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Why divorce grief messes with your mind

Updated: Jul 11, 2023

Society has it wrong...

When someone dies it’s understood that there is a period of grief for the those that are left behind. When a divorce happens, it’s the end of a relationship but it’s also the end of hopes, dreams, plans and for married dads, the end of a particular type of family life, from Christmases' to family beach holidays.

Divorce is commonly understood to be sad.

But just how devastating and confusing it can be for someone that is going through divorce and separation isn't always understood by co-workers or society. Something is profoundly lost, but there is no funeral.

My experience Having gone through divorce, I know there is a period of pain and sadness that can be overcome, but it’s a journey. Just like the stages of grief, it’s a journey to recovery. We have to go through these stages to move through in order to fully move on and settle in a new life. With kids as well, they also undertake some of this journey with us including some painful emotions.

I came across the idea of divorce grief. Like grieving a death, after going through divorce, we also grieve the loss of a relationship and the loss of family life. It can look like so many things. Grieving grocery shopping together, or visiting family together or family dinner parties. It can also be grieving specific roles or a healthy sex life.

Dealing with ambiguous loss Unlike grieving a death, we are grieving someone who still exists and is still around and it can be difficult seeing them move on or live a life without them. This is called ambiguous loss because they are both gone and not gone in a way that can be very confusing. Grief can affect us in different ways from sadness, depression, anger, hate. We might throw ourselves into work, or cry or tell ourselves we are never going to trust anyone again.

We have good days and bad days. On a good day, I embrace my new life and the freedom it affords me. On a bad day I struggle seeing those that haven't lost what I have.

One step forwards, two steps back

I read up on the psychology of grief and found that this process is called the Dual Process Model of Coping. This is the one step forward, two step backwards process of divorce grief. One of the things divorce taught me was to think about how I cope.

I need to consider how I cope with stress and loneliness. Things that help me are work, time with my family, a drink with my best friend and writing. Writing helps a lot. Through finding out what helps me to manage my pain, it’s easier to get back on track.

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