Grieving Losses: Divorce

Have you ever thought about grief outside the context of the death of a loved one? When most people hear the term "grief" they think of the emotional journey of processing through the death of a parent, spouse, friend, child, even a beloved pet. But did you know clinically you go through all five stages of grief no matter what type of loss you are mourning? Because, in a very real sense, there is a death present even if you are not physically burying something. There can be many other types of deaths and one of the realest and most profound experiences with grief can come through the death of a marriage.

With divorce it can be the loss of a dream of a marriage and the picture in your mind of the life you would build together side-by-side has shattered. Maybe it was the dream of the neighborhood block parties in the summertime, but your wife ended up getting the house in the settlement, and you're feeling a rush of frustration come over you as you see a couple bar-b-queuing on the grill. Or maybe around Christmas-time when it's the first time the kids are with your ex-husband for the holidays that you realize that you don’t have the drive to get out bed in the morning -- that may be a clue that you are grieving the loss of the dream you had of the family as a unit. Sometimes we don't even realize we have expectations until they aren't met.

Feeling angry and depressed are both natural processes of mourning and once you are aware that your real issue is needing to allow yourself to grieve, it can help you give your symptoms context as they come up.
The 5 Stages of Grief:
·       DENIAL - in shock, life doesn't make sense, you are in survival mode in this stage

Denial is the first step for addressing any loss. In the beginning the feelings may be too overpowering to even face so our brain switches into a coping mode. After time, when it is no longer too large to handle and we are ready, we then slowly move on to the next phase.
·       ANGER - overwhelming frustration, you may have one specific person/situation that is the target of your anger in a "you hurt me, so I want to hurt you" mentality

Some of the feelings you may have been denying can resurface as anger as your denial wears off and you come to grips with what is happening. There is truth that the antithesis of love is not hate, but apathy. Your anger is recognition of how deeply you cared.
·       BARGAINING - you may find yourself thinking "if only" and "what if"
At this point you may want to go back in time and change behavior to reach any other possible outcome that is better than what you're facing. Trying to out-reason your pain and avoid feeling it at all costs, you may find yourself living in the past of guilt.
·       DEPRESSION - withdrawing and isolating, feeling in a fog
The depth of the pain is coming squarely to the present. Will it always feel this way? No, but inside the fog of depression it can seem that is the case. This is a very appropriate response to the loss fully settling in your soul.
·       ACCEPTANCE - recognizing this new reality
This stage doesn't mean everything goes back to the way it was - with profound loss, it does change you in a deep way. Coming to the last stage of grief is learning to live with this new reality. Even though you cannot go back in time and have the same connection you once had, there is the potential for new relationships, new experiences and new memories to be made in the future.
Keep in mind, these stages aren't always linear and forward moving. We change based on the feelings that arise, so you may flip back-and-forth between a few different ones before ultimately coming through to the point of acceptance. Try to keep in mind your grief is as unique as you are.

Are you feeling the after-effects of divorce? If you find yourself at any of the stages of grief mentioned, I'm here to talk with you and help you process this life-altering change. Feel free to reach out to me for an appointment. You can either email me at or call my office at (310) 614-0323.

There is hope on the other side of grief and the hope of a better tomorrow.