Divorce is, be definition, a loss. In fact, one of the Hebrew words for divorce speaks of “cutting or severing a bond.” Something has been lost. The loss is real, genuine, and deep, and it must be grieved.
Grief is accepting the reality of what is. It is internalizing the reality of the severing of the marriage bond on both the intellectual and emotional levels of the heart. That is grief’s job and purpose – to allow us to come to terms with the way things really are, so that we can move on. Grief is a gift. Without it, we would all be condemned to a life of continually denying reality, arguing or protesting against reality, and never growing from the realities we experience.
When you allow yourself to embrace the sadness and shed the tears for what you have truly lost through divorce, then you can move on to a new phase of life when grief tells you it is time. It is important to note that those who have not fully grieved the losses of their divorce are in jeopardy of either never getting over it or repeating it. When I am speaking to groups of divorced people, I often talk about this in terms of dating. I tell them, “When someone you are seeing tells you that divorce wasn’t that hard on them, and they really didn’t have a difficult time with it, burn rubber out of the driveway of that house.” A person who hasn’t grieved a significant loss has unfinished business inside and can cause others great grief as a result.
What does it mean to embrace grief in divorce? It means many things, including:
- Allowing a painful feeling to come and go, without prohibiting them.
- Reaching out to others to comfort and support you through this, rather than going it alone.
- Putting an end to the protests and arguments in your head about how it shouldn’t have happened, or whose fault it was or was not.
Grief doesn’t allow us to be right, strong, and in control. Grief basically says, “You loved, and you lost. It hurts.” Yet, on the other side are safe people to catch, hold and restore us.
One of the most difficult yet important tasks in grief in divorce is that of remembering and experiencing value for the loved one. Let yourself feel the love you still may bear for your former spouse, the positive emotions you have, your desires for togetherness, your appreciation for that person’s good traits and characteristics. Most people who are trying to get past divorce don’t recognize the importance of this, thinking instead that they need to be aware of the other person’s faults, sins and mistakes. Sometimes they do this out of a desire for revenge; other times it is a reaction against the need they feel for the person, which causes the fear to get hooked back in. Sometimes they do this as a way to complete the letting-go process.
Yet grief does not work this way. When you let go of a love, you are to let go of the whole person: good and bad, weaknesses and strengths, positives and negatives. When we allow only the negative feelings, we then let go only of the person we dislike, which is just a part of the whole individual. We won’t grieve the other part, the person we still love and want, and with whom we have in our memories a repository of good experiences. That person is still in our present world, still active within our heart, and causing all sorts of difficulties. Let go of the desire to see only the bad, and allow yourself to appreciate and let go of the good person you are leaving. This is the key to freedom beyond grief in divorce.
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