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It has been said that divorce is like a death. And in terms of life as you once knew it, it is! The death of your dreams, your plans for the future, and the commitment you both made to each other.
In her book ‘On Death and Dying’, Elisabeth Kubler-Ross talks about the Five Stages of Grief which can just as easily be applied to what is experienced through separation and divorce and it looks something like this although many of us go through different stages more than once.
Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance. From my own experience and my experience with other women it rarely moves smoothly from one stage to the other, there is simply no beginning and end. Most women take one step forward and two steps back repeatedly moving back through different phases over time until eventually reaching the point of acceptance.
Acceptance that the relationship really is over and there is no going back. Everyone travels this journey at a different pace, there is no right or wrong. The important thing is that there is eventually a point at which you are able to start looking towards the future.
This is when the shit has hit the fan, your partner has just pulled the rug out from under you and you are in a state of shock. You spend your time talking about how things can be better, suggesting going to counseling to sort things out, pleading and begging for this not to happen and making all sorts of promises to make this stop. Eventually when all else has failed you move to the next phase Anger.
I have seen some women move into this stage as if comatosed until the anger bubbles to the surface and the vitriolic outburst and physical expression of their anger would frighten a harden soldier. This stage will be returned to time and time again as every little obstacle, upset, fight with one of the kids, running out of money, whatever daily instances that were once never that big a problem become yet another reason to unleash your anger.
I actually think it is a really good thing when you get to this stage. The build up of all the fears, hurt, resentment, and hatred all erupt like a volcano and the sooner this happens the better. You will call him for everything you can lay your tongue on and then when you’re done, you’re done. After the anger has been spent you may move into the next phase.
In this stage you will attempt to repair and undo the damage done to your life.
If you have caught you partner out in an affair he might swear that it will never happen again and promise you the world if you just stay.
If the thought of living without him scares the crap out of you, then pleading for him to stay might be your response. In an instant you forget all the fights you had, all the annoying things he did that you complained about, all you see is your imagined future living on your own and struggling to survive.
Bargaining is a last ditch attempt at coming to terms with the decision to divorce.
This is when the sadness really kicks in. You might find yourself hitting the alcohol in an attempt to numb the pain, you listen to sad songs about breakups, watch the girly movies in your pj’s for days on end and live on ice-cream and other assorted comfort foods.
This is also the stage when you need to find a professional to help you. Many women sink into the depths of depression and stay there for a very long time. Feeling sad is normal but you need to be around people who will take you out of yourself from time to time, check in with a counselor or therapist so you can work through what needs to be done. This can be a very difficult stage for many women and for many it is the time that doctors will prescribe anti-depressants.
A word of caution – ask your doctor to give you all the facts about anti-depressants, the possible side effects, the fact that you may become dependent on them just to function normally. The body can provide you with another way of getting the same results without the risks through exercise. Using exercise, even if you become somewhat addicted to it initially will certainly help you in many different ways.
Once you reach this stage you will certainly feel much lighter and ready to start thinking about your future and getting on with your life. There will be times over the next year or so when you have moments of regret and sadness for the lost dreams of happily ever after and till death do us part, but for the most part you are on the path to a new and different life.
In my work and in my own personal experience I know that there are thousands of women who will testify to the fact that their life is happier and more fulfilling after divorce than they ever thought was possible.
Your thoughts, comments, personal story or suggestions are important to me.
With love and gratitude
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