Writer Nora Ephron once said, “marriages come and go, but divorce is forever.” It’s true that, while a marriage might not last, the emotional damage resulting from a divorce can feel endless. This is a reality that’s become increasingly prevalent for Americans; just about 50% of all marriages end in divorce, and in California it’s a staggering 75%. That means that three out of four marriages in California end in divorce.
If you are part of this majority, it is absolutely necessary for your well-being that you learn how to cope with a divorce. It can be especially hard when your ex continues to be a figure in your life after the divorce, socially or as a co-parent. Though everyone experiences grief in different ways, there are a few stages of grief that are widely accepted as universal. Recognizing and processing these stages is essential to your mental and emotional healing post-divorce.
One of the first stages of grief is mourning. Mourning can manifest itself in many ways, like anger, sadness, or bitterness. It’s important to allow yourself to process these feelings. A divorce marks a huge change in one of the biggest elements in your life, and mourning that change is an integral part of coping. While mourning, be sure to confide in friends, family, or a counselor about your feelings. You may find yourself feeling angry or vengeful towards your spouse, and that’s normal too. In fact, you may find that your spouse is dealing with these strong emotions too. Try to be sympathetic and receptive. You and your spouse might want to take the time to reassure your children that the tension between you two is a normal part of coping, and that it is in no way directed towards them.
After you’ve taken your time mourning, you may experience a stage called dependency. Though you have processed your feelings during the mourning stage, it’s common to still require and crave support. If you and your spouse have children together, this stage is especially prevalent. You probably need a lot of assistance from your spouse raising the kids, and support financially or emotionally. This stage could last a while, or be a to shorter depending on how long you and your spouse were together. It’s perfectly fine to need your spouses support. After having your lives to intertwined, it’s not expected for you two to immediately cut ties as soon as you are separated. Try to recognize though, when you feel as if this dependency is limiting your growth. If you feel like you are relying on your spouse too much, seek out a new support group from friends, family, or a therapist. And if at any time, you feel uncomfortable with how much your spouse depends on you, be sure to communicate your feelings with them clearly.
The next stage is a positive one; building your identity. After such a huge part of your life has changed, you may feel as if you have lost your bearings in who you are or what you want. Take the time to find yourself again as a newly single person. It may seem overwhelming at first to stop functioning as part of a unit, but once you start making new friends, exploring hobbies, or even dating again, the divorce may seem a lot farther in the past. After this stage, you are ready for integration. This final stage comes when you feel comfortable in your new life as a single person. You don’t have negative feelings towards your spouse any more, and collaborating with them as a parent won’t be as stressful. It may take a while to reach this final stage, but once you do, you will remember why divorce was the right choice for you in the first