You never thought it would happen to you. And yet, here you are looking at the pieces of a newly broken marriage into which all of your love, effort, money and hopes for the future had been placed. It’s hard to know where to begin when such a life changing event wipes away what you’ve believed had been unchangeable.
While divorce is prevalent in our society, it effects are intensely personal and unique. The first steps toward moving forward and coping with the aftermath successfully require strength, wisdom and, if possible, a sense of humor. Divorce brings grief in its wake. The stages of grief that you will pass through have been well documented and you probably are already aware of them.
In the 1969 book “On Death and Dying”, by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, the stages of grief are detailed as: Denial and Isolation, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and finally, Acceptance. The following are some guidelines to keep you moving through these stages in order to come out the other side of this experience a happier, stronger person.
It’s Happening and You Need to Talk About It
Talking about it will help. Find a support group, therapist or your wisest friend and enlist their aid. There will be a lot to sort through, both factually and emotionally. You need to create a place for yourself that feels safe and allows you to pull everything out of the closet to examine it. In addition, be sure and make time for things that you find enjoyable with people you truly appreciate. Grief leaves us a few hours at a time with ever widening spaces of pain free time. Give the process a little help and create for yourself moments of happiness even in the midst of the whirlwind you’re experiencing.
Let Your Anger Work For You
The initial shock has worn off and you’ll find plenty to be angry about as you go through this process. Don’t let anger feed on you. Rather, feed on it and use it to power you through any type of intense physical exercise or project. Challenge yourself to achieve a physical goal and accomplish it. A side benefit is that concentrated physical excursion will reward you with a nice shot of endorphins which will elevate your mood. (Needless to say, check with your doctor and be sure you are capable of physical exercise.)
Bargaining – Half Way There
If you find yourself thinking, “If I tried harder, maybe he wouldn’t stay with his mistress” or “If I work harder, maybe she’ll have what she needs and won’t spend us into bankruptcy” – you’re bargaining. You’re trying to make impossible deals with the universe in order to restore the life that you’ve lost. The good news is that you are half way through the grief process. The rest of the news is that your bargains are probably bad for you and the situation.
The best way to judge these bargains is to step back and consider the situation as if it were happening to a respected, loved friend going through this trying time. Would you advise them to make the bargains that you are trying to convince yourself to make? Probably not. Take this time to list your personal ideal relationship goals. What is important to you and what you have you learned thus far about fulfilling your needs in a relationship should be embodied in these goals. If your bargains don’t line up with your goals, move on.
It’s Depressing When Bargains Don’t Work Out
Realizing that there is nothing to be done to change the situation often brings the feeling of depression. The loss is real and so is the pain. Be gentle with yourself during this period. It’s normal and a part of the process to mourn your loss. However, it’s easy to get stuck in this phase for long periods of time. Protect yourself against that possibility by continuing your physical exercises and staying connected to your friends. Develop a daily routine and stick to it even if you don’t always feel like it. This will help to encourage the process of moving forward.
Acceptance Gives You A New Day
The final stage of the grief process is acceptance. Forgiveness for the other person as well as yourself is often a vital component of reaching this goal. Acceptance means that you fully understand the experience and it’s place in your life. Acceptance allows the loss to move into the past and make room for a new present. Embrace the new possibilities in front of you and enjoy this new life you’ve worked so hard to create.
Eric Simmons is a professional blogger that shares legal advice on divorce and family law situations. He writes for Campo Blumenfeld Attorney at Law, a divorce and family law firm in Milwaukee.