Divorce hurts, whether you are the one initiating the process or not. It can hurt so bad that you want to move through it as fast as possible. Except you can’t hurry grief. You can, however, keep moving through it.
You’ve probably heard that people go through stages of grief when someone dies. Even though your significant other is still living, you are grieving the end of your relationship. As you go through each change and decision to be made in the days and months to come, you will also face letting go of daily routines, future plans, shared financial assets, and even the home you created together.
As you try to adapt to life without your significant other, you will experience a range of emotions. Some days it will hurt more than others, and you may even feel like you are on a roller coaster. It may not help to know that it won’t always hurt this bad, but know that grief is a normal part of trying to let go of someone that is really important to you.
Moving Through Emotions of Grief
First of all, there is no specific order in which you need to grieve. And sometimes you will feel more than one emotion at a time. You don’t need to check off each of these emotions in order to move through all the stages. Think of it more as one way to find reassurance that you are experiencing something similar to what others have gone through.
As you read the following emotional states, reflect on what your grief has been like for you:
- Denial: At first, your brain tries to protect you by denying that you are getting a divorce. This usually happens while you are still married. It may not feel real to you, as if it isn’t really happening. You may even feel hope that it isn’t over, that things can still change, and your spouse can change their mind.
- Fear: And when the reality of your divorce starts to sink in, you may panic. How will I make it without my spouse? How will I tell my family or our kids? You are facing a lot of things that are out of your control and life may feel uncertain. When faced with change, it can bring up insecurity and worry.
- Bargaining: You decide you can’t deal with the relationship being over and you try bargaining with your spouse. You may offer to go to counseling even if it hasn’t helped before. Or you consider giving your ex one more chance because it hurts so much to see him/her hurting. Or maybe you ruminate about all the things you could have done differently, looking for any way you could have prevented your marriage from ending.
- Depression: You realize the door is closed to reconciling. This is where you may want to just check out and stay in bed all day. Be careful here as this is where people do things they later regret. It’s a time when you want to withdraw, embarrassed by the state of your life, your relationship and your emotions. It’s a time when you want to close off, but what you may really need is to reach out and not be alone too much right now.
- Anger: Anger at your ex, their new lover, or even yourself is one of the hardest things to let go. You don’t like what happened and the fact that you can’t change it takes over your mind. Or maybe you can’t even stand to hear about your ex from your kids. And it is extremely hard to contain your frustration at how your ex is co-parenting your kids.
- Relief: Amongst all of these negative emotions, you may be surprised to find relief. You may be relieved that there is less conflict or that it’s easier to be yourself. And you start to move closer to seeing a life for yourself after your marriage ends.
- Acceptance: Going through all of these negative emotions is moving you closer to accepting that your marriage is over. When you let go of anger, manage your fear, acknowledge your losses, inventory what you still have, you eventually get to a place of renewed energy for yourself. You may still have some negative feelings, but they are less intense. You also feel more neutral about your ex. And you begin to look at your divorce as a really rough time, but feel confident that you can make it through hard stuff without completely losing yourself.
How to Get Through the Grief of Divorce
- Go at Your Own Pace: It may take 1-3 years to get back to your pre-divorce level of well-being. Find your own pace when moving through your grief.
- Give Yourself Grace: Grief take a lot of energy. It uses up some of your cognitive space. Give yourself grace that you may not be at your usual level of functioning.
- Acknowledge Your Loss: Acknowledge what you’ve lost, but don’t over-focus on your fear. Remember you are made up of more than your emotional pain.
Love Yourself Through Grief Until You Are Thriving Again
Learning to love yourself through the pain is a daily choice. Do one thing each day that brings you joy, comfort, or connection. While it’s tempting to drown in a carton of ice cream or bottle of wine, think of things that don’t leave you feeling worse the next day. Think small actions instead of grand gestures. It can be something small like buying yourself flowers, introducing yourself to one new person in your apartment, or finding a new trail to hike on.
After many days of loving yourself through your grief, you will realize that your life can and is going on without your spouse. You will discover who you are again outside of this relationship. And as you move through your grief in whatever form it takes, you will get to a point where you are tired of justing getting through your divorce. You deserve the opportunity to not just move through life but to thrive again.
Marci Payne offers divorce counseling in Lee’s Summit MO (near Blue Springs and Independence). One of her specialties is working with men and women who are going through a divorce and want to boost their confidence about being single again. Schedule a free 15-minute phone consult to determine if she is the best counselor for you.