Coping with the Grief of Divorce

Death of a Marriage: Grief is Normal

Everyone will react differently to divorce. We often endure emotional stages similar to grieving the death of a loved one.

Just like with grief of any kind it is common to move back and forth between the stages. You may find some of the stages easier to navigate than others. The thing to remember is that you will eventually find hope and healing.

Why Do People Grieve After a Divorce?

There are several reasons you may enter the grieving process during and after your divorce.

• You’re still in love  Loving someone means you were attached to that person being part of your daily life. Losing a spouse via divorce is equal to losing a spouse to death.
• The loss of emotional support Your spouse, for years, was someone you could count on. This was a partnership. You both gave and received many things from each other and your relationship. Due to divorce, you are losing both the physical and emotional aspects of the relationship you had with your spouse and came to depend on. Sexual intimacy will come to an end as will their emotional support. 
• The loss of life goals and dreams You shared a home and family together. You had plans together and dreams of the future. Whether the relationship was stable or not, divorce means giving up the lifestyle you had (or hoped for) with your spouse and adjusting to dramatic changes in your life. 
• The loss of financial security In every divorce there is financial loss. This can be minimal or quite significant. There is stress accompanied with bearing the weight of all your financial responsibility alone.

Allowing grieving to occur

Grief is a natural human reaction to loss. It is a normal and necessary step to healing. Grief is not a simple emotion itself, but can be quite complex and manifest in many different ways as it runs its course. The grief process tends to unfold in predictable patterns. Most commonly, people move back and forth between a shocked, numb state characterized by denial, depression, and/or minimization of the importance of the loss, and outraged anger, fear, and vulnerability. The dialog between numb and upset continues over time as the person emotionally digests the nature of the loss

Fighting grief is often counterproductive. Most of the time it is best to allow yourself to grieve in the ways that come naturally to you, at least part of the time. Eventually life comes back to ‘normal’ and the intensity of loss retreats. Different people take different amounts of time to go through their grief process and express their grief with different intensities of emotion. The amount of time people spend grieving depends on their personalities, and on the nature of their losses. Someone whose marriage was betrayed might take a longer time to work out their grief and to do it in a more vocal way than someone who chooses to leave a marriage of their own accord. Someone who found out suddenly about their spouses’ affair might grieve differently than someone who has watched their marriage deteriorate for years.

It is not realistic that grief over a lost marriage should be worked out in a month or even several months. Most people will continue to deal with the emotional ramifications of loss for many months, sometimes even several years. These long stints of grief and heartache are usually exacerbated by contentious litigation. Several years is a long time, however; really too long to spend exclusively grieving when life is so short. People who find that grief has not for the most part abated after 12 months have gone by are strongly urged to seek the assistance of a professional therapist.

Choosing to move forward

While grief can be immobilizing at first, after a while, most grieving people find that, little by little, they are ready to move on with their lives. For a time, they may find themselves moving on and grieving at the same time. Over time however, if everything goes well, the grieving process loses steam and more energy becomes available for moving on with life.