Surviving Divorce Facts and Tips
Death or Divorce
Some psychologists say that divorce is more difficult than the death of a spouse because in death the departed spouse leaves involuntarily, but in divorce he or she chooses to leave. Moreover, people tend to show more sympathy for a widow or widower than they do for a divorced person.
Even when divorce ends a bad marriage that should end, pain and suffering are natural and inescapable consequences of any divorce. Sadness and anger, fear and anxiety, sorrow and denial - all are voices in a Greek chorus reiterated in a divorce and its aftermath. A divorce is an end, and it is a beginning. That beginning includes recovery from the understandable dislocations that happen in all marriages that end.
No Promise of Happiness
Even when divorce ends a bad marriage gone terribly wrong, a divorce does not make people happy. Happiness, such as it is, is something that happens, if and when it happens, after the bad marriage ends, not because the bad marriage ends.
Time as Healer
"Time," as Thomas Jefferson said in a letter written in connection with the death of his wife, "is the Great Physician." The same is true for divorce. The pain associated with the loss of a spouse hurts the way an amputated limb hurts even when it is no longer there. A phantom pain.
No One Right Way to Recover
People recover from a divorce at different speeds and in different ways. Some people look upon the recovery as a challenge; others fear it as an abyss. Sadly, some people never recover and they become bitter and fearful of another intimate human relationship.
Reward of Survival
The ancient Greeks believed that the reward of suffering is experience, yet experience can make a person its victim. Divorce recovery, in the end, means acceptance and the ability to go forward. The ability to keep a perspective, a sense of humor (even a dark one) helps, but in the end people recover by putting one foot in front of the other and living.
Death Without a Body
Divorce, for most people who made a good faith effort at making a marriage work, is like death without a body. The alienated spouses move through stages very similar to those described by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, in her landmark On Death and Dying, including denial and isolation, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.
A Tough March
Divorce recovery is the long and sometimes difficult road to the point where life seems and feels normal. Ideally, it is the point where former spouses can, if need be, talk with one another civilly. In the early stages of a divorce, getting through the day often seems no small accomplishment.
Ideally, divorced spouses achieve a kind of benign indifference to one another.
One Day at a Time
There is no single right way to survive a divorce. There is no universal right way to start over. A person does it by doing it. Anything within reason that gets a person through the day is perfectly acceptable, but even with help such as counseling and support groups, the emotional part of divorce survival is a self-help project.
The New Single Person
A divorced person recovers from divorce as a new single person who is then perhaps reborn and emotionally prepared to remarry.
Resources & Tools
ONE DAY AT A TIME -- There is no single right way to survive a divorce; there is no universal right way to start over. A person does it by doing it. Anything within reason that gets a person through the day is perfectly acceptable, but even with help such as counseling and support groups, the emotional part of divorce survival is a self-help project.
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