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.
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.
As they say, the problem with pain is that it hurts. The even bigger problem with emotional pain is that we will do everything not to feel it. We try to get away from it, resist it at all cost, medicate it, anesthetize it. We stuff it, numb it, try to drink it away, shop it away, or binge-watch it away. As a result, we don’t heal or grow, and in the process of trying to run from it we sabotage our entire lives.
There are even more problems with divorce pain because of the added elements of anger, resentment, and fear. It is much easier to stay angry than to admit we are heartbroken and sad underneath. It is easier to worry ourselves to death about our future than to grieve our losses. We prefer pretty much anything, even other uncomfortable emotions before we choose to face our pain.
We all heard that rebounds are bad for us. That we are not supposed to be in a brand new relationship right after another one just ended or ending. That it's not fair to the other person, or even to ourselves, it won't end well, and we should be smarter and more mature than even thinking about getting into one. We all know this in our heads. But when all we feel is the pain, anger, and fear of divorce, and all we hear is the voices that tell us that we are not good enough, and nobody will ever love us again, it is hard to resist the temptation of new love and excitement if it comes along, or even to seek it out for ourselves. The possibility of some good feelings and fun is just too much for our troubled souls to pass on.
How do we know if a rebound is really a rebound? Is there a specific time when it's not a rebound anymore? Does it feel different than other romantic relationships? Are there any circumstances when it can be beneficial for us?
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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