Learn to come to grips with the sense of loss that happens in divorce.
The dissolution of a marriage is the legal term that is used to describe the death of a marriage. The process of a dissolution involves a period during which one or both of the spouses will actively grieve the loss of the relationship.
The grieving process involved in a dissolution of marriage is similar to the grieving process that one experiences with the death of a loved one. The physical death of a spouse involves a funeral, the love and support of family, friends, neighbors, colleagues and others.
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Our society has no accepted social process, like a funeral, through which the divorcing spouses can acknowledge the grief associated with the dissolution. Spouses are on their own to find support groups that can help them through this very arduous period in their lives.
The dissolution process is often accompanied by not only the loss of the spouse but also the loss of family support, the loss of mutual friends who are still friends with the other spouse and the general discomfort of those acquaintances and colleagues who are uncomfortable with the new social status of the divorcing spouses.
The five stages of grieving – denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.
The grieving process involves five distinct stages. These are: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Not everyone experiences all five stages and not everyone experiences them in the same order.
- Denial – the process of ignoring the death of the relationship as it disintegrates and, after the relationship is irretrievably ended, reacting to the knowledge of the impending divorce with the response “this can’t be happening to me,” or “I had no idea my spouse felt that way.”
- Anger – the emotional reaction to the failure of the marriage or toward the leaving spouse who is perceived as the wrongdoer for leaving. Anger is the stage in which spouses often get stuck. When this occurs resolution of the divorce issues is difficult and costly because the elevated emotions interfere with the process of negotiating closure.
- Bargaining – the process in which a spouse endeavors to save the relationship through behavior modification or physical modification (trying to change ones appearance or behavior to please the leaving spouse and thus prevent his or her departure or trying to negotiate changes within the marriage so that departure can be avoided). Spouses frequently endeavor to bargain to keep the marriage by changing their physical appearance. Cosmetic surgery, losing weight and working out are some of the ways in which spouses endeavor to bargain to keep the marriage. Attending marriage counseling is a frequently used method of bargaining to keep the relationship.
- Depression – the sensation that is experienced when the reality of the loss sinks in and is accompanied by the understanding that there is nothing that can be done to change the situation.
- Acceptance – the “letting go” of the relationship and learning to be okay with the loss of the relationship.
The length of time involved in grieving the loss of a marriage varies from individual to individual. As a general observation it seems to take most people about two to five years to adjust to the dissolution.
During the process of a marriage dissolution the one thing that is necessary to remember is that this is not a normal period in your life. It is an abnormal period of time in your life.
While divorce can be as traumatic as losing a spouse through death, it is a period during which you will be asked to make significant decisions that will effect the rest of your life.
It is extremely important for individuals to develop the best support system they can in order to successfully endure the process of the dissolution. This support system should include ones family and friends, a good therapist or counselor and a skilled divorce lawyer who will be sensitive to your needs.