“Divorce is like death without a burial” – Dane Cunningham
If you Google divorce, you will read a number of descriptions from experts about the range of emotions you experience when you are going through a split. You might also find a lot of “helpful” suggestions and inspirational quotes to motivate you to “let go” and “move on.” The most honest quote I found while doing my own Google search is the one above. Divorce is an immeasurable loss. A loss of a way of life. A loss of future dreams and goals. A loss of a life with a person who is still living and breathing in the world.
Divorce is considered an unpredictable life crisis. When a crisis arises, people tend to follow predictable patterns of coping including:
- Shock that can look like in numbness, disbelief, or denial
- Retreat resulting in anger, confusion, blaming, guilt, and bargaining
- Reorganization resulting in acceptance and recovery
These steps are almost never linear and all but the last step are tough to endure. Divorce is one of life’s most painful experiences and is hard to understand unless you have been through it. People have a range of emotions about their relationship ending and little way of making sense of what is happening to them. In addition, the death of a relationship changes many areas of life. A person may become responsible for decisions or tasks that used to belong to an ex-partner. Some friends may take sides with an ex-partner. Others may be scared of the situation and stay away.
One thing people talk about over and over is worry about how the divorce will affect the kids. Some studies point out the negative effects of divorce on children. Whether kids are 5 or 25, they can make it through with some concerted effort on the part of both parents. First, find a way to talk to your kids and encourage them to share their feelings. Ideally, both parents need to talk about the decision with their children and emphasize it is not their fault. Parents need to avoid negative talk about the ex-partner in front of kids. It is important not to give unnecessary or specific details about the divorce or marital conflict. Finally, invite kids to respond or ask questions. These suggestions will not prevent some of the grief that will naturally occur, but they can make the grief easier to process and endure.
The truth is, divorce is painful. When you are hurting, you are hurting. As a society, we tend to want to ignore or resist having to deal with painful feelings. We do this to please our friends and family or because it’s just hard to feel the hurt. However, these feelings make so much sense and experiencing them is an important part of the healing process. Until we do talk about and experience our feelings, they tend to stick around and pop up at inconvenient moments. So, here are some of my own tips for managing the loss of your marriage:
- It’s OK to acknowledge and feel the pain. Try to find a friend, family member, or professional that can let you experience your loss.
- Find a support group for divorcees.
- Find support to help with the new challenges in your life be it housing, finances, or household responsibilities.
- Know that it’s OK if you were doing well and then take a step backwards. There is nothing wrong with you. That’s the way grief goes.
The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.
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