How to Work Through the Pain of Divorce

When you get married, you don't want to believe that your marriage could be part of the 50% that don't make it for whatever reason. (Topping the list of the reasons people get divorced is financial issues, poor communication and infidelity. On that same list: alcohol abuse, domestic violence, sexual problems, incompatibility and basic unhappiness). If your issues are dealt with soon enough, there may be hope for the marriage, but sadly that doesn't always happen. It's a very alarming moment when you realiz that your marriage is going to fail.

 Grieving is pain with a purpose. 

Grieving is pain with a purpose. 

Divorce may solve one problem, but it brings with it a new set of challenges, especially when there are children involved. When divorce occurs, it brings with it many levels of emotions which is normal. We can expect to feel anger, bitterness, betrayal, shame, embarrassment, loneliness, abandonment, fear and confusion. It is important to own these feelings and work through them.


Understanding the Pain of Divorce

Divorce can be compared to a death. It is important to acknowledge the reality that the marital relationship has died. The way to deal with this emotional stage is to go through the grief process, which is the same process of bereavement used for an actual death. There are five stages to work through, however, they are not necessarily felt in the order listed.

Denial   

Often the actual problems in the marriage have been denied and ownership has not been taken. It is easier to deny or overlook the real issues.

Anger

This response is important as it signals the fact that the person who has been divorced has accepted the reality and significance of what has happened. Confronting the reality of divorce is a painful experience but is essential if we are going to move forward with life and let go of the past.

Bargaining

We don’t bargain only with our spouses, we also bargain with God. We might say to ourselves, "I tell God if he will help me through this, I will dedicate my life and my marriage to him." This is a natural part of dealing with a crisis. We're trying to gain some control in an out-of-control situation.

Depression

What happens when we finally realize we can’t bargain our way back to the blissful marriage we once had?  Some go back to denial or anger, but many move on to depression.  They hit rock bottom. As painful as depression is, it is a very important stage of grief.  We can’t heal if we don’t feel.

Acceptance

It’s easier said than done. Grieving is pain with a purpose.  The purpose is healing and strength. When we can finally take the responsibility for our healing and make positive health choices, we are on our way to accepting the divorce. We realize we never wanted to be in this situation but are ready to move in a positive direction and make the most of our life as a divorced person.

It takes time.

No two people will grieve exactly the same way. The key to recovery is in making wise decisions now about how we are going to live and what we are going to believe about ourselves.

Kathy Foust runs Lighthouse Counseling Services in Findley, Ohio.