By Marcia Murphy, MA
Going through a divorce can be one of the most difficult and stressful times of our lives, even when it is the best thing for everyone involved. Divorce can happen for a number of reasons which lead to irreparable harm to the relationship. Divorce impacts all members of the family, including the couple, the children, and extended family members. We can use certain guidelines to help lessen the impact divorce has on our well-being as we begin the process of healing from the broken relationship.
1. Treat all discussions as a business transaction
There are so many emotions that we feel when navigating divorce, and it is easy to take things personally, especially as the reason for the failure of the marriage may be related to unhealthy and destructive communication between partners. Continuation of the conflict that may have led to the decision to divorce is not productive. We can keep the focus of all discussions around splitting of assets, custody agreements, financial concerns and other logistics to an impersonal level. Treating the divorce as a business agreement, albeit a negative one, helps to keep the focus on the issues that need to be worked through without taking things personally. Navigating the necessary steps with a goal-oriented focus helps to minimize even deeper hurt during this process.
2. Find supports
It is essential to have support while going through the stress of a divorce. Whether it is a trusted group of friends, family, a church or religious group, and/or therapy, having support during this difficult period will help us get through it better. We all need that listening ear for our pain, sorrow, and anger during such a heart-wrenching and stressful time. We need that other person or group to encourage us and help see us to the other side of divorce. If we have the ability to be lifted out of our circumstances through enjoyable activities, laughter or even a night out with friends, we can relieve the constant negativity that navigating divorce offers, if only for a brief time.
3. Allow yourself to feel the loss
Divorce is a loss. We can feel all of the emotions that are associated with grief, and need to allow ourselves to mourn the loss of the relationship. We can grieve the reality that we will not realize the hopes and dreams we had for the relationship. Those navigating divorce may find themselves faced with many emotions, some conflicting, including anger, sadness, relief, loneliness, guilt, shame, excitement, and even happiness. We can feel a sense of hope along with the sense of loss. Allowing yourself the time and permission to feel all of these emotions, and accepting them for what they are, will help the beginning of the healing process. If the emotions seem to be overwhelming, it may be necessary to process feelings and thoughts with a therapist or grief counselor.
4. Recognize your part in the failure of the marriage
As much as we may want to believe that the broken relationship is entirely the fault of the other person, the reality is that both partners contribute to the failure of the marriage. We can look at how our own behaviors have contributed to this and take steps over time to learn from it. Even if the marriage was abusive and highly destructive, the abused party may have had enabling or codependent tendencies that had perpetuated the situation. We can reflect on what we allowed to get in the way of having a healthy marriage, and use these insights for when we become involved in future relationships. Much of this work may need to be done with a professional clinician.
5. Help your children understand and heal
Unfortunately, our children are affected greatly by divorce and will likely need help understanding why their parents are no longer in the same house and how this will affect them. To the absolute best of our ability, we need to keep children from being placed in the middle of the conflict. Children need as much stability as possible, so we can talk with them about how their routine will change, what will stay the same, and keep rules consistent between households. Children need to be allowed to grieve and talk about their feelings; and they need to be able to love the other parent regardless of our feelings toward our former partner. It is helpful to find support for the children, such as a grief counseling group for their age group. Above all, our children need to know that they are in no way to blame for the divorce, and that they will be taken care of fully.
Taking Next Steps!
Lime Tree Counseling will be holding a support group for Christian Women Navigating Divorce, beginning on March 16th. If you are interested in participating, please contact us at 267-477-3265. We also offer a number of other services including trauma counseling, grief counseling, addiction counseling, online counseling in Pennsylvania, online counseling in North Carolina and online counseling in Colorado. Schedule with us today!