Loss and grief can be profound experiences in our lives. This is a tough topic to talk about. It means change. It can feel like it is choking you out or giving you the opportunity for freedom to expand, explore, and grow. It can start out on one end of that spectrum and land up at the other end and anything in between. Divorce is definitely one of those profound losses. It can cut to the very core of who you thought you were, what you believe and what you value. Nobody goes into a marriage with the intent to become unhappy and fail at a relationship and then seek a divorce. Amicable or not divorce is loss and a disillusionment of promises made. The future you thought was going to be is no longer viable. It can be terrifying to find yourself with no direction, nothing underneath you to set your feet upon…perhaps starting completely over without any resources or with limited resources which are being fought over. It forces you to do some hard self reflection. Or rather, it can provide you the opportunity for self reflection if you choose it. Perhaps the choice to end the relationship was yours which is still difficult but if the choice was not yours that process is more layered and that much more difficult. When children are involved it becomes a multilayered and complex maze to move through. I have seen the impact divorce has on the individual, the impact it has on the parents, the impact it has on the family- not just the nucleus of the family of mom, dad children but even beyond to extended family.
Elisabeth Kubler Ross was a psychologist and researcher who wrote a groundbreaking book “On Death and Dying” and first came up with 5 emotional “stages” of grief. Although her work is based on death, she said later that the process of grief -what you have to go through to get to the other side into healing or rebalance or in her words acceptance -is pretty much the same regardless of what or whom is lost. The stuff of “how do I do this?”-or how do I move through those stages- that’s where it becomes deeply personal. Loss is a universal experience – everyone experiences loss of some sort or other. But we process loss through grief (the how do I do this) from our own perspective and previous experiences. We go through many thought processes as we analyze it, grappling with its meaning or trying to find meaning so we can understand it or try to understand it (although not always). There are a variety of coping techniques and a variety of avoidance or denial techniques (which can also be considered a coping technique…but only if it is used as a short term means not a long term one). There are 100’s of books written on these strategies. I teach classes on loss and grief and we focus on it from the perspective of the process as a health seeking one. We focus on positive coping skills through the lens of a sense of mastery once through to the other side of acceptance.
So because loss is universal, everyone has to do grief – in some version of their own. (Some more successfully than others and some not really at all, thus the denial). Sure I can talk about grief and loss from a purely mental and information sharing perspective but what’s at the core of loss and grief is the emotions. How does it impact you emotionally and how do those emotions then impact you physically, mentally, and then spiritually? These are the deeper understandings we must become aware of, become attuned to. The process (the how do I do this?) is one where you have to go through it to get through it. And what I DO know for certain is this: NOBODY BUT NOBODY can tell you when your grieving should be done or over!!!! A dear friend of mine is coming out the other end of her grief process. She is well into acceptance. She had to deal with her husband of 15 years leaving her for the other woman. The ultimate betrayal. We had a conversation about people giving her unsolicited advice on moving on- namely starting to date. But she wasn’t ready. And that was the key. She remembered she was the captain of her own boat navigating the seas of her OWN grief over her OWN loss. In fact it’s you who gets to decide when and how you will move into strength and rebalance because that process itself is the healing. And because it’s on your time line if you have someone else’s expectations pushing you along it will not be supportive to you. So if someone else is telling you to hurry up already just politely (or not- it’s up to you) tell them that you’ve given yourself permission to move through this at your own pace. In reality they are just trying to tell you that they don’t feel comfortable with your grief. But this is your grief and you can do it how you need to as long as you come out the other end- better, stronger, and confident! Give yourself permission to grieve in whatever fashion suits you and only you!