Blog 104. Endings and Grief: Take Heed – This Is What Divorce (Or Separation) Is Mostly About.
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When two people decide to spend their lives together, have kids together and build a life together, they usually also hope and believe – that it’ll last forever. Few ever contemplate that this shared dream may one day come to an end. But when it does, it can come as quite a shock. Seeing your dream slowly crumble before your very eyes, can feel like a gut-wrenching loss. It can feel that part of you has died and that all the years spent together was an incredible waste of time. And this can happen even if you’re the one wanting the divorce or a separation.
But no matter who wants a divorce or whether it is through mutual agreement, the reality is that when two people get married, they create a bond like an invisible thread that is woven around and between them. When this thread is finally cut, and you’re awarded your divorce papers, the reality of what that bond did or did not mean, can come as quite a revelation.
And revelations can unfortunately create a ripple effect of all sorts of emotions from feelings of failure, loss, anger, rage, resentment, sadness and grief and this could even lead to depression. But then again, you may feel nothing of the sort. You may feel utter relief and joy. However, even if you do feel gleeful, for many there is still a sadness – a sadness for what might’ve been, and a sadness for what wasn’t.
But also, when two people have worked together towards a common goal, which then comes to an end, it can cost not only in emotional anguish, it can also cost either both of you or one of you, a lot of money. And children may be caught up in this emotional mess too.
Unfortunately, most divorces usually land up becoming very messy and also very expensive. This is why some lawyers specialise in divorce because the costs are known to be extremely lucrative.
However, the main reasons for a messy divorce is often due to:
1) Property and/or financial issues.
2) A breakdown in the marriage relationship.
4) Issues with addiction.
5) Extended family involvement.
5) And if children are involved, in some cases this can cause a lot of friction and heartache for everyone involved.
And negligence and carelessness can add to these issues if:
5) Partners are not aware of their rights or indeed no rights in some cases, especially if a couple isn’t married.
6) Partner rights differ from country to country, yet few check this status, especially if one partner is from another country.
7) Partners haven’t consulted a lawyer in the beginning of a serious relationships or marriage – in order to make ensure that both partners are secure, in case anything untoward were to happen.
8) They are not aware of how money and property will have to be split in the eventuality of a divorce.
9) They also forget to update any changes that occur over the years, and this can create a lot of misery too.
And sadly, some divorce lawyers can make things even worse, that is, if you are both not extremely careful and aware. It is therefore always advised – to find a lawyer through a trusted referral system so that you can at least be guaranteed some level of satisfaction.
When mentoring is offered, this can also be a great help:
Mentoring is usually advised so as to help both parties come to a mutual agreement that suits everyone, especially if children are involved. This can help keep costs down and it can help both parties come to a mutual understanding and hopefully even a better footing in their relationship too – or indeed what is left of it.
But, as a relationship therapist, it is very sad that many couples leave a growing and obvious problem to fester, until it is usually becomes too late to repair. In most cases and by the time a couple wishes to divorce, it is often too late to start couple therapy. It is therefore far better to develop good negotiating and communication skills, as well as an understanding of each individual and their emotional make-up, early on in a relationship. Waiting until it looks like the end of a relationship – can sometimes prove too late.
Then the best one can hope for is a period of careful and considered mentoring, in order to help a couple find some kind of resolution whilst separating. And yes, in some cases, this can be enough for a couple to change their minds about getting divorced.
However, if a couple insist on divorcing – no matter what the circumstances are, this can often result in a grieving period that may be similar to the 5 stages of grief as written about by Elizabeth Kübler-Ross, the Swiss-American Psychiatrist.
This knowledge often comes as a surprise, because most think that grief only exists when a death is experienced. However any loss can trigger the 5 stages of grief. These are: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Often these stages are not always felt in that order. They can be felt in any order and sometimes all at once. And when a loss is experienced as a result of a divorce, it can last a few months or it can last years and even a lifetime.
Often the reasons for this is because:
- The loss of a partner may trigger memories of childhood losses.
- The loss of a partner may trigger confidence and self-worth issues.
- The loss of a partner may cut very deep, especially if a partner was thought of as a soul mate.
- However, some people feel the loss longer than others – especially if a previous loss has not been worked though sufficiently. Then a current loss can press earlier loss buttons, so that the past and the current loss may be felt as one – and therefore experienced far longer than might be expected.
- And in some cases, if there is no emotional support, no close friendships or family able to help, then divorce can be very hard to get through.
Feelings of loss can also trigger feelings of failure:
Divorce can bring up all sorts of emotional issues that may have sat dormant and that needs looking at, because often this can lead to self-punishment, self-criticism and a deep sense of unworthiness. This can also lead ultimately to depression.
Further consequences of a divorce:
But besides any feelings of loss and failure, depending on what was agreed during the divorce, some may land up struggling financially, they may have lost rights to their children and so on. This can result in a massive amount of resentment and anger as divorced partners battle to cope or as they battle to find themselves again. If a couple have been married for a long time they may find themselves feeling very lonely. Adjusting to being single as an older person can be very hard. And society doesn’t make this any easier.
It is therefore important to find a support group or indeed any group that may share your interests, so that you can meet new people. But again this is not always available because finances may be tight.
Divorce is therefore not easy and it can take a while to adjust to a new way of thinking and living.
Divorce can also have a dreadful impact on children.
Children may also grieve the loss of their parents as a couple, or indeed the loss of one parent either being available 24/7, or having to get used to only seeing a parent every other weekend.
They may even feel that the divorce was their fault. They may feel that they did something wrong and could have prevented it. Or they may even blame a parent for allowing the divorce to happen.
Children however, need a safe and a secure environment that stays the same. When this boat is rocked, children often have a very hard time accepting and adjusting emotionally to the reality of what not having two parents can suddenly actually mean. And they may have lost their favourite parent or the one they feel loves them more, and so on.
So when parents use their children against one another during and indeed even after a divorce, this can make things very difficult for all involved.
It is sometimes very hard for a parent not to bad-mouth the other, especially if they feel that it was their fault that the divorce occurred. But, this can have detrimental emotional effects on children and it may affect their relationships later on in life. They may also have trust and commitment issues too.
But no matter what the circumstances, it pays to remember that as a couple you chose to have children and that as a couple you have chosen to get divorced. This is not a choice children can make. They just have to survive the consequences of their parent’s decisions. In other words, they are innocent bystanders – so why make it any harder on them by discussing how awful the other parent might be or by expecting them to take sides? They still love the parent you may despise and presumably that parent still loves them too.
And this is what can make divorcing very difficult and very painful – the loss of the past, what could have been but is no longer.
This is why it is so important that couples see a therapist when things start looking desolate or when you begin to sense that something is wrong, as this may help save your marriage.
Do not wait. Take action – especially if children are involved.
I remember being told by someone in their eighties, how they regretted their divorce, which was almost forty years ago! It was their fault and yet they never recovered because it was only after the divorce that they realised just how much they had loved their partner. And sadly they never managed to find another, even though they still remained good looking and reasonably vibrant.
I was deeply moved by their frankness and I often tell this story as a warning to all of us, to look after what we have because once it is gone – it may never return.
But maybe for some, this is a blessing – but sadly few children ever think so.
This is why choosing the right person carefully minimises any risk later on in life. And learning how and why we choose our partners is another way of choosing more wisely.
And as Michelle Obama recently said, “ I know too many couples who struggle and think that there’s something wrong with them, but I want them to know that Barack and I who have a phenomenal marriage and who love each other – work on our marriage and we get help with our marriage when we need it”. Wisdom indeed.
So please take heed and find help if your marriage is for any reason a bit rocky. But if you still land up getting divorced, at least you will have learned more about yourself in the process. And this will only stand you in good stead. Fingers crossed.
© 2018 Deidré Wallace All rights reserved.
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