Cheryl Nielsen, the author of Meritage Divorce, suggests that “grief is the emotional contract of divorce.”
When most people think about grief, their minds go to losing someone they care about through death. Though mourning the loss of a loved one is undoubtedly one of the hardest things anyone can go through in life, it’s important to understand that there are different types of grief. It doesn’t just have to stem from a death. Finding yourself alone after a divorce can also cause you to grieve.
The reason for grief after divorce comes from the loss you experience during the process. In some cases, you’ll lose your spouse, your home, and maybe even your financial stability all at once. Most importantly, though, you’ll lose the relationship you worked so hard to build.
Anywhere from 42-45% of first marriages end in divorce. With a number so high, you might feel as though it’s not “normal” to feel so lonely and sad about the loss of your marriage. But grieving after a divorce is perfectly normal and acceptable. What’s important is that you learn how to get through it, so you can move on and start the next chapter of your life in a healthy, stable way.
A Better Understanding of Grief
Grief impacts everyone differently. It can also cause a chain reaction of events. Grief can even sometimes lead to divorce when a loss impacts a couple so much that they can’t seem to get past it — like the death of a child. The more you understand about grief, the clearer the process of getting through it will become.
Whether you’ve ever experienced a loss before or not, you’ve probably heard of the “stages of grief.” They include:
While these stages can be good markers, not everyone goes through all of them after a loss, and not everyone experiences them in that order. When it comes to a divorce, the stages might look a bit different. Things like anger and depression can be stronger, but if you let them take hold they can have a severe negative impact on your mental health and in turn your physical health.
Know You’re Not Alone
The first time you have to go home after the divorce papers have been signed can be a harrowing experience. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always get easier right away. It’s not uncommon to feel lonely after a divorce. But loneliness can be a dangerous thing that can lead to depression, and can even contribute to an early death.
That isn’t meant to scare you, of course, but when you lose someone you’ve been with for many years, it’s easy to feel like you’re all alone and going crazy. You might feel as though no one understands you, or you might even feel as though a part of your identity is gone. Feelings of shame, confusion, guilt, and even fear are all completely normal.
The most important thing to recognize is that you’re not alone.
Even if your divorce was amicable and peaceful, you shouldn’t be expected to act like everything is okay when you’re feeling lost and lonely. It’s okay to turn to family and friends as a support system. But if you’re really struggling, talking to a counselor, therapist, or family coach can help you to get through the emotional stages of this life transition faster and healthier.
Moving On and Finding Love
The idea of being with someone else might seem impossible right now. There is no ideal timeline for when you should start dating again or even putting yourself back out there. But don’t close yourself off to the idea just because you’ve gone through a divorce.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 17% of people get married twice, and 4% exchange vows three or more times. So, just like you’re not alone in divorce, you also certainly won’t be alone if you ever choose to get re-married.
Finding love again can help you to heal. That doesn’t mean you need to find someone right away. Your own timeline of grief is important and you have to make sure you’re in the right place mentally and emotionally to commit yourself to a relationship. If you’re ready to trust someone, to communicate openly, and to move on from the pain of your divorce, start dating when you’re ready.
Starting a new chapter with someone else can make you feel young again, and remind you what it’s like to be in a loving, fun, committed relationship. It even gives you the opportunity to go on romantic dates with someone again. If you find the right person, your heart and mind can fully heal, and you’ll be ready to start the next chapter of your life.