You're grieving, dammit! (Cut yourself some slack.)
We always hear about the five stages of grief a person goes through when a loved one passes away. But, did you know that you will also go through these five stages of grief after a divorce?
When you go through divorce, it's like a death of love. Even if you're the one who initiated the divorce, you will still grieve. This is because you are not only mourning the loss of your marriage, you are also grieving the loss of your hopes and dreams—the belief of what you thought your life was going to look like.
I want to emphasize that each person will go through the stages of grief differently and there is no set length of time. The ultimate goal is to get to the fifth stage: acceptance.
Some experts agree that it takes one year for every 10 years of marriage to get over it. That's quite a long time; a lot can happen in a year. However, it may take you more or less time depending upon several factors, including who initiated the divorce, how happy you were in the marriage, and your own personal state of confidence and well-being.
During the grieving process, you will often feel particular emotional effects of divorce as well.
A review of the five stages of grief as they relate to divorce:
1. You just can't seem to accept that it's really over.
Believe it or not, the denial stage often begins during the marriage. It may be hard to believe or accept the fact that your marriage is over. You hold on to a sliver of hope that things can be different—that things will change. You believe that the two of you will be able to spark that magic that once occurred in your relationship.
Denial is normal. It's a way to help you grasp the fact of what's happening without overwhelming emotions. It's a way for you to hide from the facts in order to deal with the pain.
Other forms of denial include not believing they want out of the marriage, not believing that they are in love with another, or finding it difficult to believe that this is really happening to you. After all, you never thought you would find yourself in this situation.
2. Everything about your ex makes you angry.
During and after your divorce, you may experience anger directed in a variety of ways depending on the situation that ultimately led to the divorce.
For example: You may be angry at your ex for cheating. You could be angry at his boss for making him work long hours. You could be angry about her using alcohol or drugs or for not caring enough to make things work. You may be angry at yourself for not seeing the writing on the wall, for putting up with their crap for as long as you did, or for not showing them the love and respect that they craved.
Anger also occurs because of the way he treats the kids. You are angry that he doesn't call the kids, visit them, or seem to care about them. You are angry that she doesn't pay tchild support on time or that she left you in a financial mess. Whatever the reason, you're gonna feel it.
3. You find yourself thinking "If only ..." often.
Bargaining is so much more than trying to figure out ways to win them back. The bargaining stage is where you find yourself thinking, "If only...", "I could have...", "I should have...", and "What if?"
In essence, you are attempting to change the past or the current reality through your thoughts. In a way, bargaining is trying to rationalize what happened. You think, "If only I had seen it coming," "If only I had tried harder," or, "If only I had forced them to go to counseling." You are trying to fix what has already happened.
Bargaining may also come in the form of revenge toward your ex, and possibly his or her new lover. You hope that your ex will get what is coming. You may be thinking, "I want them to be as miserable as I am," or, "I wish they would just get run over by a bus." This is also normal.
4. You just want to bury yourself under the covers for months.
Odds are you, you're gonna go through depression, not eating, exercising, or sleeping properly. The nights are filled with restless sleep and dreams of what might have been, as well as nightmares that you will wind up a bag lady alone on the streets.
During the depression stage, you may feel a deep sadness over the loss of your marriage. You may be hurt that your vows did not mean as much to your spouse as they did to you. You may cry over the fact that he was not the person you thought he was. You shed tons of tears for your children.
While in a depressed state, you may play victim by labeling your ex as a narcissist, sociopath, or compulsive liar in order to get through the pain.
You may find yourself depressed over the fact that you lost your home and have to move in with family or friends, or that you need to find a new job to support yourself. The mere thought that you are totally on your own may scare the heck out of you. This overwhelming fear may revert you back to any of the other stages of grief.
5. Finally, you are ready to build a new life for yourself.
Acceptance comes when you fully accept the fact that your marriage, as well as your hopes and dreams for the future together, are over. It is at this point that you are ready to build a new life for yourself. Acceptance is letting go of the past.
Even after accepting the divorce, you may still find yourself dealing with anger, blame, or guilt. However, your emotions get less intense as time goes on. For the most part, you feel indifference for who your ex is and what they are doing. You have separated your personal life from theirs. If you have children together, you learn to co-parent without rehashing old hurts.
You are like the foundation of a house. It can withstand fire as well as the most severe of storms. You built your marriage on top of this foundation. The marriage crumbled, the walls came falling down, and you grieved. When you sweep away the debris, you are left with a beautiful, strong foundation to build your new life on.
For tips and articles on how to heal and find inner peace during and after divorce, visit www.SupportForDivorcedWomen.com. www.Facebook.com/SupportForDivorcedWomen Tweet me @CindyHolbrook
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