Divorce is a type of death. The end of the life you had and the life you expected. And as with any death, grief follows closely behind. After divorce, which of these are you grieving?
Grieving the Person You Thought They Were
For some of us, divorce is preceded by a revelation that our partner was not the person we thought they were. In a moment, we realize that we have been in love with a mirage, a projection of our hopes and that behind this image was a person who perhaps was acting in very unloving ways.
It’s a particularly painful loss. Although the person is still breathing, the one you thought you were married to no longer exists. And maybe they never did.
Part of what makes this grief so complicated is that it’s often punctuated with moments of hope. Hope that maybe they will return to the person they were or become the person you believed them to be.
Grieving the Future You Imagined and Planned For
You believed you were going to grow old together. Go on that much-anticipated vacation, experience those milestones and enjoy a shared future. And now all of those planned-for, talked-about and dreamed-of events will not happen. At least not together.
And letting go of expectations is hard. Damned hard. Especially when you’ve made decisions and even sacrifices for that imagined future. It leaves a sense of unfairness and incompleteness, a story only partly told.
Grieving the Family and Life You Wanted For Your Children
Maybe you grew up with divorced parents and you promised yourself that you would provide a different experience for your own children. Or maybe you had close parents and wanted to provide the same for your offspring. Either way, few people would choose to give their kids the experience of growing up with divorced parents.
And so you grieve for them. Mourning the life you wanted them to have while worrying that this is going to cause them harm.
If this resonates with you, take a moment to learn about what kids can learn from divorce. There are silver linings here, I promise.
Grieving Who You Were Before the Relationship
Maybe you lost yourself during the relationship and you’re grieving who you were before. Or perhaps betrayal or abuse has fundamentally changed you and you’re forced to say goodbye to the person you were before that pain branded you.
Of course, we change and grow throughout life as we’re impacted by both people and experiences. Yet divorce, with its very distinct before and after, can highlight these changes in a profound and often painful way.
Grieving The Companionship and Shared History
You’ve been through so much together. Have so many shared experiences and inside jokes. And now it’s over. The house is empty. There’s no one to call when your shared show has a surprise moment. And you feel so alone.
Even if the marriage had soured and you no longer enjoyed time together, you may find that you still miss them simply being there.
Grieving the Lifestyle That Accompanied Your Marriage
Maybe you miss the evenings with the shared friends. Or going to the kids’ softball games as a family. Or the financial freedom that duel incomes and a joint household provided.
When the marriage ended, so did many of the day-to-day traditions, habits and events. And especially before you’ve established your new life, you’re going to feel that void left by their loss.
Grief after divorce is normal. Like with any grief, it does no good to try to rush through it or avoid it. The only way through is through. Acknowledge the losses. Mourn them. Honor them. Give them space. And then give yourself permission to let them go.