When two people get married they emotionally attach to dreams, hopes, fantasies and plans of what their life will be like. For some, getting and being married is a central part of their religion or spirituality. Getting divorced forces people to let go of deeply held hopes and dreams and re-negotiate their world view. The name for this process is grief.
Grief is an inevitable and essential part of any divorce. We don’t learn how to grieve, we do it automatically, whether we know it or not. Many people associate grief narrowly with death, and while it is true that we grieve for those who have died, we also grieve many other losses throughout our life as well.
Getting a divorce involves a legal, financial and emotional separation. Each of these separations comes with it’s own unique type of grief. Some people fight the experience of grief, they get hung up on being right or get lost in the minutia of one particular issue. Despite our best efforts, the deep and painful feeling states associated with grief must be felt in order for us to transition to the next chapter of our lives.
Regardless of the degree of certainty you have about needing to get divorced, you will still have to grieve. You may normally solve problems by “pulling yourself up by your bootstraps” or finding ways to be grateful and yet, if you are getting a divorce, you will have to grieve.
There are several different states of grief. Many people start grieving by being in a state of denial, which serves as a protective shield against the initial impact of the shattered dream. Fear, anxiety, guilt, sadness and anger are other emotional states that are part of the grieving process, each allowing you to complete a different task so that you can acknowledge and accept the loss and successfully move forward.
It is common for people to reach out to a trained mental health provider during times of loss and transition. Sharing your story with a therapist can be a powerful way to make sense of and eventually be free from grief and pain.
Dena Tranen, LCSW is a trained collaborative law professional and licensed clinical social worker. She works as a mental health coach, therapist and co-parenting specialist.