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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Look after yourself
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.
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.
These tips will help your children to recover from the grief of divorce more quickly:
For those who don't have full custody and don't see the children as often as before:
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.
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