This is the second in series of posts on dealing with grief during divorce or legal separation and taking steps to move on emotionally. This material is adapted the award-winning book by Ed Sherman, “Make any Divorce Better.” Ed Sherman is one of the founders of Divorce Helpline. His dedication to providing compassionate and cost-effective personalized legal support to those facing divorce resulted in the unique service model that distinguishes Divorce Helpline from other California divorce attorneys and divorce document services.
In Part One of this series, we examined the stages of recovery as you move through grief during the divorce process. In this section, we’ll look at some of the major emotional components of the divorce cycle. These are the feelings you are undoubtedly going to experience during your divorce. Understanding that these feelings are normal and having tools to cope with them can make the experience more manageable and less overwhelming.
Pain: You have to recognize that pain is not only natural; it can be a helper and a good adviser. In the beginning, pain may only mean that you have been injured and are healing, as if you had broken your leg or suffered a serious wound. But at other times it can be a message that something is wrong, that you have to pay attention to something you have been ignoring.
The intensity of pain during divorce can be frightening, but you mustn’t run from it or try to block it out or avoid it. Instead, embrace it; let it happen. The pain is in your heart space and that is where the real “you” lives, so it is calling you home to your center and to your real self. Endure your suffering, accept your pain and listen to it. If you do, it will run its course and heal more quickly; it will lead you to your solutions; it will provide the energy for your changes and growth; it will make you stronger.
Fear: The major challenge in any divorce is to deal constructively with your fear. Fear of pain, fear of hurt, fear of the future, fear of your ability to take care of yourself and your children, fear of losing self-respect, fear of fear. There is a basic bewilderment of life when so much is happening that you feel you can’t possibly cope; you just don’t know what to do or how to live. Fear is the root source of anger. Anger is the flip side of fear. Anger turned inward is depression.
Anger: Learning how to use anger constructively is one of the most important lessons to be gained from your divorce. Anger is a potent source of energy and a very useful emotion if you know how to use it. Anger helps get you through the first and most painful stages of divorce by providing an outlet for inexpressible emotions. It helps break the bonds of affection and attachment.
For people who have never shown it, learning how to get angry is a huge step forward. Anger will help you to stop being dependent, stop being a victim. Anger and action are far better than making a career of being depressed and downtrodden. It is possible to be angry and constructive at the same time.
On the other hand, some people become addicted to anger and they misuse it badly. Anger soon becomes self-defeating and self-destructive; the cause of bad mistakes in judgment that will work against your own interests. Anger can drag you into an uncontrolled battle.
The attraction of anger is that it is cheap and easy — easier than actually solving your real problems, easier than taking responsibility for your life. And it is reliable; always there; you can count on it. For just a moment, it can give you a false sense of power and control; it lets off steam. But anger is a solution that solves nothing. It only distracts you from having to face your own pain, fear or guilt. If you abuse anger and become a habitual user, it will poison your life and turn you into an unhealthy, lonely, bitter person. You can count on it.
Hurt: It is a painful and terrible thing to be hurt by someone you depend on, someone you love and trust. In the early stages of divorce, you may need to heal from hurt that you have experienced, but you do not need to continue allowing yourself to be hurt. Someone can hurt you only if you give them the power to do so. Hurt then becomes something you do to yourself, something you permit to happen. Staying hurt long after the divorce is over keeps you stuck on your needs and weaknesses; it reinforces your picture of yourself as a victim.
The next post in this series offers rules of the road for getting through tough times, including divorce and legal separation.