Recently I went through a divorce. Recently my life changed. Recently my children’s lives changed.
Change. Change is good. It can be cleansing and affirming. Change can also be disturbing and stressful.
I was looking at my divorce as a change. A change in status, economic feasibility, and responsibilities.
I failed to look at divorce as a loss.
A loss of a partner, a friend, a hope, a future, an identity.
It is now after the end of my marriage and viewing my divorce as a change that I was surprised by my feelings of grief, anger, jealousy, betrayal, loss and a profound emptiness.
Where are these feelings coming from? What would people think if I show this jealousy that is creeping up on me? Who am I now? Where is this anger coming from? Why do I feel so disconnected yet so intricately connected to the person that is no longer in my life? How do I get over this now?
You see, I was the one that ended it. I ended my marriage after years of feeling shame, oppressed and stagnant. Of course, I am minimizing the details at this point, because I am still processing my thoughts amidst a whirlwind of questions my brain insists on badgering me with.
To have these questions surface after the decision had been made, households divided, lives reformed, was truly confusing for me.
Self-doubt kicked in. Did I make the right decision? What was I thinking when I made the decision? When did I make that decision? Was it today, a year ago or a few years ago?
You see my confusion? After leaving I was no longer confident in my decision. What was I missing?
This was just another change in my life. Why do I feel so despondent? What was I missing? I was missing the grieving process. I was not looking at the divorce as a loss. I was looking at it as a change in my life.
As we process change in our lives we adapt. We decide if it is a good or bad change. We look at the possibilities it may bring. We even weigh the stress it is causing against the potential. We are conditioned to expect change. Change we can handle. Change we expect.
Loss is not change. It is so much more than a change in life! It brings with it so many feelings and questions.
It is no wonder that feelings and questions assaulted me. I questioned every small detail and obsessed over every past word, action, behavior and events.
At this point, I was not obsessing over the bad. All I can see and feel, were the good times be it few or many, that occurred during our years of marriage.
Where were those good thoughts when I was unconsciously or consciously making the decision to walk
away from my marriage?
I have since quieted my mind and heart. I started understanding that my divorce was a loss. AND it wasn’t just MY loss. It was a loss for the kids, my spouse and me.
Understanding this loss was the beginning of letting go and truly living. Understanding this loss was the beginning of helping my family, whichever shape it has now taken, to heal.
It is only when we have experienced true loss that we begin to know how to heal.
You see, when we experience loss, we begin the process of grieving.
“Grief is the natural reaction to loss. Grief is both a universal and a personal experience. Individual experiences of grief vary and are influenced by the nature of the loss.” (© 1998-2019 Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research (MFMER).
My who, what, where, when, why and how, were now replaced by feelings that I could identify and begin to categorize. It took awhile for me to understand that the divorce was a loss that I would have to grieve.
The divorce was no longer something that happened to me or that I made happen. Gone was the need to blame someone. Gone was the need to cover up my feelings of guilt and shame. Gone was the imposed belief that I had somehow failed.
My now is that I can begin to heal. My now is that I can pay attention to the feelings that accompany the stages of my grief caused by this loss.
There are five stages of grief identified by the Kübler-Ross model - Denial; Anger; Bargaining; Depression; Acceptance. http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/separation-and-divorce.
This article adds Shock or Disbelief and Guilt, which encompasses the “other” feelings that have surfaced during and after the divorce. https://www.divorcepeacenegotiators.com/resources/useful-articles/grieving-divorce/
We may be familiar with the stages of grief be it by experiencing it in another part of our lives, discussions or studies. I was certainly familiar but didn't stop to process it through my divorce until now.
What stage am I in? That I cannot answer as I go from one stage to another and then back again. Every time I go back into a previous stage of grief over the loss of my marriage, of what it should have been or what it could have been, it gets a little easier.
I may visit each stage more than once in a day or stay in it for a week or more. I have come to recognize this process as my own. You see, everyone goes through the stages of grief at their own pace and it may last months or years. It is a process that affects individuals individually.
My best advice is to always seek a health care professional if you think your grieving process is not normal.
My healing is far from started and far from over however……
“My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style”
~ Maya Angelou
“Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.” ― Rumi