Facing divorce is a life-altering, all-consuming process that can and should be treated as the significant loss that it is. It is essential that all parties allow themselves the time to grieve to reach a place of healing, but too often, shame, a lack of acknowledging emotions, or the internal pressure to be strong push people to simply go through the motions.
Even if the divorce is a result of abuse or adultery, the most primary relationship in your life is ending. The result is feelings of despair, anxiety, stress, anger, fear, and loneliness. After all, you are dealing with the loss of someone a part of your daily life, the physical and emotional support received from the former spouse, and the shared finances and lifestyle. The best way to move on and reclaim your life is by allowing yourself the chance to embrace the healing process.
The Process Toward Healing
As with any significant loss, those working through a divorce will likely experience all of the stages of grief.
- Denial: This first step is most often experienced by the party that did not initiate the divorce. This is a period in which many refuse to accept within themselves that the marriage is actually over, and try to brainstorm ways to fix it.
- Anger: This stage is where most emotional, often hostile, decisions have potential to be made. During this stage, it is especially important to take inventory of how you are feeling, and where your actions are stemming from.
- Bargaining: This stage is often coupled with guilt, and leads parties to question the decision to divorce in the first place.
- Depression: This is the longest and hardest stage. During this time, be sure to find support in friends and family. Be open about your emotions when possible. Sometimes, divorced parties seem counseling during this time.
- Acceptance: This is the end goal. Parties will finally feel a sense of freedom, and the ability to move on from the relationship.
Steps You Can Take Along the Way
Moving through the stages towards acceptance is not easy, but there are actions you can take to make the process a little easier.
Acknowledging your emotions throughout this time, and giving yourself permission to feel them, is the healthiest way to work through the intense feelings. Battling feelings of grief often results in even more negative emotions, so simply accepting them goes a long way.
Now that you likely have a longer to-do list than ever, prioritizing what needs to get done and checking tasks off the list can be helpful. Make sure to give yourself a break, though. You have a lot on your plate and it can be impossible to function at your normal level.
When possible, embrace life as a single person. Put away any reminders of the relationship, explore outside interests, and surround yourself with friends. Start envisioning this next phase of life.
Most importantly, take care of yourself, both emotionally and physically. Your list might be a little longer and your kids might need you a little more, but treating yourself well will make all of that easier.
When Kids Are Involved
On top of your own feelings, when children are in the picture, an entire additional set of emotions need to be handled. Often, parents in the midst of a divorce spend a great amount of time concerned about how their children will deal with the change, putting their own emotional well-being on the backburner.
Research shows, however, that conflict, rather than the divorce itself, is what can be detrimental to a child. Parents who work as a team and communicate effectively, even through these challenging circumstances, can help children adjust to a post-divorce life. If the children have secure attachment to the parents, adapting will likely go smoothly.
There are even some positive effects of divorce on children. Parents who were often unable to spend much quality time with children are forced to make it more of a priority now. Also, when and if parents remarry, children have that many more people to support them.
As you work through the arduous divorce process, make sure you include your own emotional process. Giving yourself the space, time, and patience to grieve and, eventually, to heal will bring you to your end goal: a healthier and happier you.
If you need assistance, guidance, or legal advice or representation, reach out to any of our compassionate attorneys.