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7 Reasons Divorce Feels Like a Death

Family dysfunction is emotionally crippling. Acceptance and coping are the first steps to reclaiming your happiness and life balance.

Divorce is one of life's most unexpected and painful experiences one may ever face. It was an unprepared and unforeseen concept. While I have lived a happy and adventurous life since starting over, there's also the raw fact my choices made others unhappy—and I still grieved the loss.

Divorce often carries the same feeling as when a close friend or a loved one dies. Even if you wanted the divorce, it's still a loss to grieve. I've experienced this, having gone through a marriage dissolution in 2013 and subsequent marriage to someone new. Just because I moved forward doesn't mean it wasn't a loss. This list represents my personal experience.

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1. You'll Mourn Even Though You May Have Wanted the Divorce

During the process of divorce or dissolution of marriage, some crucial comforts and familiarities become lost:

  • identity
  • image
  • routines
  • relationships
  • in-laws
  • shared friends
  • financial stability
  • your home and its comforts

The future you envisioned and strived for has ended. It's normal and healthy to go through divorce stages as you would with any loss. It's indeed a death—a death of everything you've lived and known for a very long time.

2. Your Ex-Spouse May Still Be a Part of Your Life if You Have Children

You'll need to learn how to co-parent healthily. You are responsible for raising your children with their best interests at heart. Children of divorce can still be happy and grounded if things stay amicable between parents and out of the line of fire.

The same holds for adult children. With future graduations, weddings, births of grandchildren, and other events, you'll want to both be involved. You needn't feel uncomfortable attending such events. You created these children together, and you should cohesively partake in 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. They may not acknowledge things you're excited about, and they may not call because they're thinking about you, and they may not even respond when you contact them. It'll take time for them to come around and, in some cases, a very long time or maybe never. Until then, understand your relationship may be one-sided.

Don't push. Be patient, loving, and willing to live in a one-sided world for a while. You'll feel this is your punishment, and maybe it is. But there's 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, may shift their loyalty. You'll learn who your real friends are and it'll surprise you. Some will pick sides while others choose to stay friends with both of you. You'll receive fewer Christmas cards and invitations to social events, and it'll l 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 with whom you've genuine connections, who stuck by you with a listening ear and an open mind. You'll find comfort in this, and your friendships will mean much more. Trust me on this one.

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4. Anger Will Raise Its Ugly Head

No matter 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. 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. And part of loss and mourning is anger. You must deal with all the stages for your well-being 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.

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5. People Will Talk and Take Sides

Nobody knows what goes on in a marriage except the couple, and no one else needs to 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.

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6. Your Memories Will Be With You Forever

Whether you'd been 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 the right way. I'm the same mother, nurse, and friend, but I am different within myself, the way I view life, people, and situations. I've changed in ways that have contributed to my growth, not my demise.

Everything I experienced in my marriage, both good and bad, made me who I am today. Having and raising my kids was my most significant accomplishment during that time, and I wouldn't change that for anything. It's a part of my life I live without regrets because of my four beautiful and talented children.

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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 most challenging part. Be patient and ready to forgive. Eventually, your children will miss your company and any family bond you 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 to the fullest. I can't dwell on what I don't have and know I've done my best.

I can't tell you how many people have said this to me over the years--friends with similar experiences, therapists, and even strangers. People can be influential, particularly your parents or other family members, so don't let them cause you to feel regret or remorse. You're only responsible for your feelings and reactions, not theirs.

Holidays and monumental family events are the hardest. It would help if you made new traditions, whether with your new spouse, friends, or neighbors. I remain hopeful that one-day, hearts will soften, and acceptance will happen.

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“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 involves 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 decide to release something or someone that is stifling your happiness and growth, and a person dares 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 a 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

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2018 Debra Roberts

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