Monday, June 17, 2013

When Will I Ever Heal From My Divorce?

Question: Will this pain ever get better to the place I can move on in my life?

Answer: This is a far too common question for people who have experienced or are going through a divorce. Divorce is devastating.  It not only greatly affects the people directly involved in the divorce; it affects your children and other significant relationships in your life. It hurts. Your life will not be the same after you have experienced a divorce. However, in the midst of pain, there is hope, hope of restoration after the destruction. 

In Psalm 46:1-3, it states, “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.”

We live in a society of quick fixes. We don’t want to sit in a place of pain and discomfort for long. However, recovery from anything is a process. Everyone has a different time table of recovery that is unique to them and to their situation. There are many variables to consider when you begin the process of recovering from a divorce. Some include the length of the marriage, children from the marriage, how loving the marriage was, how connected the couple was in the marriage prior to it ending and if the divorce was a surprise to the person. The variables mentioned, as well as others, play a part in the recovery process and time table involved in healing.

Loss is inevitable and difficult when divorce takes place. Some have indicated it is like someone has died. Recovery from a death has some finality.  However, a person experiencing divorce has to bring about closure while the one leaving is still alive and well. Some of the feelings and symptoms of loss through divorce include fear, anxiety, depression, loneliness, anger, and hopelessness. Those going through divorce, in spite of their circumstances being different, feel the same pain and need the same healing (Birdseye, 2013).

Dr Elisabeth Kubler-Ross developed the 5 stages of Grief. Through the years, her “grief cycle” has been seen as a “change model” for any person who is dealing with any type of trauma in their life, not just death and dying (Kessler, 2013).  These stages are: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. 
In divorce recovery, you will go through the 5 stages shown above. I would like to walk you through the stages in application to divorce. Keep in mind that the stages you go through are not necessarily in the order you will go through them. You will go in and out of these stages based on the feelings you are experiencing.

Denial is the first stage. Denial helps you to survive the loss. In this stage, the denial helps us deal with our feelings, allowing them to come at a pace that is easier to manage. As you begin to come to terms with the reality of the loss (divorce), you start the healing process not even knowing you have started.

Anger is the second stage. It is an important and much needed stage to facilitate healing. Be willing to embrace your anger and realize the other feelings underneath the anger. It is painful but anger is our power emotion and helps take care of us and aides in making decisions needed to move through the pain to a further place of healing.

Bargaining is the third stage. It is important to healing too. This is the stage where you will try to do anything to change the outcome. You want to go back to the way things were before this happened. You will do anything to try to stop the pain. Bargaining is the process of coming to a place where the realization of the loss is closer than it has been in your recovery.

Bargaining leads us to the next stage, which is Depression. The realization of the loss (divorce) is ever present before you. You feel empty and lost. This stage takes you to a deeper level of grief. This can be a lengthy stage and can sometimes lead the person to seek professional help from a counselor or assistance with medications if significant physical symptoms occur and worsen. Contact your physician for medication assessment if you feel there is a need. The important thing to remember is that Depression is a normal response to trauma and loss in a person’s life. You can move through this stage as you do the other stages, just allow yourself the time needed to do so.

Acceptance is the last stage. This stage allows you to come to terms with the reality of your present circumstances. It is the process of healing that allows you to move forward and begin to live life again. It is an accepting of our new normal. Enjoyment of life can enter in at this stage. It is learning to live life again after divorce.

Divorce recovery is possible. The pain does get better. It is necessary to allow time for the healing to take place.  If you or someone you know is experiencing loss associated with divorce, reach out and be available to listen or ask for help. Seek out people in your life who are supportive and encouraging. Be aware of the local support groups in your community and churches that assist with divorce recovery.  You don’t have to go through this journey of healing alone.

In Jeremiah 29:11, it says, For I know the plans I have for you”, declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

 *This column is not intended to substitute for an actual session with a licensed counselor.
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