7 Reasons Divorce Feels Like a Death
Divorce can be compared to how it feels when a close friend or a loved one dies. Even if you wanted the divorce, you'll still grieve many different levels. I have experienced this personally, having gone through a marriage dissolution in 2013 and subsequent marriage to someone new. This list represents my personal experiences and how I worked to accept, understand, or overcome each one.
1. You'll Mourn Even If You Didn't Intend To
During the process of divorce or dissolution of marriage, some key comforts and familiarities are lost:
- shared friends
- financial stability
- your home and comforts
The future you envisioned and strived for has ended. It's normal and even healthy to go through the stages of divorce as you would with any other loss. It's indeed, a death—a death of everything you have lived and known for a very long time.
2. Your Ex May Still Be A Part Of Your Life if You Have Children
You'll need to learn how to co-parent in a healthy way. You have a responsibility to raise your children with their best interests at heart. Children of divorce can still be happy and grounded if things stay amicable between parents and they are kept out of the line of fire.
The same holds true for adult children. There will be graduations, weddings, the birth of grandchildren; many events both of you will need and want to be involved in. No one should have to feel uncomfortable attending such events. You created these children together and you should be able to enjoy and partake in all their accomplishments.
Remember, your children looked up to and respected you and were accustomed to your constant presence in their lives and being at their beck and call. It'll take time for them to come around and in some cases, a very long time or maybe even never. Until then, understand your relationship may be one-sided. They may not acknowledge things you are excited about, they may not call because they are thinking about you and they may not even respond when you contact them.
Don’t push. Be patient, loving and willing to live in a one-sided world for a while--a long while. You'll feel this is your punishment, and maybe it is. But there is nothing more comforting than the unconditional love and acceptance of a parent and they'll appreciate you didn’t give up on them when they were angry and expressing it.
3. Your Social Life Will Change
Mutual friends; even acquaintances, will shift their loyalty. You'll learn who your true friends are and it will surprise you. Some will pick sides while others will choose to stay friends with both of you. You'll receive less Christmas cards and invitations to social events and it will hurt like hell. This shift in friendships can quickly change your priorities from being the perfect hostess and going to endless social gatherings, to having a low-key social life with those whom you have genuine connections, who stuck by you with a listening ear and an open mind. You'll quickly find comfort in this and your friendships will mean so much more. Trust me on this one.
4. Anger Will Raise Its Ugly Head
No matter what the circumstances, there will be anger, resentment, and blame. In the aftermath of divorce, there will be thoughts and even words about loyalty, wasted time, how good the other person thought they were/are, and my favorite, “you’ve changed, you’re not the person I married”. Of course, you’re not. And you shouldn’t be. Changing means you’ve grown and there’s nothing wrong with that.
Again, divorce is a loss. It doesn’t matter if you’re happy or relieved about that loss. Loss is loss. And part of loss and mourning is anger. For your own well-being, you must deal with all the stages and move from anger into acceptance. It may not happen overnight, but at some point, you'll be able to let it go and move on.
5. People Will Talk and Take Sides
Nobody knows what goes on in a marriage except the couple and no one else need get involved because no other opinions matter. A friend once said “there are three sides to every story…his [hers], mine, and ours”. How true that is and people need to respect that.
Gossip can take a toll on you and it takes self-awareness and confidence to ignore the accusations and judgments and accept the reality only you know. You were two people who did the best you could; that’s what you can say and leave it at that. Where other people are concerned, let the chatter be background noise; because that’s all it is.
6. Your Memories Will Be With You Forever
Whether you were married for three years or 30, you spent a significant amount of time together and made a lot of memories with your ex, your children, your families, and your friends. Choose to look at those memories as priceless experiences.
I see my years with my ex as a time of learning, family celebrations, milestones, and changes. They're a part of who I am. I'm not the same woman I once was but in a good way. I'm the same mother, nurse, and friend, but where I am different is within myself; the way I view life, people, and situations. I've changed in ways that have contributed to my growth, not my demise.
I still have a long way to go, but I'm improving who I am every day. Everything I experienced in my marriage, both good and bad, are what made me who I am today; both in what I have changed and what has remained the same. It's a part of my life I live without regrets because of my four beautiful and talented children that came from it. Having and raising my kids was my biggest accomplishment during that time and I wouldn't change that for anything.
7. Family May Not Understand or Be Supportive
They may judge, blame, point fingers, and talk badly about you to your children, other family members, or their circle of friends. It'll be humiliating at best, but try to understand they too are mourning the loss of the family unit as they have known it. Hopefully, with time, listening and understanding, they'll come to understand and respect your decisions.
They may even be unaccepting or intolerant of a new relationship. That'll be the toughest part. Be patient and ready to forgive them. Eventually, they'll miss your company and any family bond you once had. Unfortunately, this can take years; in my case, it's taking many years with little hope of reconciliation--not for my lack of trying. I remain hopeful and focus on living my life it to the fullest. I can't dwell on what I don't have and know I've done my best.
People can be powerful, particularly your own parents or other family members, so don't let them cause you to feel regret or remorse. You're only responsible for your own feelings and reactions; not theirs. I can't tell you how many people have said this to me over the years…friends with similar experiences, therapists, and even strangers.
Holidays and monumental family events are the hardest. You must make new traditions; whether that be with your new spouse, friends or neighbors. I remain hopeful that one day hearts will soften and acceptance will happen.
“There is a big difference between giving up and letting go. Giving up means selling yourself short. It means allowing fear and struggle to limit your opportunities and keep you stuck. Letting go means freeing yourself from something that is no longer serving you. It means removing toxic people and belief systems from your life so that you can make room for relationships and ideas that are conducive to your well-being and happiness. Giving up reduces your life. Letting go expands it. Giving up is imprisoning. Letting go is liberation. Giving up is self-defeat. Letting go is self-care.
So the next time you make the decision to release something or someone that is stifling your happiness and growth, and a person has the audacity to accuse you of giving up or being weak, remind yourself of the difference. Remind yourself that you don’t need anyone’s permission or approval to live your life in the way that feels right. No one has the authority to tell you who to be or how to live. No one gets to decide what your life should look like or who should be a part of it. No one, but you.”
— Daniell Koepke
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© 2018 Debra Roberts