I once heard the story of a “friend” to a woman who had recently undergone a divorce: The woman was still experiencing bouts of depression and exhaustion, hampering the advancement of what the friend saw as the other woman’s social and professional life. Instead of compassion or understanding, she informed her that she had hit “a rough patch,” but that she thought the woman was merely playing the victim and should be making more progress. First, what presumption on the friend’s part to assume anyone should be further along on such an arduous path to healing. Second, what absolute ignorance this friend showed to the distinct cycle of grief the woman was experiencing.
Although the idea is gaining more acceptance, the taboo surrounding divorce severely limited those experiencing divorce the freedom to express themselves emotionally during the different stages of grief. I’ve discussed here, in this blog forum, the impact of divorce on health, finances, family, and social life. It’s obvious that the impact of divorce is just as traumatic as experiencing a death, and it follows, logically, that the cycle of grief applies to those who have gone through, or are going through, divorce. Otherwise, there isn’t much logic to apply to the turmoil of emotions felt after loss.
Grief cycles like this: shock, denial, anger, bargaining, guilt, depression, acceptance (and some hope). I don’t have an advanced degree in psychology, but anyone can see that this is a long list of feelings to process and orient your world to as the days and years progress after a divorce. It’s further complicated by family, work, living conditions, and economic shifts. Throw handling a child (or children) and their own needs after divorce into this mix, and the above statement by the friend of this woman in our story becomes almost offensive.
If you feel like your progress isn’t, uh, progressing, take a look at this list again. You can’t move quickly, or even in sequence, through these difficult feelings without time and support. Give yourself space to recognize the process and heal. Step back and look at your choices: are they destructive or progressive? Do you need a support group? Maybe counseling? A good self-help book and hot tea? Whatever you need, or wherever you are in the cycle of grief, honor it. Don’t rush your process. Seek out whatever support you need, and remember, it will get better; we’re here to help.