Psychological Effects of Divorce

The psychological effects of divorce are profound, and long lasting.  For most of us, and I count myself among the class of people who are divorced, it is a long and hard transition, and the outcome is frequently in doubt.  

Psychological Effects of Divorce

By in doubt, I mean that it is never clear that we will at some future point feel good, or optimistic, or desirable, or trusting..

Psychological Effects of Divorce on Children

The psychological effects of divorce on our children can be overwhelming as well, and can be difficult for our family and friends to deal with.

While we hope for resiliency in our children, there are a number of factors that impact our children's adjustment, including their age at the time of the divorce, time since the divorce, parenting style, financial security, and parental conflict resolution style. 

Chronic, unresolved conflict is associated with difficult adjustments to divorce for our kids, as is witnessing violence. 

Children who witness violence suffer pervasive negative adjustments to the violence let alone the divorce.

Here are some excellent resources if you need help with handling a divorce with children.

Psychological Effects of Divorce-Grieving

Luckily for me, I knew what to expect in terms of the grieving process, and grieving is an absolute necessity for a positive psychological adjustment to divorce. However, I did not expect the adjustment to take the most part of two years. I am grateful today that my kids hung with me. While they needed me to be a steady influence in their lives, I know they were silently rooting for me too.

There are many models of grieving, with three stages, seven stages, and most frequently, five stages. 

An important distinction for grieving is that the stages listed below are not linear. One does not spend two hours on each and is then complete. The stages come when they need to, and a song, or a smell, or a holiday could  bring us back to our grief many years or decades later.

Denial

The first stage of the grieving process is frequently called denial. This stage happens when we discover that the divorce is going to happen, and denial is our psyche's best attempt to ward off this overwhelming news. When successful, we get to take in the news in safe increments, as trying to comprehend all of it at once could be shattering.

Bargaining

I may offer a prayer or two to my higher power here, promising to be good from here on out, if the divorce is interfered with.  

Anger

This is the emotion that we see most often in the grieving process, and it is easy to get stuck at the anger stage. When a divorce is happening (which is the death of the marriage) we are often hurt and saddened but yet life continues to ask that we move on, get over it, maybe long before we are ready to be over it or move on.  When that happens, anger can become a useful to "power us up".  The downside of anger utilized to replace sadness or hurt or depression is that anger is an energy that demands an expression, sometimes a loud or violent expression. We can also feel angry at the partner who is divorcing us, or the circumstances, or the consequences.

I think it is vitally important to find a therapist or group who can walk with you through the stages of grief at the end of a marriage, especially at this stage, because anger here can take one to irrational behavior.  

Unresolved anger can keep one stuck at this place and time. The person who fails to complete the anger process is the one who is still loudly retelling the story of their "victimization" by the other party ten years after the divorce.. 

Sadness/Depression

Once we have opened the door to the previous stages, and gotten a little bit more comfortable in and with the grieving process, then we might find ourselves feeling sad, or crying, or depressed. It was my experience that the sadness was more about lack of energy for day to day tasks. Luckily for me, i had a men's group where I could go to do the emotional release work, including the anger and the tears for my loss, and my worry for my children's well being.  Here is where I am doing the quiet preparation for moving on with my life.

Acceptance

Acceptance is that phase of the grieving process where I can remember the events of the previous years (for an important loss, grieving can take two years or more) without all the powerful emotion included. This stage does not include happiness necessarily, or joviality, but is a quiet kind of moving on, again without intense anger or sadness. There may still be the need for forgiveness work, and I think that may be easier now than before. 

Finally, please remember that the above stages are a very important part of the psychological effects of divorce. The stages of grief are not linear...meaning that I might have the fourth stage first on one day, than stage two, then stage three, and the next day, they appear in a different sequence, or perhaps not at all. 

But someday, the fifth stage is the predominant stage. 

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