The Effects of Divorce - Surviving Divorce and Helping the Children

Few people realise that the effects of divorce can be as devastating as a bereavement. But there is life after divorce. I hope that many of the pages on this site will help you in surviving divorce and understanding that what you are going through is a type of grief.

Loss of a beloved partner through divorce or separation can be just the same as the death of a loved one. It is a type of bereavement and you can suffer the same symptoms of grief. But often no-one realises it, so there is not the same level of support.

Grieving After a Divorce - There are Multiple Losses

The effects of divorce are many. A divorcee has often lost not only their life partner, but also the majority of contact with their children. They have also lost a lot of friends and maybe their home. They have to cope with a huge change in lifestyle. They have also lost their sex life too, and perhaps their confidence in ever finding another partner.

This loss also causes a lot of grief in the children who have lost daily contact with a parent. See below for the effects of divorce on children and help in coping.

Divorce or separation can be as painful a shock as if the partner had died. The loss, grief and sadness can be just as severe. In some cases it can be worse, because you have to cope with the rejection. Perhaps a sense of failure and guilt.

The sad part is that those dealing with divorce grief get no cards or flowers. 

Beautiful flower which people dealing with divorce grief don't receive.

There are many knock-on effects of divorce. Friends are lost, and relationships with other family members. You may also lose the family home. You may lose day to day contact with children if they have gone to live with the other parent. There may be financial and housing difficulties. There are multiple losses, but you get far less support than if a family member dies.




The Effects of Divorce are Similar to Grief

Grief is for the lost partner, the children, your way of life, loss of intimacy and sex life, lost friends and family. Many never see their in-laws again even if they were friends before. 

There is also grief for the loss of future dreams. The vision of the perfect marriage and family that now needs to be re-assessed. 

All the emotions are raw and many are emotions of grief similar to those experienced when suffering a bereavement. 

You might feel anger, frustration, despair and guilt. There might be jealousy. Your friends still have their partners, their children, their homes. Their relationships might have survived longer than yours. There is a great sense of loss and guilt over this. Remember what you are feeling is natural. Many people feel like this. Don’t fret. Move on with your life. 

Read more about the emotions of grief here.  

It has become so commonplace in our society to hear of divorce and separation that the turmoil and distress to the families involved gets overlooked. Yet, it is bereavement on many levels, but with much less help and understanding. This is sometimes called disenfranchised grief. The effects of divorce are little understood by others, and so you get less support. 

How to Overcome Grief After a Divorce

Your life is very special and you will cope. Stay focused. A new, happier chapter in your life will begin. Lots of life’s experiences make you a stronger person, and this is no exception.

  • Tell everyone that you are well and feeling fine, and soon you will believe it yourself.
  • There will be days when you feel so lonely and anxious that it will take a huge effort to go to work. You will want to hide away but it does not help. Take deep breaths, let those panic attacks fade away in waves. Make yourself go on and each day will get easier.
  • Ring a friend or family member for a chat whenever the going gets tough. Hearing a friendly voice helps.
  • Work covers up those negative thoughts because you have to think of other things. It is a difficult time you are coping with. You have to go on for the children's sake and your own.
  • You will feel a failure but remember that one out of three marriages split up. In the United States only 57% of 1st marriages reached their 15th anniversary in the 1980s. It takes two people to decide you are incompatible. That is a fact not failure. 
  •  Guilt is a useless emotion and helps no one, especially you. Latest research says that monogamy is a very difficult thing for any culture.
  • Make time for yourself and spoil yourself for a change. Pain and pleasure are only whiskers apart and you can learn to enjoy life again.  You will learn to cope. 
  • There are many groups for separated and divorced people now, including some for single parents. Find one that suits you. 
  •  Get in touch with old friends again. Learn to laugh again and enjoy evenings out with friends.
  • Do try to think positive and act positive. If you are a parent, you are very important in the childrens’ eyes. Be positive for them.
  • Just remember that you are grieving because you had love. It is quality of life together not quantity that matters. Many people never experience the joy of love between partners, children or pets.

Many of the coping mechanisms and advice to get over a divorce and separation are similar to those for people suffering grief after the loss of a loved one. Most of the pages of this website will have ideas which may help when you have been divorced or separated.

You have lost a partner, but the happy memories are more difficult to access as there is so much bad feeling around.

Here Are Some More Practical Ways to Cope with the Effects of Divorce:

Administration tasks

  • Try not to get overwhelmed. Take each day at a time, and deal with each problem as it arises.
  • Sort out all legal and financial problems as soon as possible.
  • Housing is a priority.
  • Organise help you need through solicitors, accountants, welfare organisations, social workers etc.

Look after yourself

  • Seek out a close friend or relative that you are able to confide in and talk to.
  • Go to a counsellor if needed.
  • Keep busy with work and continue with your hobbies.
  • Make new friends.
  • Try not to be alone too much.
  • Try not to rely on alcohol or drugs to cope.
  • Don’t rush into a relationship too soon. You need time to learn how to be by yourself and know what you want out of life first. When you have learned to enjoy your freedom, then you will have something to give to a new lover.
  • Men or women who are left alone with the children find difficulty in getting time for themselves. Use the time when the children are with the other parent carefully. Have a night out with old friends or join a new club, for example, swimming, bowls or tennis. Learn a new language, improve your computer skills. Choose a new activity to help you get out and about. Click here for some ideas.
  • Get involved with all school activities with the children and join in a lone parents group. It’s an ideal way to meet new friends and realise that you are not alone.

Read about more ways of coping with grief after a divorce.

Effects of Divorce on Children

Divorce is traumatic for all those involved. For the husband and wife, there has been a path of hurt leading up to the divorce. Once the decision has been made to separate, each spouse begins his or her grieving process for the loss of the marriage. If children are involved, then life after divorce can be more of a challenge to navigate.  Even if the split is amiable, the children still feel the effects of divorce.

Children are grieving too. Their lives are totally disrupted and their behaviour might become difficult. 

They might have had to change home or school and lose friends. They might do less well at school. All this causes more problems and more guilt. The organisation of new lives for yourself and the children can take years to resolve which does not help with moving onto a new life. 

Children can end up being the ones that are overlooked and placed in the middle after a divorce. Just as much as you have to readjust, the children have the same, if not more readjusting to do.

The adults will have more of control of their own lives. The children don’t have this same sense of control and can often be left feeling confused if there are conflicting decisions being made by the adults. 

They also have to adjust to a new way of living. The adults are able to sleep in their own bed and home every single night. Children go from sleeping in one home to two homes and can end up feeling displaced especially if an effort for consistency isn’t made. 

If they are being put in the middle of their parents’ conflicts, then each home begins to feel stressful and instead of receiving love from their parents they are being used as messengers or asked to report on the other parent. It’s important to remember that even if you and your ex-spouse no longer love each other, your children still love each of you very much. 

For a child, their parents are the reference point to their place in the world and a source of stability. When they have lived in a home with both parents together, and they see their parents as the ones that can fix or get through anything, divorce causes a shocking realization that there is something that their parents couldn’t fix and now they are displaced. No matter what the reasons for the divorce were, this can be a very shattering realization from a child’s perspective. 

Another problem that can arise is that each parent may be so overwhelmed with their own feelings of processing the divorce that they may unintentionally be less attentive to their children’s feelings. Or, the children may not want to share their feelings because they don’t want to hurt their mom or dad’s feelings.

It’s understandable that becoming a single parent and reconfiguring your life is a mental, emotional, and physical drain. But keeping open and loving communication with your child will help them feel they have a voice and their feelings matter.

  • Use as much restraint as possible to keep from being a parent that speaks ill of the other parent or asks for information from your child about the other parent.
  • If possible, speak with the other parent about routines that can be the same at each home to help build consistency.
  • Focus on creating a home life with your children that helps reinforce your love for them and builds stability.
  • You’ll find that having open communication and talking to them about what would help them and reinforcing structure and routine may also help you too. 

These tips will help your children to recover from the grief of divorce more quickly: 

  • Talk openly and honestly to children about what has happened. Allow them to voice their concerns. 
  • Don’t criticise the other partner or new step parent in front of the children. 
  • Help them to accept your new friends or partner and any children they have. 
  • Build new relationships with the children. Their trust that both parents will always be around has been shattered. Their confidence needs rebuilding too.

For those who don't have full custody and don't see the children as often as before:

  • Phone and text your children often. 
  • Plan fun weekends with the children on access days.
  • Go to school events. 
  • Tell the children you love and miss them. They miss you too remember.

Recommended Reading: 

Related Pages: 

More Books on Surviving Divorce for Men and Women

Also read 'Helping Children Cope with Grief'. The effects of divorce on children can be similar to losing a parent or family member. Much of the information will be relevant to the loss of a parent through divorce or separation as well.

Empty Nest Divorce - Splitting Up After the Children Have Left Home

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Memorial Magnolia Tree

The Magnolia is one of the earth's oldest plants, with a spectacular flower which dates back 95 million years.  What a beautiful specimen to commemorate a life. 

These trees are grown by the foremost magnolia nursery in the country and they will send a variety most suited to the recipient's climate. 

The flowers in spring will bring joy to the bereaved and help to heal their heart.

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