Divorce, Grief and 3 Harmful Myths
Time heals all wounds. Umm, that’s nonsense. So is “Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all,”“There are lots of fish in the sea,” and all the other inane things people say to you when you are suffering through a divorce, looking for solace and grieving.
People mean well, I think. They just don’t know what to say so they attempt to say something that in a nutshell means, “Get over it because you are making ME feel awkward. So get happy, ok?”
Well, their best wishes are nice, but it’s not going to happen. You know why? It’s not about them. Going through divorce is one of the most traumatic things you will ever go through (I realize I’m preaching and singing to the choir here) and the pain associated with the end of your relationship cannot be summed up in a catchy phrase or old cliché. It’s not something you “get over” (actually stop using that language, you don’t “get over it” at all.) It’s a healing and growing process, with steps to it, and it takes time.
When your marriage died, whether it was a sudden explosion or it slowly withered on the vine – there went all the hopes and dreams you had for your future, right? You probably got married thinking that you’d retire together and enter your golden years, traveling the world funded by your cushy retirement and spoiling your grandkids. But instead, here you are, empty fisted and wondering what the hell happened. As if that’s not bad enough, the loss of those idyllic dreams isn’t even the most painful part. No, what you miss the most are the little, seemingly ordinary things, the things you took for granted, your daily life, your:
- Best friend, your soul mate, your companion, your bedmate
- Your laughs, joy and connection to your in-laws, his family and “his” friends
- Family rituals, routines, and doing your best to parent together
- Home, the one you thoughtfully and lovingly decorated for everyone
- Resolute knowledge that before now, your kid didn’t come from a broken home (that’s such an awful expression, isn’t it?)
- Couple friends (it’s gotten too awkward hasn’t it?)
- Financial security of knowing you had a partner, come good times or bad (now what?)
- Confidence in yourself, that you are lovable ( … spoiler alert, you are)
“What we grieve for is not the loss of a grand vision, but rather the loss of common things, events, and gestures. Ordinariness is the most precious thing we struggle for.” – Irena Kelpfisz
Okay, there it is. We all know that you are grieving all things lost here, big and small. The question is, what do you do about it? Well, first of all, recognize you ARE going to DO something about it.
Let’s dispel the first divorce grief myth, “Time heals all wounds”
Think of it this way. If you got a flat tire and had to pull over on the interstate, would you simply sit by the side of the road and wait for the air to somehow re-enter the tires, so you can resume your merry way? No, you have to do something, you have to take action. You’ll call a friend, dig that AAA card out of the glove box, you’ll google garages in Flagstaff, Arizona, whatever…the point is, you’ll do something. You do not sit idly by.
Similarly when you are grieving, you must act. You must speak to someone (a grief counselor, a coach, a therapist, a spiritual leader, a support group) who can help you process all of the feelings you are experiencing and make sense of everything. There are things you can do to start moving toward a lighter, happier place, but you can’t do it without a plan and we don’t recommend you do it alone.
Which brings us to the second myth, “Grieve alone”
Picture this, a husband has died and the widow is in the corner of the room, on the couch, crying. You start to go to her but someone passing between the two of you says, “No, give her some space,” so instinctually you turn and walk away. You know what? Wrong. Grievers do not need nor want to isolate. Grieving is not something to be done alone. We need to talk, to process, to have a shoulder to cry on and to be with others. Western culture has mistakenly adopted the idea that grief is a private affair. This is a dangerous (and tragic) idea … in our grief, we need to be with others.
Figure out with whom you can share your grief, your thoughts, your anguish. Seek out someone who will be a good listener. Speaking of finding someone, we don’t mean a new boyfriend ….
This brings us to our third myth, “Replace the loss”
Most of us have lost a pet at one point or another. It was likely a heartbreaking moment… a puppy, a goldfish, a hamster, a loved critter, suddenly gone. Perhaps your parents said, “Don’t worry, we’ll get you another one.” They think it’s the right thing to do, to help you get over the loss of one by replacing it with another. But it doesn’t help! Even as a kid, you knew it didn’t feel right. Getting another puppy would NOT be the same as having “Bailey,” the one you loved.
When we are grieving a marriage, sometimes it seems like the thing to do is to look for the next (presumably better) one. What you couldn’t cultivate in this marriage, surely you can in the next. This is a bad idea. Do not leave this marriage with the idea that you’ll find a better one.
Instead, walk away and figure out how you can grow from this as a woman, as a human being. Look back at who you were in that marriage, and ask yourself, how do I want to live differently this time around?
Trust us, the grass is not greener. Don’t go there.
A final word of advice: Don’t act like you are ok, if you are not
Unfortunately we are taught from a young age that during times of grief, we need to be stoic and strong for others around us; that it’s not okay to fall apart. Don’t buy into that. Your heart needs to be acknowledged. It’s hurting. Grief is normal, natural, and yes, incredibly painful — but again it is NORMAL and NATURAL — and TO BE EXPECTED. Your heart is broken for real reasons.
When you do not feel ok, find someone safe to say that to … someone who will listen with an open mind and heart and give you a big, long bear hug. Ask for help in moments when you just aren’t ok.
The grief you feel during a divorce is real, deep, complicated (not to mention, genuinely painful) but it’s also normal. Try not to fall into the old traps – isolating yourself, trying to wait it out, ignoring it, or moving on too quickly — but instead, take action to understand it. It’s here for a reason. Reach out to someone trained who can help you understand it, heal, move on, and eventually, learn to thrive again.