Grief and Divorce


What is grief?

Grief is the loss of normal.  I heard this from Dr. Brené Brown during an e-course I participated in several years ago.  If you are not familiar with Brené Brown, she is a research professor at University of Houston and renowned author.  Her books are thought-provoking, inspiring and worth reading if you have not.  When this statement came up in the e-course, it was in the context of someone dying.  The emotional struggle and grief experienced by a surviving spouse or family member after their loved one dies centers on the loss of normal.  The loved one, who was a part of everyday life and routine, is no longer there to talk to, eat dinner with, plan outings together, sleep next to or the like.  Losing normalcy and establishing a new “normal” after a loved one dies is very difficult (understatement).

Grief is a part of divorce

People going through divorce also experience grief.  Most of us recognize that divorce is emotional, but we may not fully appreciate the grief the person experiences.  What is normal is lost when a marriage ends, or spouses no longer live together.  Although death may not have occurred, the spouse is no longer present in everyday life.  Traces of the spouse — clothes, the smell of cologne or perfume, college sports memorabilia, the car they drive – are gone.  The absence of a spouse once separation or divorce occurs can feel gaping and foreign even if the spouse was abusive or the quality or health of the marriage had been poor for some time.  

People experience grief differently

Grief is not experienced the same by people.  How long the grieving process lasts or what emotions and behaviors will be present can be different.  For example, one spouse in a divorce may process emotions and adapt to independence quicker than the other spouse.  Likewise, a person who does not want to be divorced may grieve longer or with more intensity.   If you are going through a divorce, acknowledge the grief and accept that it may take time for you to recover.  If you are supporting someone else in the divorce process, do not minimize their grief and above all, be kind and compassionate.

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