How Divorce & Death are Alike


 
By Chris Hammond

You thought that when the papers were signed for the divorce everything would be better and you would finally feel relief and calm.  But you don’t.  Somehow the hurt emotions intensify and unexpected emotions of remorse, sadness, and guilt pile on top of bitterness, resentment, and frustration.  This has left you confused, disoriented, and even wondering if you made a mistake.  You begin to relive the marriage all over again looking desperately for answers as to why this happened, what went wrong, and how could things have been dealt with differently.  But you are afraid to confine in friends and relatives because they have supported the divorce and your questioning is unwelcome after they have taken a stance for you.

So you find yourself even more alone than before the divorce wondering if this lonely feeling will ever go away.  And it will, but not today or even tomorrow.  A divorce is more than the end of a marriage; it is the end of dreams, expectations, family, and friendships.  When you divorce, you are leaving behind all dreams and hopes for the future, all expectations for a long life together, extended family on both sides, and friendships that bound you together.  It is not the stuff that is hard to separate; rather it is these things which are far harder to separate.  In this way, experiencing a divorce is like experiencing a death and the process to recovery is very similar.

Denial.  While it may seem odd that you will experience denial after you have divorced, it is likely to occur in strange circumstances.  For instance, you are picking up medication at the pharmacy and the pharmacist asks you if you want to pick up your spouse’s medication.  Or you are at a favorite restaurant and the waitress asks if your spouse is joining you.  Or you are at church and a well-meaning person says they miss seeing your spouse.  In all of these incidents it is tempting not to tell the other person about the divorce and just to pretend that you are still together which you can do but it might provide for a more awkward moment later.  In fact, your first instinct may be to do just that but instead try saying the bare minimum, just enough to get away quickly without over explaining.

Anger.  This reaction is far more familiar as leading up to the divorce you most likely experienced this in spades.  While the name of your ex no longer provokes an immediate angry reaction, you will see some anger pop up in unexpected places.  Perhaps a co-worker displays the same lack of motivation that your ex did, your neighbor laughs like your ex, or your child looks and acts more and more like your ex every day.  You may feel unexpected anger towards your co-worker, neighbor or child that has little to do with them and far more to do with who they remind you of.  Stop, take a breather and recognize where your anger is really coming from so that you don’t project it onto an innocent target. 

Depression. No matter how easy it was to divorce, going through the holidays without your ex and the routine and traditions that you developed will be difficult.  Expect to feel even more depressed between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day as this is a time of intense celebration, family activities and getting together with friends.  When you are feeling at your most depressed, get out of the house and go do something.  Do not sit at home thinking about how you were at your ex’s family’s house for dinner last year and what a good time you had.  Rather, start new traditions this year that you have always wanted to try such as going to the mountains for Christmas or feeding the homeless on Thanksgiving.

Acceptance.  At the end of a long cycle, you will finally reach acceptance where you are comfortable talking about the end of your marriage without extraneous feelings.  Similar to the death of a close family member or a friend, this process will take about a year to finally achieve.  Your children on the other hand will not be on the same schedule as they will look like they have accepted it far sooner but a couple of years later will show signs of anger and depression.  Don’t be surprised by this, but expect it and anticipate getting them help if needed.

No one gets married wanting to go through a divorce.  Divorce is hard, painful and demands time for proper healing.  By having a better understanding of your emotions and viewing divorce in the same light as a death, you will better glide through the stages instead of stumbling in the dark.

 

 

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About the author-
Chris Hammond is a
Registered Mental Health Counselor Intern at LifeWorks Group w/ over 15 years of experience as a counselor, mentor & teacher for children, teenagers & adults.

 

                                                               

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