gift yourself with activities that make you feel good and help you feel relaxed and at peace. It’s your prerogative to remind yourself of your strength and beauty, to embrace and TO BELIEVE IT wholeheartedly.

Find a new perspective on shame. Remember you are not flawed or broken and shame does not define you or your life. Then ask yourself these questions:

  • Now that you know shame is not your weakness, how will you use it for good?
  • How will you show up for someone else who is struggling with a divorce and shame attached to it?
  • What did your divorce teach you about yourself and who you are?
  • What about your divorce has made you stronger than before?
  • How has surviving a divorce made you who you are today in a positive way?

Lastly, the biggest takeaway message of them all. Remember the way people treat you is a direct reflection of how they feel about themselves. So you have to take a step back and try to understand that YOUR SHAME HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH OTHERS. Shame comes from within – from not believing that you are good enough. You have the ability to heal from shame by accepting yourself. Others may have caused you to feel shame but your way out of shame is through yourself. You don’t allow anyone else to define your worth. Let every person who raises the feeling of shame within you be your teacher – a reminder to love yourself more, accept yourself more and show more self-compassion.

I want you to remember…

YOU are enough

YOU are brave

YOU are worthy of love again

YOU are more than your divorce

YOU are a success story

YOU are whole

As you embark on this self-compassion and healing path away from the shame and stigma of divorce, you will start harnessing your strength. You will start tapping into your self-worth again because you are living your truth, loving yourself and claiming your power. The wholeness that you are regaining will serve as a light to guide you back home – to yourself. When you get there, just remember to leave the light on and your heart open for others who are traveling on the similar path. 

By Punita Mangat

Punita Mangat is a certified Holistic Health + Wellness Coach accredited by NASM and Yoga Alliance. She is the owner … Read more ›