Grieving the “Loss” of Divorce – By guest author, Jackie Black, Ph.D.
VACP is proud to feature this article from respected relationship expert, Dr. Jackie Black. Her advice about coping with grief after divorce is worth your serious attention.
Divorce is one of the biggest loss events in life.
There are three important things to remember:
1. Grief is the reaction to a loss event;
2. Grieving is the normal, natural, and necessary process that restores us to wholeness;
3. Grieving is a wholly feeling experience.
Grieving is as unique as your fingerprints.
No two people will react to the experience of divorce in the same way and no two people will grieve the same way.
The cognitive or thinking part of self is not the grieving part of self. Think of your personal energy as being 100%. In a perfect world, 50% of your personal energy is your outside-self and 50% of your personal energy is your inside-self.
The job of the outside-self is to think, assess, evaluate, make decisions, go to work, pay your bills, read the paper, plan for your future, remember to send your mother a birthday card; behaviors that occur outside of you.
The job of the inside-self is to feel your feelings, be creative, intuitive, inspired, insightful, spiritual, intimate, passionate, joyful, compassionate; experiences that occur inside you.
If you fall down and injure your leg, the blood supply leaves parts of your body and goes to the injured leg to help it heal. You will respect the injury, modify your physical activity, not stress or otherwise re-injure your injured leg, and allow it time to heal.
Similarly, it is correct to think about the injury to your emotions as an emotional rupture. Your normal, natural, and necessary emotional response to an emotional rupture includes shock, numbness, disbelief, anger, sheer terror, and many other feelings and physical body responses.
Much of the energy of your outside-self has been redirected inward, to the inside-self, much like the blood being directed away from some parts of the physical body and redirected to the injured part of the physical body.
Following a loss (in many cases simply recognizing that divorce is a serious option or a probable certainty), the ratio of outside to inside energy shifts to more like 10% outside-self energy and 90% inside-self energy. A lot of the energy of the outside-self has been sent to support the emotional rupture of the inside-self.
You are likely asking yourself questions and exploring your understanding of the meaning of your life, the nature of the Universe, and your place it. It is powerful work for the inside-self. It is essential work for the inside-self. Nothing much will get done in the world of the outside-self unless and until you consciously and with deliberate intention and attention, attend to the work of the inside-self.
So, logically that means that thinking, making decisions, going to work, paying your bills, and many of the other daily tasks of the outside-self (moving on, getting back to normal) won’t get done anytime soon. There simply isn’t enough outside-self energy at this moment.
It also means you may be feeling fatigued, lack motivation, focus, and concentration…all activities of the outside-self.
If you understand more accurately how you are being affected by the prospect or the reality of divorce, you will have more options related to your response to all the stressors and the normal, natural and necessary feelings; and hopefully stop having unrealistic expectations of yourself.
A lot of your energy has been redirected from your outside-self to your inside-self to help heal the emotional rupture and allow your heart time to heal.
Remember, grieving is a wholly feeling experience. The five normal, natural, and necessary feeling states of grieving are anger, sadness, anxiety, depression, and guilt. Each one of these feeling states is highly functional! Don’t wish them away or try to shift out of them.
These feelings are felt in waves and pangs, at different intensities and at different times; sometimes one feeling at a time or in various combinations or all at the same time.
People who are grieving often sleep too much or not enough, or eat too much or not enough. They become forgetful, loose things, get lost, and can become generally disoriented or overwhelmed. Don’t be alarmed by any of these experiences. They are all very normal and natural, and believe it or not, necessary!
Grieving is a time in your life when your motivation and concentration may be diminished, your memory might not be as sharp as it once was and will be again, and inspiration, creativity, and intuition may be less than usual. This is to be expected and is nothing to become worried about.
Don’t expect that you will return to “business as usual,” “move on,” “get back to normal,” without sufficient time to walk the path of grieving; to give yourself time to restore your sense of safety, regain your sense of balance inside and outside, and reorganize your thinking and coping strategies.
This can be a very difficult time in your life. Be gentle with yourself and recognize that you may experience yourself and the world in very new and unpredictable ways. Grieving is a transformational experience that will bring much change to your life.
Trust what you know, deep in the place where you know it. Honor your courage and respect the tenderness of your heart and your soul. Tell the truth about your limitations and your vulnerability. They are your strengths! You are not weak.
Don’t let anyone tell you that you are. There is nothing wrong with you. Quite the contrary. You are the exquisite reflection of your humanness!! Your reactions are completely normal, natural, and necessary.
The thing that is wrong (even if you know it is right on many levels for many good reasons and even if you chose this divorce) is that your hopes and dreams have been shattered; your understanding of your future has been altered forever; and you are no doubt trying to make sense of profound disappointment and disillusionment associated with the end of your marriage!
Life presents us with repeated opportunities to heal and change the anguish of loss to wisdom and creative living. Trust yourself and the process.
Take very good care of you. You deserve it!
Remember, only YOU can make it happen!
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Jackie Black, Ph.D., is an internationally recognized relationship expert, educator, author and coach who serves men and women who are Relationship-minded Singles, Pre-married, Newly-married, New Parents, Long-time married, Divorced or Divorcing; people who are living with or love someone living with Life-threatening and Chronic Illness and those whose partners have died. She is an Internet syndicated columnist, regularly cited in major magazines, a frequent guest expert on radio stations throughout the world and on Internet radio; and veteran lecturer and educator.
Rosalind Sedacca, CDC is the founder of the Child-Centered Divorce Network, a Divorce & Co-Parenting Coach and author of the acclaimed e-book, How Do I Tell the Kids About the Divorce? A Create-a-Storybook Guide to Preparing Your Children — With Love! To get her advice, coaching services, expert interviews, programs, e-courses and other valuable resources on divorce and co-parenting, visit this website.