It’s a fact. When you get a divorce, you will go through the seven stages of grief just as if someone had died. In reality, someone has.
When you get married you “become one” with your spouse. For all intents and purposes you’ve created a third entity, a personality that is unique to you. When you divorce, you are effectively killing off that personality. No matter how you explain what happens, no matter how much you want a divorce – the loss of that entity is painful and traumatic.
Don’t kid yourself. You are going to grieve.
It’s normal, natural, and even healthy to work through the grief process after divorce. Go at your own pace and get help when you need to.
Denial can express itself in many ways. You may pretend nothing is happening, or you may just feel numb. You get through your days by just doing the next thing, and you probably feel like you are just going through the motions. Others may not even realize what is going on.
Basically, you can’t imagine your life without your spouse, so you don’t even let yourself think about it. It’s usually a relatively short stage.
Once the denial begins to ebb away, fear and pain move in quickly. This was the ugly crying stage for me. I don’t like change – even good change. I felt abandoned, alone, and I couldn’t figure out what I was going to do to support my kids. My future looked bare, lonely, and bleak.
Just goes to show you how wrong you can be about your life. Hell, if I could have seen the results of my divorce I’d have jumped sooner.
This stage can be long or short and, maybe more than any other stage, the time you spend in it depends on you. This is where you acknowledge your pain and your fear, square your shoulders, and push through. Create goals and a plan for achieving them.
You are strong, and you’ve got this!
You are going to be mad at your ex and anybody else who you decide contributed to the divorce. I was angry with myself more than anyone else because I believed that if I had been closer to perfect, or prettier, or thinner it wouldn’t have happened. I blamed myself for his unfaithfulness.
I was admittedly really angry at God. I screamed at Him day after day. I did everything right, and this was how He rewarded me? Homeschooling moms who go to church three times a week, grind their own flour, and have stuffed their rowdy selves into a quiet and gentle Proverbs 31 chick mold aren’t supposed to get divorced.
You will be angry and if you aren’t used to expressing or dealing with your anger it can get bad.
This is your inner preschooler’s way of regaining a feeling of control. You may bargain with your ex, with yourself, or with God. You’ll promise anything if only you get another chance.
Somewhere inside yourself you believe that things could go back to how they were, and maybe even better if you just follow the right formula. Bargaining is a sign of desperation. Recognize it for what it is. Accept that you feel that way, and that it’s a normal part of grief.
This is where the anger and blame that you experienced in stage three come back as guilt for not making it work. You think about the things you could have done differently to stave off the scourge of divorce and the humiliation of being a divorced person.
You want to step into a time machine and make it all go away.
Even if you’ve always been optimistic you will probably go through some degree of depression. You’ll toss and turn at night and be unable to sleep. You may stop eating or constantly eat. You’ll lose your temper, and you may cry a lot.
I hate taking medicine. At 54, I am on thyroid medication because my thyroid was removed, but that is all. I don’t like going to doctors, and I don’t like being dependent on chemicals. Still, I began taking Wellbutrin during the divorce and its aftermath, and it made a huge difference. I rarely take it now.
Don’t be afraid to get help.
Slowly it sinks in that this is your new normal. You begin to let go of the past, and you find yourself increasingly satisfied by your present. You begin to see how strong you are and that you can really do this.
One day you wake up and realize that you’re happy, and life is good.
But Wait, There’s More
Getting to that place of acceptance takes time but it’s great when you get there. You breathe a sigh of relief and then all of a sudden you slip back down the rabbit hole and you are back in stage two or three or five. What happened?
It’s OK. It’s normal to cycle through. You’ve been through a lot, and some aspects of your healing may take years. You may even be surprised by issues you had that you didn’t know existed.
I have been through all of the stages at least once and yet a couple of years ago I was talking with a counselor about how I was startled easily, how I was having nightmares, and how being around my ex caused panic attacks. He went into a lengthy conversation with me that introduced me to the term Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
I don’t know how long I will deal with C-PTSD. It makes me feel like damaged goods, and sometimes it’s embarrassing. I was at an air show recently, and there was a truck with a jet engine that drove by and made a huge, sharp sound unexpectedly.
Adrenaline poured into my chest. I began to cry, and I hid in my husband’s arms until I stopped shaking. I felt like a total idiot when it was over. It’s a fact of my life, and I have to deal with it whether I like it or not–but it doesn’t mean that I am not over the divorce.
It’s just a reminder that my past relationship left me with an emotional limp. How about you? Have you found yourself going through these or similar stages? Join First Wives World today and talk to others who know what you are going through because they’ve been there – and they’ve got the limp to prove it.
Image Courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons, User: Gisela Giardino