Divorce is complicated (and it sucks) because you’re faced with seemingly non-stop social, emotional, legal, financial, and the everyday challenges of your new life. Everything changes and not always for the better — at least at first. Of course, all these changes trigger grief which you may think you understand because you’ve grieved before. But overcoming divorce grief is completely different from getting over any other type of grief.
It’s different because you’re constantly reminded of the losses — and there are a lot of things you lose when you divorce. You lose your status as a spouse. You lose time with your kids. You lose the financial means you had together. You lose friends. You lose your dreams for the future.
You lose so very many things that you’ll subtly and obviously be reminded of…
- when you look at your beautiful child and see the resemblance to your ex.
- when you hear someone talking about their spouse and the fun they had over the weekend.
- when you’re struggling to figure out how to make ends meet.
- when you’re home all alone over the weekend and your kids are with their other parent.
- when you see a commercial for the vacation destination you and your ex had planned to visit next summer.
And each of these reminders can trigger more grief.
Yet these triggers just get the journey started. When you’re trying to overcome divorce grief it’s the emotional turmoil that makes things so difficult. You’ll experience disappointment, stress, a sense of failure, anger, fear, sadness, and a whole host of other emotions. Sometimes you’ll feel them one after another, sometimes just one at a time and at other times you’ll experience several all at once.
The emotions are horribly uncomfortable and feeling them is probably one of the last things anyone wants to do. And so we make it harder on ourselves by trying to intellectualize or think them away. Unfortunately, that doesn’t work. The only way to overcome divorce grief is to work through the emotions.
And that in itself is a challenge. When you’re faced with the prospect of overcoming divorce grief you feel miserable. When anyone feels bad, it’s really hard (and at times impossible) to get motivated to want to feel the pain so you can work through it.
On top of that grief is exhausting and not just because most of us find it difficult to sleep well when we’re grieving. Grief weakens our bodies which makes doing anything harder.
So when you’re overcoming divorce grief, you’ll find that your ability to get things done is reduced. You’ll notice that your job performance suffers. Your ability to concentrate declines. Your willingness to care for yourself decreases and so does your desire to work through the myriad issues your divorce created.
And for many, this is when they decide to self-medicate instead of doing the work of getting through their divorce grief. They may choose to drink a little more, smoke a bit more pot or indulge in other recreational drugs, eat more comfort foods, and/or have more sex by hooking up. They may also attempt to escape their pain by getting into another relationship.
Although it’s tempting and can feel good in the moment, self-medicating only masks grief. It doesn’t heal it or make it go away. The grief remains. It festers and seeps deeper into your soul the longer it’s ignored. And that means it will be even more difficult to deal with.
Overcoming divorce grief isn’t easy. It will be one of the most freakin’ difficult things you’ve ever done or will ever do.
Yet, actually doing your work to deal with your grief will also give you a huge gift. Overcoming divorce grief gives you the gift of knowing yourself better through a series of lessons. Some of the lessons it brings are obvious. Some are incredibly difficult. But each of the ones you learn along the way will help you to recognize how strong, capable and lovable you are — despite getting divorced.
That may seem hard to believe as you’re beginning your journey of overcoming divorce grief. Yet, if you ask anyone who has successfully made the journey themselves, they’ll tell you that they are stronger, more capable and totally lovable now. They may even tell you that the life they built for themselves after divorce is much, much better than when they were married to their ex.
So, yes, divorce sucks. Overcoming divorce grief blows. But if you remember the only way to get your life back is to work through every challenge, trigger, and disappointment the end of your marriage throws your way, you’ll be able to do the hard work and move on toward a better life.
Dr. Karen Finn is a divorce and life coach. Her writing on marriage, co-parenting and divorce has been published on MSN, Yahoo! and eHarmony among others. You can learn more about Karen and her work helping people overcome divorce grief at drkarenfinn.com. You can register to download her free e-book “What You Need To Know To FINALLY Start Healing From Your Divorce”.
Originally published at https://drkarenfinn.com on May 23, 2019.