"It's Over": Accepting Divorce
The word divorce is loaded. It means something. It means endings. It means pain. It means anger, sadness, uncertainty, loneliness, regret... it means everything changes.
That's scary. I'll admit it.
When your husband or wife comes home and utters those words (those words are different for people, but they can be everything from "I don't love you anymore" to "I'm unhappy" to "I'm leaving"), in one single moment, everything changes.
There's a process you go through; that process is natural and healthy. Sometimes you go through this before the papers are filed, and sometimes after. But no one is immune. The process is one that every person getting a divorce will go through. Every stage is distinct, but you will find yourself bouncing between stages. Don't worry - that's normal.
First, there's Denial.
You might think that it's a phase. That "everyone goes through this," or that your spouse is just upset at the moment. You might even just say, "No. I'm not doing this. We'll talk when you settle down." You'll experience emotions that range from fear, numbness, and even blame (for yourself and/or for your spouse). This stage can be the most daunting because you may feel that avoidance will prevent anything from moving forward. Unfortunately, things will move forward on their own, whether you want them to or not.
Remember: The most important thing to do at this point is to acknowledge how you feel and make a decision to evaluate what the next step is. Be kind to yourself. No one expects it to be easy.
Next up: Anger.
There's a lot of guilt that happens in this stage. At this point, you. may look back and wonder what you did wrong. As a matter of fact, you will likely spend hours cataloging all the times you messed up. You might feel anxious and frustrated. News starts to spread to friends and relatives and you may feel embarrassed and ashamed. You might lash out at your soon-to-be-ex or at people who are completely unrelated to the situation. You are very volatile at this point.
Remember: Step back and take a few deep breaths. Anger can paralyze us. It keeps us in the past, which is a bad place to be when everything is moving forward. Remember that it is unlikely that your relationship has failed because of your actions alone. Oftentimes, there are deep-seated issues on both sides at the root of every divorce. Owning all the blame or denying all the blame will prevent you from taking another step.
This is the bottom, and you may feel absolutely awful about everything... about yourself, your relationship, your career, your future, your past. Everything is subject to ruthless scrutiny. You may feel helpless and overwhelmed. You may spend your days sleeping. People that engage in self-medication will become very entrenched in it. Drinking, using illicit or prescription drugs, overeating, or engaging in high-risk or self-destructive behavior will hit a peak.
Remember: It's critical to establish a strategy for handing your depression. Working with a mental health professional can give you the resources you need to navigate this stage easier. Do not isolate yourself. Set ground rules with your family and friends so they don't unknowingly trigger you. Avoid any activity that can be dangerous to yourself or those around you.
Bargaining is next.
The good news? You're beginning to find your way out. You may be looking for meaning for what has happened. You may finally begin to come out of the fog and see the daylight, again. The bad news? You may have to deal with questions that don't have answers. You may struggle to find "meaning" for what has happened.
Remember: Rally your support system and be open-minded to what they have to say. Don't make quick decisions about anything, and focus on rebuilding yourself and taking control of your life. This is an excellent time to begin a meditation routine, a new diet, or a new exercise routine. Some call habit that you can use as an anchor to the current moment that will keep you mindful of taking care of yourself.
There comes a point when you accept the new normal. You've determined that you can't undo what's been done and you begin to get into a new routine. You might begrudgingly get here. It will feel weird. The truth is, you'll compare it to the "old life" you used to have quite a bit. But there isn't any flailing in the water anymore. You start to reconstruct yourself and your life one day at a time.
Remember: There is tremendous relief in this stage. But don't mistake "acceptance" for "happiness," as they are very different. Accepting something means you know what's done is done. Happiness means liking it. And you may be there, or you may be working toward it, still. Take one day at a time, and take care of yourself.
Nothing is easy about endings. Endings involve change and change is scary. Even the "easiest" divorce is still full of emotional turmoil. Finding the grace between holding on and letting go takes time. Allow yourself to experience it, and don't hold yourself to any standard or timeline.
If you're considering or facing divorce, but you're not sure where to start, contact Márquez Law for a free consultation.
Jason A. Márquez is the Managing Partner and Owner of Márquez Law. If you're interested in learning more about the divorce or custody process, please contact us for a free consultation. We're here to help!