Grief is a process. It’s unpredictable, shows up at inconvenient times, makes others uncomfortable, you look terrible and perhaps wonder if you’ll always feel this way.
Turns out, it’s a transition from where you were and thought you'd be to your new unknown reality. Divorce is messy. If you managed to keep it together (more or less) during the divorce process and you’re out of it, grief is your body releasing the stress and adjusting to life without [insert loss here].
When you’re in a stressful situation, you’ll do what it takes to get through it and then your body will “freak out” when the situation has passed.
Grief is unique to each person. There’s no right or wrong way to go through it.
Wherever you are in your grief process you’re not alone.
Everyone has different things that they are mourning the loss of. Maybe you're grateful to get out of a destructive marriage and you’re experiencing freedom and relief. But there’s still loss. The loss of the marriage, the spouse you thought would be there for forever, the future with that person, loss of family and the way you thought family would look like.
Grief is learning to live life without the person you lost. In the case of divorce, the loss of the person you thought would be there until “death do us part” and the life you thought you'd be living.
When I was going through my divorce, I wore a grey sweatshirt every day for over a year. I had tons of tissues in the front pocket. I’d wear the hood when I’d go outside because I didn’t want anyone to see the tears coming down my face. I had puffy eyes, zero makeup, and was 16 pounds heavier. I looked terrible. The grief process is not a pretty process.
It’s a lonely process. You're the only person who can go through it. You're the only one whose hopes and dreams have been dashed. It's your marriage that has ended. Even if you have supportive people in your life, they cannot mourn for you.
You have to go through the grief process once your marriage has ended. You might be in a safe spot, you might be in the safest spot that you’ve been in in a long time. You're no longer fighting with your spouse, the paperwork is done, everything is finalized, and you're “ready to move on.” It looks like, on the outside, that you’re ready to live your life, but that’s when emotions will show up. Your body is resetting and acclimating to a new life while transitioning from self-protection and surviving your marriage to a new normal. It needs to release everything that it’s been holding on to for so long. When you feel the tears coming, let the tears come. Don’t push them back, don’t tell yourself that you're not sad. If your body needs to release emotions, then let it. Your body is resetting.
I was at a coffee shop one day, two and a half weeks after I was legally divorced, but it had been six or seven months after I knew that my marriage was over. In my head, I thought, “I'm healed and I don't have to grieve anymore.” But out of nowhere, I had tears rolling down my face and I couldn’t control them. I packed up my bag, sat in my car, and emailed my therapist to schedule a time to meet. This is what he told me, “Anna, you can’t kid yourself out of morning.”
I asked him, “What? I don’t understand why I’m crying.” And he said, “Because you're sad. You have to let yourself experience the emotions. If you don't, you'll end up experiencing depression or something else even worse than crying later on.”
Letting yourself cry is a healthy thing to do.
Some tips for grieving:
_ Don't wear mascara. I didn’t wear it for a year!
_ Keep tissues on you, in your car, purse, every pocket of every outfit and jacket, in every room of your home
_ If you’re prone to headaches, keep headache meds on hand
_ Drink plenty of water
_ Take a multivitamin
_ Meet with a professional therapist or counselor.
_ Join a support group such as DivorceCare or Celebrate Recovery. They are great for validating your feelings and are a great resource for other services you might need. Local churches or other organizations in your area might have other types of grief groups. When you're with a group of people who get what you're going through, it’s a relief to know you're not alone.
_Know that not everyone is capable of seeing you through the grief process, even if they’re close to you. If you’re living with family or family is living with you, this includes them. They might expect you to be your usual self and start moving on because “the worst is over.” In reality though, you’re processing what you just came out of and *because* you're in a safe situation, your body is able to process, recover, and let go.
Grief comes out in different ways, but your family might not get it and that’s okay. They may be supporting you in other ways, but don't expect them to also provide emotional support if they can’t. This is a hard situation for them as well. They're going through their own grief process and if you’re living with them or they’re living with you, give them grace.
_ Journal. Seriously, writing down, “Today I feel sad that __________” helps you mourn that specific thing you're sad about. You might have some good things going for you, so it’s important to keep the sad things separate from the good.
_ Take it one day at a time. Don't put a timeline on grief. You don't know how long it'll take you to recover. You will recover, but it’s a process.
_ Read Part 3 of Timothy Keller’s book Walking with God Through Pain and Suffering. If you're questioning God and angry at what you just went through, it's encouraging and helps you understand your loss, the betrayal and abuse in the light of what Jesus experienced here on earth.
_ If you have a Bible, read the Psalms. They’re an amazing resource written by humans experiencing betrayal, rejection, and loss and yet they kept their eyes on God. They knew that He was in control and knew what was going on, even though they were walking through some dark situations here on earth. In the Bible, it says “blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted.” What a beautiful thing to know as you mourn the loss of your marriage.
On The Real Housewives of New York City, there’s an episode where two of the characters have a huge fight over which woman experienced the most pain. The one who’s husband died or the one who got a divorce. Both situations are painful and hard. With the death of a person, we as a society know how to help a widow. As a society we don’t know how to support someone through the process of divorce. The level of support for a divorcee is much smaller than someone who’s husband just died.
When someone dies, people sign up to bring casseroles over every week for a year. When there’s a divorce people want to know the juicy details. What he said, she said and where you’re going to live, who’s going to watch the kids, what you’re going to do for a job and in reality you’re just reeling from the mess and destruction of your marriage falling apart. Divorce feels like a death, but on a different level. It’s the death of a marriage. Know that you won’t get the level of support that someone whose spouse died will get.
You're going to be okay. You're transitioning from what you thought would be to an uncertain unknown. In this weird in-between you're processing the losses and learning to accept that this is your new reality.
The transition process doesn’t last forever. It will end. It will get better. Take the time to grieve your loss(es) in a healthy way.