Divorce, whether a mutual decision, or not, may be one of the more painful transitions I counsel people through. Divorce impacts all areas of one’s life. It is very much like a death except the other person is still living and lingering on in your life, which in some ways can be more difficult than a death. But regardless, there is a mourning period that comes with the transition from a marriage to a divorce or the break up of a significant relationship. And this process can be a difficult time for those who experience it.
Along with the decision for a divorce comes a flood of legal and emotional work. The legal situation will be handled by an attorney who will guide you through the steps in getting to the other side. But there will be the emotional work that doesn’t come with a step-by-step guide. It will begin even before the legal work starts and may continue on long past the final hearing for the divorce. There will be no clear cut patterns for the feelings that come up as one transitions from the loss of the marriage and what this means as a family, a partner, changes in life style and finances, and other adjustments that are so vast and numerous, I couldn’t mention them all here.
These losses and changes will hit on a deep emotional level. The emotional reaction that one person experiences from this process will not be the same as the next person’s response. Each person will carry his own history, his own reactions, his own soul lessons to be learned, and his own individual growth. Exactly how one gets through this process is a unique process.
While you figure out how to handle the legal aspects of the divorce, you will want to also consider a plan for the emotional aspects. Using your personal network of friends and family members may give you the support you need at this time. Use this support to share your feelings, concerns, and experiences. Spend time with the people who are important in your life and try to engage in activities that you enjoy and will help you pass through this time.
You may want to keep a journal to unload your utmost fears, feelings, and thoughts. This may help you really get in touch with the depth of your feelings and what the overwhelming emotional outbursts may be about. It may also help you formulate goals and dreams and give you some hope for the next stage in your life.
It may be a good time to consider using professional services of counseling. Often during this time, emotions can be overwhelming and you may feel very alone. Having the support of a therapist can help you process your feelings and help you not feel so alone.
Also, remember the self-care basics. Eat healthy, get exercise and sleep. When a person is undergoing extreme stress, it is of utmost importance to maintain these components in his/her daily lifestyle. Not only will this help maintain physical health, it will also foster a more hopeful and positive attitude.
Joining a therapeutic or support group can be helpful. Sharing with others going through similar experiences can be very healing. It can help you feel “normal” in the process of moving back into the life of being single. Group work can be a place where you can process how to handle many of the tasks of living, which you may have taken for granted. Sharing your experiences can raise your sense of self. Groups can help you learn that your fears and feelings are not unique and shameful but rather universal. Many times divorce is interpreted as a failure. Anger, shame, blame, guilt, doubt, rejection are all feelings that come up. These feelings also can damage self-esteem if not dealt with appropriately. Group work can help you realize you are not alone and can guide you to release the judgment you may place on it as you find you are, in fact, really responding in a normal way.
And after the divorce is final and you have moved through the raw feelings, it may still be a time of grieving when everyday life events, such as going to the movie or out to eat require you to consider going alone. The grieving may continue as you spend holidays alone or celebrate your birthday, realizing that you have lost companionship. You may even wonder and fear growing old alone. The idea of “rebuilding” your life may feel overwhelming and further bring up grief of being alone. Consider participating in a group as you learn how to rebuild and move forward.
Wholeness Healing Center will be starting a therapeutic divorce group. The group will start in September on Monday evenings. For more information, see the article below or call our practice at 308-382-5297 x 10.Tags: divorce, divorce aftermath, managing the aftermath of divorce
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker
Licensed Independent Mental Health Practitioner
- Janie Pfeifer Watson, LICSW, is the founder and director of Wholeness Healing Center, a mental health practice in Grand Island, Nebraska with remote sites in Broken Bow and Kearney. Her expertise encompasses a broad range of areas, including depression, anxiety, attachment and bonding, coaching, couples work, mindfulness, trauma, and grief. She views therapy as an opportunity to learn more about yourself as you step more into being your authentic self. From her perspective this is part of the spiritual journey; on this journey, she serves as a mirror for her clients as they get to know themselves—and, ultimately, to love themselves.
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