By: Cordelia Bloom
“Life becomes easier when you learn to accept an apology you never got.”
– Robert Brault
Before jumping right into the article, please enjoy this piece written by English poet John Dryden in the 17th century, titled Why Should a Foolish Marriage Vow:
Why should a foolish marriage vow,
Which long ago was made,
Oblige us to each other now
When passion is decay’d?
We loved, and we loved, as long as we could,
Till our love was loved out in us both:
But our marriage is dead, when the pleasure is fled:
‘Twas pleasure first made it an oath.
If I have pleasures for a friend,
And farther love in store,
What wrong has he whose joys did end,
And who could give no more?
‘Tis a madness that he should be jealous of me,
Or that I should bar him of another:
For all we can gain is to give ourselves pain,
When neither can hinder the other.
There are many perceptions regarding what the definition of a divorce is. For some it means heartache, for others it means freedom, and for all of those that fall in-between (the children) it means something either positive, negative, with plain indifference.
Merriam-Webster dictionary defines divorce as the action or an instance of legally dissolving a marriage; a separation, a severance; to end a marriage (n.d.). In other words, to get divorced is to disintegrate a marriage contract between two people.
There are countless reasons as to why people get separated; everyone has a different tale. For some, it could mean the start of a new beginning; for others, it could mean the ultimate failure in life. There’s also the perspective from the kids (if conceived)—to them, divorced parents could either be “the norm” or be a dreadfully painful experience, or the best day of their lives.
What does it mean to you? Where do you stand?
This article will mainly be directed to the divorced party.
Acceptance Is Part of the Process
According to Ana De La Cruz—a relationship expert, applied behavioral analysis, and family therapist—explains that grief during divorce is a reality that needs to be acknowledged more often (2023). There are typically five stages (in no particular order) of grieving a divorce:
- denial—the stage of denial might look like hope
- anger—a feeling that seems to have no end (toward the spouse seeking the divorce, toward themselves, toward the situations that led them there, and toward life itself)
- bargaining—when a person begins to think of everything that they can do to save the relationship (the negotiation stage)
- depression—feeling hopeless, lonely and overwhelmingly sad (if depression is interfering with other aspects of a life, it may be beneficial to talk to a mental health professional)
- acceptance—acknowledgement that the relationship is over and a new chapter lays ahead (which brings people closure and decide to move on)
Grief after divorce is very common, even if it is amicable or you are the person who has initiated the divorce: it is the end of an intimate dream, of what once was no more.
It’s important to be aware of what stage you (or a loved one, or maybe your parents) are in. For instance, repressed anger is detrimental toward all ability to heal and grow. If we’re able to identify a specific stage, then it can be accepted and allowed to take place or its course.
Going through a separation or divorce can be very difficult, no matter the reason for it. Mental Health America, a national nonprofit dedicated to the promotion and awareness of mental health, well-being, and illness prevention, recommends the following coping mechanisms (n.d.):
- Recognize that it’s normal (acceptable) to have multiple feelings.
- Grant permission to feel and to function at a less than optimal level for a period of time.
- Cultivate a strong support system by surrounding yourself with loved ones (as mentioned above).
- Think positively. Listen.
Another powerful tool to help move toward healing is to practice mourning rituals—which helps offer a sense of control over situations that feel out of control.
Also, focus on self-care by reconnecting and being good to yourself; seek interests, hobbies, new adventures, getaways, journaling, etc.
This information doesn’t only apply to the divorcee, but also to the children (who might have probably grown up already) involved—this is meant for everyone to grasp.
All healing is a process that happens through time as you continually improve in health. While you (for example) may be in a hurry to move on after the divorce, it’s important to give yourself the time to process.
Healing With Time and Space
There is no specific time-frame that can apply to anyone who gets divorced (or is stuck in the middle of it). This type of grief is a unique and vulnerable experience for each individual. It cannot be expressed enough that it’s absolutely crucial to be surrounded by supportive and reliable people. Separation and divorce are not something to be faced alone.
There is no timeline for recovery. No checklist. Just time. It could happen in increments if that’s more of your style. For example, you could determine a future you want by setting small goals—one day at a time. By prioritizing mental health, moving on (or forward) becomes a guaranteed pathway.
An influential and helpful tool to accelerate this process is to journal, as lightly touched on before. By putting our feelings on paper, we release a certain intensity. Journaling also clarifies thoughts and feelings. It could serve as a roadmap one could use to look back and reflect, but to also dream or picture a future.
By keeping a journal close, we’re able to compare what’s been lost and measure what’s been gained. A journal can be used as an index, an aid we can come back to whenever we need reassurance of how far we’ve come or if we need a safe space to unload.
There are many ways we could cope, but free writing and journaling have proven to be essential. If you’re curious to get started with this kind of therapy but don’t know where to start, feel free to utilize the following three (3) journal prompts to jump start your healing journey:
- Where do you see opportunities for improvement in your life?
- What are you learning about yourself?
- Be your own best friend and write a letter to yourself telling yourself precisely what you need to hear.
Keep in mind there are innumerable journal prompts out there! Whether you’ve journaled previously or not, the action of putting pen to paper is an extraordinarily beneficial way to improve quality of life.
If I were to start journaling today, I’d start with owning my feelings. I’d use this opportunity to journal with The Love Story and share what they are by naming them and allowing them to take their course. The Love Story is a place that welcomes everyone to write freely, while participating in workshops, where journal prompts are often used to inspire. Journal with The Love Story by clicking the link below.
Disclaimer: If you belong to either end of a divorce and are experiencing intense anxiety or depression or other mental health symptoms, or still dealing with divorce-related emotions a couple of years after the divorce is over, please seek support and help.
Buscho, A. G. (2022, August 16). The real long-term physical and mental health effects of divorce. Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/better-divorce/202208/the-real-long-term-physical-and-mental-health-effects-divorce
De la Cruz, A. & Fuller, K. (2023, January 30). The stages of grief in a divorce. Choosing Therapy. https://www.choosingtherapy.com/stages-of-grief-divorce/
Dryden, John. Why Should a Foolish Marriage Vow. 1678. https://poets.org/poem/why-should-foolish-marriage-vow#:~:text=Why%20should%20a%20foolish%20marriage%20vow%2C%20Which%20long%20ago%20was,first%20made%20it%20an%20oath.
Great Lakes Divorce Financial Solutions team. (n.d.) 30 journal prompts to help you through your divorce. Great Lakes Divorce Financial Solutions. https://www.greatlakesdfs.com/blog/divorce-journal-prompts
Merriam-Webster. (n.d.). Divorce. In Merriam-Webster.com dictionary. Retrieved August 5, 2023, from https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/divorce
MHA Team. (n.d.). Coping with separation and divorce. Mental Health America. https://mhanational.org/separation-and-divorce