Recently I have had a few clients come in who are having a tough time dealing with their divorce. Understandable, as everyone deals with stress differently and divorce can be extremely stressful. What these clients have said is that they did not realize how hard it(divorce) was going to be.
Divorce is the death of a marriage. Most of us enter marriage with the intent of it lasting for the rest of our lives. Unfortunately, not every marriage is successful. Almost half (depending on which survey you look at) end in divorce. People grieve in a divorce, similar to the way they do following the death of a spouse or other family member.
When talking about divorce grieving, we often use the 5 Stages of Grief: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance. Not everyone goes through these stages in the same way, some may dwell in one stage longer, some may skip a step, but everyone grieves. Even in the most horrible of marriages, parties feel the loss of the relationship.
Denial: I have had clients describe horrible situations where there is abuse, adultery, addiction and other negative behaviors going on in the home. But the parties are upset because their spouse wants a divorce. They do not. I have even had a few clients who ask if it is possible to force the other side to stay in the marriage. FYI, it’s not.
Anger: Anger often reveals it’s head in a spouse being irrational and acting out. They may break things; they may fight in Court for something that they really don’t want, but they don’t want the other side to get; they may keep the children from the other parent. Or a spouse may be angry with themselves for allowing the marriage to fail. When parties are in this stage, it is often difficult to come to a reasonable resolution in their divorce.
Bargaining: Not only do spouses bargain with each other of how they will do better: stop drinking, work less, work more, spend more time with the children, spend less time with their friends, whatever to try to “win” the other party back; but the spouse may also bargain with a higher power. Sometimes the higher power is the Judge. Sometimes it is their god. When this bargaining does not achieve the desired results, it is then they move on to the next stage.
Depression: This is the stage where some parties will just not be able to get out of bed. They avoid their friends, family (and sometimes their attorneys) and lock themselves at home. Ben & Jerry’s becomes their best friends. Sweats become their uniform. This stage is full of fear: fear of being alone, fear of being poor, fear of what will happen to them when the divorce is over. Fear is tough to overcome and can be irrational. However, once they overcome their fears, parties can move forward.
Acceptance: It takes time to get here. In this stage, parties start “moving on” with their lives. For some, this is the time when they can finally be civil to their ex. For others, it is at this stage that they decide to remove their ex completely from their lives. Everyone can reach this stage and it helps if they have a good support system. I suggest to my clients they utilize their family and friends, as well as mental health professionals to get this to this place.