Sometimes we are quick to judge and wonder why anyone would grieve a divorce. Before we start on this topic, I wanted to share a Grief Recovery Method® definition, “Grief is the conflicting feelings caused by the end of or change in a familiar pattern of behavior.” If we look at divorce as changing a familiar pattern of behavior, sometimes after many, many decades, it would follow that a divorce can (and should) cause grief.
PRETENDING WE ARE OKAY
However these days, many of us plaster on a smile and pretend we don’t care. We don’t want to be judged or analyzed by our friends (i.e. “Why are your grieving for that jerk?” “You are better off without him,” “I can set you up with someone else.”). We don’t want anyone to know how we are really feeling (i.e. “I am just so glad this is finally happening.”) when your heart is really breaking.
But even when we “fall out of love” or “dislike” the person we’ve been married to for all those years, it still hurts. It hurts because no one enters a marriage expecting it to fail. It hurts because all the plans we had for the future aren’t going to happen anymore. Retiring together in Idaho. Watching the children and grandchildren grow up. Taking a European vacation together. With a divorce, everything changes. Although we may not grieve for the spouse (I would argue that most people do), we do grieve for those unrealized hopes, dreams and expectations we had for the marriage and for the future
THINGS YOU CAN DO
Here are 8 things you can do when grieving a divorce:
Feel the emotions associated with the loss: Since every relationship is unique, how a person grieves is unique to that relationship. Feeling awful when you are going through a divorce is perfectly normal. Holding in your emotions will cause them too build over time. The more they build, the more likely they are to affect our mental and physical well-being. This is why many people who avoid grieving end up with an illness. The bottom line is to feel the emotions. Grieving is normal and natural. Be sad. Be numb. Be tired. Your heart, mind and body will thank you.
Share how you are feeling: It’s so easy to just plaster on a fake smile and drag ourselves through day-to-day activities. Don’t do it. It you don’t feel like attending a sporting event on the weekend then don’t do it. Rather than not showing up to these events just let everyone know you are having a tough time, appreciate their offer but have to decline the invite. Those who love you will understand. You have to do what’s right for you
Ask for help: It is okay to ask for help. When things are “normal” we run around like superman and superwoman. We multi-task all day and collapse exhausted in bed at night. Grief turns our whole upside down. We can’t think. We can’t react. We can’t speak. We can’t sleep. Trying to do everything yourself is just asking for trouble. Reach out. Even if it is just asking someone to sit with you while you talk or cry. Maybe it’s asking another parent to take the kids for a few hours so you can actually get some much needed sleep. Asking for help when you are grieving is far better, definitely safer and certainly healthier for you than trying to handle everything yourself!
Be honest with your children: Children look up to us. They tend to do as we do. It’s important that as adults, we communicate accurately about our emotions so that our children can see, copy and learn. Tell your children the truth about how you are feeling. Being honest about your own grief will make your child feel safe in opening up about his or her own feelings. Just telling a child they were not the cause of their parents’ divorce is not enough. Having more helpful ideas about broken hopes, dreams and expectations will help children deal better with the enormous emotions created by divorce. By helping them face their emotions, you are ensuring they can more effectively deal with grief and loss events throughout their lives.
Practice self-care: Too many times we put our own self care on hold because we are facing grief. Did you know that grievers have a higher incident of illness and accidents? This is why it is important to try and take care of yourself as much as possible. If you are physically healthy, it makes it easier to deal with your emotions. If you are physically, spiritually and emotionally drained you put yourself at risk of getting sick or being in an accident. Be gentle with yourself during this time.
Take one day at a time – Don’t stress yourself out by thinking too far into the future. Just take it one day at a time. You may know how everything is going to work out and that’s okay.
Don’t be a victim: We often tend to blame the other person for how we feel at the end of marriage. When you hold someone else responsible for your feelings you place yourself in an “emotional jail.” The other person can never let you out; you become a victim and that’s a difficult, if not impossible, way to live. You have to free yourself in order to heal.
Allow your heart to heal before finding another relationship: Sometime we want to find another relationship right away. We don’t want to be alone. Being with somebody is better than being alone. But replacing one relationship with another is unhealthy unless you have grieved and completed the loss. Starting to date when you haven’t dealt with the one “just-ending” can sabotage the new relationship. Emotional baggage we develop in reaction to the end of a marriage can become long-term habits that get dragged with us from relationship to relationship. It’s better to grieve and “complete” the relationship before moving on.
Divorce does not mean you failed. Addressing any unmet hopes, dreams and expectations for the future can bring peace.
Sending you love, comfort and peace!