The emotional journey of divorce

Originally published on 13th May 2024 at 3:36 PM
Reading time: 2 mins
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Divorce is a word that marks the state’s legal recognition of the breakup of a marriage. It does little or nothing to describe what that breakup feels like. A divorce is just a small part in the process of separation. Although the legal process can be time-consuming and for some, costly, it is nothing compared to the pain that breaking up a marriage or a long-term relationship usually involves.

The real work is in the emotional process of separation.

The emotional journey of separation can be a long one, it can take place alongside other journeys such as bringing up children or getting on with work or travelling or whatever else is going on in life. On separation, the familiar landscape changes. Friendships alter, feelings are overwhelming, and life is often turned pretty much upside down. It can feel difficult to manage all the loss, the envy, the fear, the guilt and to try to make sense of it all.

Divorce is not just an end it is also a beginning, one which may have been forced upon you but one which can ultimately when everything has been dealt with can be very nourishing. I know it is hard to recognise this when you are fully immersed in all the feelings.

I am often asked how long someone is going to feel this way. There is no single answer. Grieving loss properly is essential to prevent you feeling stuck in the past and unable to fully live in the present. Grief is not a linear process. It comes and it goes. It is punctuated by anger and envy and even hatred. All those feelings, although very unpleasant, are important and completely normal. It is only when they feel lodged in you with no movement over a long period of time that it may be necessary to get some help with them. Sometimes feeling angry even years after is a way of not fully facing the loss and it is important to have help with that.

Often people feel marginalised in their own lives, feeling that their ex has it all and they are left with nothing. That is a powerful feeling but can be changed by making yourself the centre of a life you create rather than feeling left out of one you are no longer part of. That feeling is giving away power, agency and potency to your ex rather than keeping it for yourself and creating something good for yourself.

Although it is impossible to reassure someone who is right in the middle of it and unable to see any way forward, it is right to say that navigating it all is a creative process in which new beginnings must and do emerge.

Processing this tumultuous journey can be an opportunity to embrace and create a new way of life. Old and new friends, old ways of doing things and new ones.

It doesn’t matter where you are on the divorce journey, it is reassuring to remind yourself that life doesn’t stand still, and things change all the time and so however bad it feels it will definitely get better.

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