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Divorce and Grief

Part of the Process

As soon as she opened her eyes, Allie felt the excruciating pressure of the deep, paralyzing sorrow in her chest. It had been three months since her husband had asked for a divorce. The paperwork was filed and the custody arrangement drafted. She thought the pain would be letting up by now. Instead, not only was the pain still there, she was experiencing anger, confusion, depression, anxiety, and guilt that came crashing over her in different waves. Sometimes she thought she was going crazy.

 

What's Happening?

 

Working through a divorce may feel like walking up a long, steep staircase that seemingly never ends. Feelings like sadness, anger, sleeplessness, anxiety, fear, and worry are common. Even behavioral changes like loss of appetite can occur.

 

The emotional pain is so physical you feel like you’re fighting to even breathe. While it all seems so wrong, in truth it’s typical. Though it may seem you’re losing your grip, you aren’t. It’s part of the process and grief is the culprit.

 

Why Grief?

 

While grief is most often associated with death, experiencing any significant loss in life causes this emotional reaction. And, even though marriages begin with hopes and dreams of building a future with the person you love, a break-up signals the end of all of it.

 

Grief is the reaction to emotionally adjusting to loss. It’s only one word, but encompasses a progression which causes a myriad of emotional reactions as it runs its course. While allowing yourself to feel the pain of these losses may be scary, it is essential to the healing process. The pain of grief is precisely what helps you let go of the old relationship and move forward. And no matter how strong your grief, it won’t last forever.




 

Symptoms of Grief

 

In 1969, a model for five stages of grief was introduced in a book by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, which ultimately was adopted to help view this process.  The stages are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. 

 

The journey through grief is personal and can be isolating. And, you can’t compare yours to someone else’s.  Yet grief can affect four areas of our lives: physically, emotionally, socially, and spiritually. 

 

  • The physical expressions of grief can often include crying, sighing, headaches, loss of appetite, difficulty sleeping, weakness, fatigue, feelings of heaviness, aches, pains, and other stress-related ailments. 

  • The emotional expressions of grief may include feelings of sadness and yearning. But feelings of worry, anxiety, frustration, anger, or guilt can also be a normal part of this process.

  • The social expression of grief is where the isolation begins.  It’s easy to feel detached from others, wanting to isolate yourself from social contact, and behaving in ways that are not normal for you.

  • The spiritual expressions of grief can impact your faith and belief system. You can find yourself questioning the reason for your loss, the unfairness of the pain and suffering, and why God didn’t stop it.

 

One of the most important things to remember is that although you might try to postpone grieving, it is not possible to avoid it altogether. Trying to appear strong and stable may make it difficult for you to stop, feel, and live through the grieving process. Nevertheless, you can expect grief to eventually erupt at some point in the future. Unresolved grief has a way of affecting your quality of life and even relationships with others.

 

Guide to Going through Grief

 

Dealing with divorce is difficult. Working through and coping with the long list of losses is tough even under the best of bad circumstances. So, having some tools, information and resources will help you manage the grieving process in a healthy way. Following are some tips to help you move through the process:


  1. Realize Grief is a Natural Thing.  Understanding grief is the first step on your path to healing. It will be tempting to avoid or deny your feelings. You may even try to simply move on and find someone new in an attempt to forget the past. But that will only delay the inevitable and your emotions will at some point explode. Feel the feelings and allow yourself to work through the process.

  2. Surround yourself with support.  While you may want to be left alone drowning in despair, having a support system is key to coping with divorce. Avoid isolation and make the effort to spend time with friends and allies. Support groups are also an excellent place to connect with people who are experiencing what you’re going through.

  3. Practice Self-Care. At a minimum, get enough sleep and eat well.  Try to get outside and exercise as this can help with the physical impact of grief. Women often have a hard time nurturing themselves, so take time to think about what you need: a massage, a manicure, meeting a friend for coffee, whatever it is, just do it. Remember, don’t get sucked into anything that may dull your sense of pain like alcohol, drugs, sexual encounters, or spending sprees.

  4. Track Your Feelings.  Part of grieving is to be aware of your emotions. A great way to accomplish this is by keeping a journal, talking to a trusted friend, or simply putting a name to your feelings. Name them and claim them to cope. This will facilitate your ability to move through them.

  5. Keep Balance in Your Life. In an effort to circumvent the grief, you may try to stay too busy. Instead, remove unnecessary distractions from your plate. Give yourself permission and space to breathe and relax. Don’t be afraid to say “no” or even “yes” as the situation warrants.

  6. Seek Professional Help if Needed. There is no shame in admitting when you need extra help to deal with this difficult situation. It’s easy to become overwhelmed with the sadness, anger, or guilt. Divorce counseling can help you find healthy ways to navigate your journey as you work to move on from the pain.

  7. Reflect to Restore.  Anytime you experience a major life event or disruption, it is worth the time and energy to look back. Contemplate all the aspects of what happened.  Ask yourself some serious questions.  What brought it on? What part did you personally play? What can you learn? What are the positives that can come from it? Be truthful with yourself. Taking time to reflect on the past will help you work to restore your life and move on to a healthier, happier you.  

  8. Don’t Rush the Process.  Most people have no idea how long grief can last. It is REALLY good to remember that the emotional part of divorce is not a legal event.  It's not cut and dry, but a process. While you may want it to hurry up and end, the reality is, it won’t. Instead of pushing yourself or trying too hard to stop the pain, give yourself permission to let it ride out. Adjusting your expectations will remove some of the pressure. At some point, it will ease up. You may even be surprised once you do start to feel like yourself again.

  9. Grief and Belief are Connected. If you are a person of faith, you can turn to the source of it to be your strength. Too often experiencing a loss can make one question their faith in a loving God. Yet, no where in Scripture does it indicate exemption from pain and suffering. Even Jesus grieved in Luke 19. Instead, there is verse after verse which indicates God will help you through this painful journey. One is Psalm 147:3: The Lord heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. There are ways to maintain your faith through divorce; you just have to remember that God always has a plan for your life. Stay connected to him.

 

Conclusion

 

Divorce is unfortunate and devastating. While it will mark a significant change in your life, it doesn’t have to define the rest of it. Understanding your emotions and the grief associated with this event will give you the chance to patiently deal with it and move on.  You won’t feel like this forever.  Divorce is not the end of your world, but can be the beginning of a new season full of hope, promise and joy.

 

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