Stopping the Pain of the Divorce

Even for the person who stated the divorce, there is a lot of pain involved in completing the process. For the person who did not want the divorce, the pain is intense. Why? The person who started the divorce has already gone through the grieving process to some degree before they notified their spouse that they wanted a divorce. For those who are responding to their spouse's wishes, the grieving process is often just beginning. For many people, the grieving process takes at least two years to complete and it is painful.

Many of my clients want to rush through the divorce, thinking that the pain will stop at the end. I wish that were true. However, grieving is a process that requires you to go through many stages, starting with shock and denial and ending in acceptance. It does not end with the divorce.

Some people try to stop the pain by starting new relationships. The rush of exploring a new partner can provide temporary relief. However, if you don't deal with the issues that led to the breakdown of your marriage, once the initial glow wears off your new relationship, you are likely to find that you are repeating many of the mistakes from your marriage in your new relationship. In other words, trying to short cut the grieving process usually ends in even more pain.

So, how do you stop the pain? Accept that you need to grieve. Roll with it. There is still a lot about life that is joyful and rewarding. Revel in those moments. However, if you feel really sad and want to cry - then allow yourself to cry. This is a sad time. You are ending an important relationship in a way that you did not want it to end. You are watching your spouse and your children (if you have them) and other family members grieve too. Start working with a counselor when you start your divorce. This person will help you get through it in a constructive way.

Be patient. Your perspective will change as you go through the process. Accept that you will not have all the answers to what comes next. Take it one step at a time. Find out how best to tell your spouse and your children about the divorce. How do you tell other important family members? How do you tell your friends and co-workers? Face the reality that you may have to learn more about finances and adjust your spending. Tackle that issue. Work on whether you will need new housing. As you work through all the issues, you will learn more about yourself and what you can accomplish and what you want. I recently had a client tell me that she is glad that the process in Michigan takes several months (our waiting period with children is six months) because she has really changed her perspective during that time. She did not think she would have made good decisions if she had attempted to rush it.

The most important thing is visualize your future as a better, more contented way of living. See yourself as having healed from the tension and the dysfunction of your marriage. Let the anger and disappointment go. See yourself as a happy person.

Then consider what you need to be that happy person. I will venture that you will need an on-going, civil relationship with your former spouse, particularly if you children together. You need your children to make the adjustment to the two households and have positive relationships with both parents. You need financial security and a safe environment. You need to conserve your energy to achieve these objectives.

Set the objective early in your divorce process that when this is over, I want to live happily. As you progress through the process, consider whether the steps you are taking will help you achieve that goal. As you come closer, the pain will decrease and be replaced with satisfaction and joy.