Connect with Us Start a Live Chat below

Navigation Link

Example Self-Help Plans: 5

Mark Dombeck, Ph.D.

Example 5: Survive Divorce-Related Grief and Depression

Jake was thirty-eight when his wife left him eight months ago, taking their two sons with her. He was grief-stricken and took a week off from his job as the produce manager at a local grocery store to collect himself. He had known she wasn’t happy, but he had not anticipated that she wanted an end to their marriage.

Though Jake has been having trouble sleeping ever since his wife and children left, it’s now worse than ever. He currently feels fatigued all of the time, lethargic and hopeless. He has also had some trouble eating and has lost over 20 pounds. He has been having a lot of trouble at work staying organized and concentrating. He guesses he is depressed or grieving or both. He just called for an appointment with his doctor to make sure he is physically healthy, and he thinks the doctor will talk about antidepressants, but the appointment is three weeks away. A friend told him how to write a plan to take better care of himself, so he thinks first about the symptoms of depression he is experiencing and bases some goals on those. He tells himself that if he isn’t feeling any better by the time he sees the doctor, or feels worse between now and then, he will see a mental health counselor and may take medications if prescribed by the doctor.

Goal 1 - Sleep through the night.

· Method 1 - Practice good "sleep hygiene".

· Method 2 - Walk for at least two miles after dinner, at least 5 days per week.

· Method 3 - Write in a journal at times when I can't sleep, so as to have someone to talk to

· Method 4 - Distract myself from thinking about the divorce when I can't sleep by reading a book or watching some TV

· Measurement - Increasing hours of sleep, up to his usual seven and one-half hours.

· Deadline - Continue indefinitely.


Goal 2 - Feel less hopeless

· Method 1 - Go to the library (or book store) and get a book about divorce recovery. Read the book. Similarly, explore divorce recovery websites

· Method 2 - Ask family or friends if they can lend me a shoulder when I need to talk to someone; ask them to help me reality test my hopeless thoughts. If I can't (or won't) ask a friend to perform this role, I will go online and look for some more anonymous comfort and reality testing in an online community concerned with divorce.

· Method 3 - I will use cognitive restructuring techniques to challenge hopeless thoughts, which I know to be somewhat irrational and exaggerated if I think about it.

· Measurement - I will think fewer hopeless thoughts, and more hopeful ones.

· Deadline - Continue indefinitely.


Goal 3 - Be organized and focus on the job while at work.

· Method 1 - Start using that Smartphone that work paid for. Record each day's schedule of tasks before they are due. Set alarms for each task, so that I don't forget to accomplish them. Check off each task that I accomplish as they are finished. Review my progress at the end of the day so as to reflect on what I have accomplished in spite of feeling terrible.

· Measurement - Improved focus and efficiency on the job: all planned tasks completed.

· Timeline - Tomorrow through the next four weeks, and then re-evaluate.