I’d not put much thought into the emotional pain that divorce causes until I went through my own divorce. Divorce was just something that happened to people, just another turn of events. I had this misguided belief that a couple sat down and came to a mutual agreement to divorce, and moved on from there.
Then came my own divorce, intense emotional pain and years of healing for everyone touched by the situation. There is nothing like personal experience to change your perspective!
I recently had a conversation with a woman who was beating herself up because she “couldn’t move on.” She had been divorced for two months and thought that once the divorce was final she would feel a since of relief. Instead she felt fear, anxiety and loss.
Regardless of whether you are the one who wanted a divorce or, the one who was left behind, there is emotional pain and healing to be expected. Perhaps if we look at where the feelings of sadness and negative emotions come from it will be easier to understand why the healing process can take longer than expected for some who divorce.
Where Does The Pain of Divorce Come From?
- You’ve lost someone you once loved or maybe still love. There is a grieving process much like one would experience if they lost a loved one to death. It isn’t unusual to blame yourself for the end of the marriage or, blame your ex spouse.
For those who didn’t want a divorce there will be periods of anger at everything and everyone. You may withdraw from friends and support and isolate yourself in an attempt for self-protection. Your ex is someone you were once intimately attached to; give yourself time to adjust to that loss.
- You’ve lost dreams for the future. In a marriage we live in the present and the future. There are constant thoughts of where we, as a couple will be 5, 10 or 20 years down the road. With divorce any future the two of you had planned is gone; you have to start from scratch and learn to build a future for one after a divorce.
It is easy for newly divorced individuals to get stuck in the present or the past, ruminating over what went wrong and how they are feeling, “right now” instead of looking forward. Is it any wonder that some find it hard to get past the pain of having to let go of the future and start over again?
- You’ve lost an intact family. If we have children we all work hard at having the “perfect” family. A lot of time and emotional energy goes into maintaining a great intact family. A lot of emotional pain goes into letting go of the idea that we didn’t have a “perfect” family.
When a family falls apart we are made more aware of the work and energy that will go into building a new and different family with a new partner. We have to not only take into consideration or own pain and fears we have to focus on doing what is in the best interest of our children who’ve suffered the greatest loss of all.
- You feel as if you have failed. Most of us don’t live with constant denial and are able to take responsibility for the role we played in the demise of our marriage. Admitting to ourselves that we made mistakes can leave us feeling vulnerable and riddled with guilt.
Even as common place as divorce is in today’s society there is still a certain amount of shame and embarrassment attached to the idea that we were not able to keep our marriage together. Facing others in our social circle, church or family can bring up negative emotions that also take time to heal. It is a matter of adjusting, going from being part of a couple to single again after a divorce. And, that being OK within and without.
The above is a short list. It, by no means covers all the bases. Pain is relative and each divorce situation in unique. You will suffer losses that are exclusive to your marriage and your recovery. The secret to recovering and moving on after divorce is to become self-aware and honest with yourself.
Divorce may mean freedom but with that freedom comes loss, and there must be a willingness to take the necessary time to heal.