5 April 2016
Divorce is a word that we see and hear everywhere. In our daily lives divorce attorneys solicit their services in commercials, billboards, print media and flyers. Television shows and films trivialize divorce as it's cloaked in steamy affairs, romanticized depictions of fragmented families and crimes of passion and revenge.
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But the word divorce means something entirely different to someone who is experiencing it in real time. Divorce can be correlated with another "D" word, disaster. Experts in the Mental health field say that the pain divorce creates rivals grieving the death of a loved one.
Despite the prevalence of divorce, Grief is an emotion and subject that no one talks about.
Four steps you can take to begin healing.
Whilst the legal side of divorce can follow a neat linear process, the emotional side and grief of a break up does not. Perhaps can you relate? Many describe their experience as a rollercoaster of emotions, with highs, lows and times where they feel their whole life has been turned upside down.
Despite the pain, many people suffering after the end of their marriage do not identify it as grief. One man said he never saw divorce coming. Whichever way the marriage ends, the pain in the final years, months and aftermath is intense and often unbearable.
Many report feeling fine one day or week, then one day something triggers them and they feel like they are back to square one. It is true that Grief can come in waves, we cannot control it and that scares some people, so they will do anything to avoid feeling it. But no matter how difficult, we need to experience the painful feelings in order to heal. If we avoid or try to medicate our feelings with other substances the pain can stay longer and limit our recovery.
Many struggle not knowing how to deal with these uncomfortable feelings. The problem is they end up trying to distract themselves with food, alcohol, medication, overworking, overspending or becoming obsessed with TV/ Social Media or exercise. These coping mechanisms don't work as long-term solutions or serve people.
Common symptoms of grief
If you are concerned about yourself or someone you care about. Here are some common symptoms of grief: low energy, loss of appetite or opposite cannot stop eating, emptiness, headaches, mood swings, extreme tiredness, changes in body temperature - either really cold or really hot. These symptoms are similar to depression and according to the grief recovery institute, people following a loss are often mislabeled and misdiagnosed as being depressed, when in actual fact they have unresolved grief. They argue as grief is a natural and normal reaction to loss of ANY kind, the treatment should be natural.
So what losses are associated with Marital Separation and Divorce?
Adults and children after a break up may experience:
•Loss of company and having the person around
•Loss of security
•Loss of trust (when the marriage broke down and during divorce)
•Loss of safety
•Loss of faith or belief in marriage and family values
•Loss of support (whether it was emotional, physical, financial, psychological)
•Loss of home, school / job change (if moving) familiar environment
•Loss of dreams, hopes and expectations of the future (this can often be harder to deal with than the physical losses)
So how can you begin to heal from these losses and the grief?
Step 1 - Make Your Needs a Priority
Following the aftermath of a break up and divorce you need to look after yourself and put your needs first. This involves ensuring you do not take on too much or do too much for others, eat well, sleep well and make time for rest and relaxation. The whole recovery process is harder to deal with if you are running on empty, or putting others before yourself. In order to be of any help to anyone else and to get through the legal and financial process of divorce, you need to be in the best state you can be.
Step 2 - Understand the Myths about Grief
As Grief is rarely talked about, there are a lot of myths and misconceptions about grief and how to deal with it. In order to begin to heal from grief you must first understand what these myths are. Like time heals, be strong, replace the loss.
Step 3 - Feel Your Emotions
Feel and acknowledge the painful feelings that come up. Cry if you need too, feel sad, angry if that is what comes up, let that be OK. Don't try to push them down or distract yourself. Instead sit in peace quietly and feel them. Be aware of what is behind any anger, anxiety, resentment, guilt. This is step is important, as we cannot deal with or move on from what we repress and do not feel.
Step 4 - Express Your Emotions
Not sure why or how expressing our true feelings and thoughts with another living being helps, but it does! This is what treatments for grief recovery, addiction recovery, psychiatry and therapy are all based on. They all highlight the importance of expressing and sharing thoughts and feelings with other people, groups and one to one. The key thing to remember here is to find someone you totally trust, someone who will listen wholeheartedly to you, without trying to fix you.
In times of separation and divorce, you may hear people say "you'll find someone else" "don't worry you'll be fine" "don't feel bad at least you know what they are like now" "bad things happen for a reason" comments like this don't help and can cause individuals to isolate themselves from others further. This is extremely sad, because separation and divorce is a time when people need care and love from others the most. Loneliness adds additional pain to this already difficult time. If you have no close friends or family you can talk too, consider talking to a coach or calling a help line.
Posted by Dr Leah at 05:12