Post-divorce depression can happen to anyone. Here’s how to cope if it’s happening to you.

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Ending a marriage is a life changing event, so it’s not surprising that many people experience sadness or depression after the divorce papers are signed.

Feeling sad or down is a natural response to the sense of loss often experienced after a relationship ends — no matter if you were married for 1 year or decades.

During this challenging time, you may not feel like yourself or have an overriding sense of guilt or sadness. You might even feel uncertain about the future — even if you were the partner who initiated the divorce.

If these feelings persist, they can lead to depression. However, there are ways to effectively manage “divorce depression” so you can feel like yourself again.

Divorce ranks high on the list of most stressful life events. According to the Holmes-Rahe Life Stress Inventory, divorce comes in second behind the death of a spouse as one of the most stressful situations people may go through.

In addition, research suggests people who experience a significant life event such as divorce are 2.5 to 9.4 times more likely to develop depression.

For people who already live with depression, major life stressors like the end of a marriage may increase or worsen symptoms.

Research from 2019 also demonstrates a link between ending a marriage and depression. It suggests that divorced people report significantly higher levels of depression and anxiety than those who have not experienced a divorce.

But how do you know if sadness after divorce has developed into depression?

Symptoms of depression

Sometimes it may be hard to tell if sadness has progressed to depression. However, signs to look out for include:

  • sadness or hopelessness that won’t go away
  • loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed
  • feeling overwhelmed and unable to focus
  • crying more often than you used to
  • difficulty sleeping or sleeping too much
  • changes in appetite like eating more often or not wanting to eat at all
  • thoughts of suicide

Suicide prevention

If you or someone you know is considering suicide, you’re not alone. Help is available right now:

Not in the United States? Find a helpline in your country with Befrienders Worldwide.

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If these symptoms of depression have occurred for more than 2 weeks, it may indicate you’re experiencing more than just the temporary blues.

To know for sure, consider talking with a mental health professional about your concerns or to learn more about diagnosis and treatment options.

Getting through this stressful time is a personal journey. So, it may take time to navigate the emotional stages of divorce you might experience. Since everyone handles this process differently, consider giving yourself the time you need to move through it at your own pace.

It’s also helpful to remember that your feelings are valid, whether positive or negative. So, try not to compare how you feel after divorce to other people’s experiences.

Here are a few tips on how to manage depression after divorce:

Support groups

As you navigate life post-divorce, it’s helpful to know many other people are going through similar divorce-related challenges.

Joining a support group can offer a safe place outside of your social circle to sort through your feelings and provide the comfort of knowing you’re not alone.

A few divorce support groups to consider include:

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Work out your aggressions

According to research, working out might help you work through your post-divorce emotions by reducing the odds of experiencing depression and preventing the symptoms of existing depression from getting worse.

Exercises for depression are something to consider if you’re looking for ways to help manage sadness after divorce.

Set new goals

This time in your life can be a period of significant personal growth — and a chance to reinvent yourself. So, consider using this opportunity to plan out your new life, which may include exploring new hobbies or even revamping your career.

Setting new intentions can help you define yourself as an individual and help boost your confidence moving forward.

Socialize (even if you don’t feel like it)

Although getting out of the house and socializing with others might seem daunting, it could turn out to be just the thing you need to overcome a low mood or feelings of isolation.

It doesn’t have to happen often — even hanging out with people you trust once or twice a month might help.

The aftereffects of divorce can impact everyone differently, causing a wide range of emotions. So, if you’re feeling sad or depressed during this time, you’re not alone.

To cope with these feelings, try to practice self-kindness and allow yourself the time and space you need to grieve and process your emotions.

With the proper support and coping techniques, you can survive and thrive after divorce — while enjoying a new sense of peace and happiness in your post-marital life.