Divorce is one of the biggest loss we might experience in life. It is number two on the list of major life stressors after the death of a loved one. Since divorce is a loss with its own grief process, we need to go through all the stages of grief in order to fully process it and find healing.
The five stages of grief are: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance, but they do not necessary occur in this specific order. We can move back and forth between stages for a while, or wildly jump around them, or slowly crawl from one to another. They are just responses to our feelings and can last anywhere between days to months and can repeat multiple times. There are no right or wrong ways to grieve, the only important thing is that we keep moving through all of these stages, even if it feels like this is our tenth time around, and don’t get stuck in one for an unreasonably long time by falling into some of the common pitfalls of divorce.
The mention of forgiveness during or right after divorce can feel like cursing with anger. It can make our blood boil and our jaws tighten with fury when someone mentions it to us as the right and noble course of action. Just the thought of forgiving our ex for all the pain, atrocities, loss, betrayal, and hurt screams against our logical and justice thirsty minds. How could we after all he or she has done to us?
Is it really possible to come out of a hard and painful divorce and forgive the other person at the end? What about if it was all their doing, if the divorce was forced upon us against our choice? Or what if our own choice have unleashed the enmity of our ex to such extremes that we felt we experienced the wrath of a beast, rather than the person we though we knew?
Many of us hold onto this idea of once the papers are signed the divorce is over. It might be true in some rare cases, but most of the time it only signals the end of the legal issues. That alone can be a great relief for sure, but the judge’s signature has little effect on our emotional divorce. The end of that lays entirely in our own hands.
So how do we know when our divorce is truly over? How can we tell we are on the other side of it? Are there any indicators that show us we are healed and ready to move on?
There are individual differences of course, but if we can answer these six questions with an astounding yes or no (only one acceptable answer to each), we can be certain we are indeed on the other side of it.
Emotional resilience refers to one's ability to adapt to stressful situations or crises. More resilient people adapt to adversity without lasting difficulties, while less resilient people have a harder time with stress and life changes.
Emotional resilience is not something we either have or don’t have, although some of us are born with a little more of it than others. It is a trait we can develop and strengthen or ignore and atrophy. Just like almost anything in life, the energy and effort we put into practicing it will determine the results we get. Divorce, with its heightened overall stress level and constant crises is definitely an opportunity to grow our emotional resilience and as a result create a better chance for happiness and contentment than ever before.
Divorce is one of the most shame, blame, and guilt producing event in life. Doesn’t really matter if we are the one leaving or being left, it affects our sense of worth like nothing else. We question everything we believed and thought about ourselves, our abilities, characters, and choices. Even if we are blaming our ex for it all, deep down we are filled with shame. The more we try to run from it, the more it will hunt us. The more we try to cover it up with anger the more damage it will do in us and ultimately in everyone around us.
There is only one way to battle the shame and guilt we feel for leaving or being left, and to stop the endless blame cycle: learning and practicing self-compassion.
So much of our time during divorce is spent either worrying about the future or regretting the past that we forget to spend time in the space where we actually have some power: the present moment. And many times even when we are in the present, we create a "false moment" by escaping into survival mechanisms and we numb ourselves senseless.
We hear a lot these days about the importance of "staying in the moment" but as we all discovered it by now, it is much easier said than done. Especially if our current moment is something we just want to escape, no matter the price. So how can we convince ourselves to stay in it despite all the pain, sadness, and fear we are experiencing?
The start of the New Year does not feel like a new page or clean slate while going through divorce. The continuum of last year's heartache, struggles, fights, and pain into the New Year is a far cry from a cheerful and optimistic way to start brand new. We are carrying over everything we have been going through because the divorce is not over yet.
It can be daunting and depressing to start the New Year with all our divorce problems. It's easy to focus on all the decisions that will have to be made and all the loss and troubles we are facing. But it is still a New Year with all its new possibilities and promises, even if we are not at the best place to see or welcome them.
Divorce is hard enough and stressful enough on any given day, adding all the extra weight of the Holidays to it can seem completely unbearable. Just thinking about extended family visits, mandatory Holiday parties and all the cooking and shopping we don't have time, energy, or money for, can suck out the last bit of spirit we have left in us.
This time of the year can get extra complicated and emotionally overwhelming if young children are involved in the divorce. If this is their first year of separated households we need to do everything in our power to provide as much emotional support and guidance as humanly possible. And pray hard for the rest.
Facing our divorce reality as it is and NOT as we would like it to be is a crucial element in keeping our sanity and strength during divorce. The fear of uncertainty and change can be so overwhelming (even when not conscious) that it can easily keep us in delusion and denial about what really is going on.
There is a simple reason why we don't face something: It is painful. And there are not many things more painful in this life than divorce. Denial protects us from pain but it always comes with a heavy price tag if not dealt with: losing touch with our feelings, needs, and eventually ourselves. Prolonged denial of a situation will always lead to denial of certain aspects of who we are. Refusing to accept reality as it is will lead to losing who we are.
It is hard enough to go through divorce when it is what you chose, your necessary lesser evil, but it's even more difficult when the choice was made for you by your spouse. When you're still willing and ready to fight for your marriage, to work things out, to try harder. But your partner is not.
How on earth is it possible to walk down a path you haven't chosen for yourself? A path you feel you have been shoved to, a path you hate, but forced to stay on.
Here are five necessary steps you will have to take to travel this unwanted journey with dignity and grace.
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