by: Lisa Borchetta, MACP, CMC, ACC
Whether you are the person in your marriage who first uttered the words, “I want to get a divorce” or not, or if somehow the decision was mutually and simultaneously arrived at – getting a divorce can be traumatic for all parties involved. Even the most amicable divorces require shifts and changes on so many levels of your life that it is nearly impossible to get through the experience without a sense of loss. And while your energies and focus may have to be on the “nuts and bolts” of the division of person and property – emotionally there has to be some attention paid to the grieving process.
Divorce is after all an ending, typically a final one though some percentage of couples do actually get back together. Even those who see their divorce as the “end of a bad situation” need time to grieve – if only for the loss of an old dream of happiness and connection. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, groundbreaking psychiatrist first outlined her theory on the grieving process in her book, On Death and Dying in 1969, as it related to the emotional process of terminally ill patients. Later her theory was expanded to include the stages of grief experienced by close friends and family of the deceased person as well. And in many ways this grieving process can also be related to other significant and important “deaths” in our lives, such as the end of a marriage in divorce. Kubler-Ross and others found that the majority of patients and their families experienced most of the stages of grief but not necessarily in any particular order. Here is a look at her Five Stages of Grief as they can be related to the experience of divorce.
Many people going through the trauma that divorce causes – may find themselves thinking at some point, “This can’t be happening to me. Yes, I knew that many marriages out there end in divorce, but not mine!”Reconciling the disparity between who we are, what we believed about ourselves, our lives and marriages with the realities of divorce can be jarring even for the most jaded and cynical realists among us.
Whether turned inward in the form of harsh self-judgments or directed outward at our spouse or other contributing factors and people – many of us can’t help feeling angry. “If only I had…, It’s your fault…, If your parents hadn’t meddled in our business…etc.” All of these sentiments are familiar, emotional reactions to divorce. This isn’t what you wanted and you are angry!
Divorce generally isn’t part of the plan when you are picking out your wedding dress and buying the rings – so it’s not surprising that at some point during the divorce process – men and women seek to make it all go away by bargaining with themselves, with a higher power or even with their soon to be ex. Like the child, who promises they’ll never do it again, (whatever “it” is) if only they can avoid the impending consequences for their actions – it’s not uncommon to grasp for bargains, to make it all go back to the way it was before.
Depression – Again, whether you want it or not – experiencing the end of a marriage can be pretty darned depressing. It’s a sad end to what once was a promising relationship. It’s hard to not feel depressed about it – or at least sad. Again, whether the grief is about the ending of a reality or a fantasy depiction of what your life was going to be – letting it go hurts.
Acceptance – “Yes, this is really happening.” “I may be angry with you that you left me, but that anger is not going to bring you back.” “We can’t go back, we are here and now, and rather than scramble to bargain for changes we cannot make – we must negotiate with each other for the resolution that works best for both of us.” “There will always be a deep sadness in me for what we have lost, but I will move forward.”
In short, the process is what it is. The feelings and stages you are going through are just part of the process. Be patient, you will get through it. Surround yourself with people who can support and help you. Get a metaview – look at the big picture and guide your actions toward a future in which you can hold your head up high. Seek professional help if you need help processing the emotions as they arise. But know that as spring follows winter, there is a possibility for rebirth in all endings.
Lisa Borchetta, MACP, CMC, ACC is a Certified Life Coach and owner of Firebird Life Coaching. In addition to her coaching work with individual and group clients, Lisa is also a public speaker, teacher and writer. She is a former Mental Health Counselor and holds a Master's Degree in Counseling Psychology. Lisa writes for HopeAfterDivorce.org, FamilyShare.com, CupidPulse, and LAFamily. You can visit Lisa’s website atwww.firebirdlifecoaching.com, her blog at firebirdlifecoach.wordpress.com and her FB page atwww.facebook.com/FirebirdLifeCoaching.