As a divorce attorney, my job does not often focus on the healing or grieving aspect of the divorce process. My roll focuses on giving legal advice and representing my clients to help them achieve their goals for their case. For those cases that must be litigated, I spend a lot of time during the course of a case, sometimes years, getting to know a client and helping them get through the legal process. Eventually the court case will end though, and it will be time for the party to move on emotionally as well. But how?
While procrastinating on Facebook the other day, I came across a link to an article called Newly Divorced? Don’t Forget to Grieve written by high school classmate of mine, Mary Darling Montero. Mary is a psychotherapist in San Jose, California who specializes in relationships and life transitions. Mary offers great advice to help grieve a relationship and move on.
Mary writes that the end of a relationship can often look similar to the grief stages an end-of-life loss might have. She explains them as follows:
• Denial– We don’t believe or accept that the relationship is over. If we initiated the split, we might feel ambivalent; we might believe that maybe our significant other is capable of change, after all. If the split was not our decision, we might believe that it’s only temporary, that our significant other will realize that he or she made a mistake, and that reconciliation is possible. Denial can also be a general feeling of not believing that a relationship is over, even if we know that reconciliation isn’t likely.
• Anger– We’re, well, angry. We’re angry at the other person or we’re angry at ourselves. We might be angry about what we perceive as wasted time, or how the other person is handling the relationship breakup. This stage can also be exacerbated and prolonged as we deal with legal issues related to divorce or child custody/support.
• Bargaining– We might try to bargain with a higher power ("I’ll never do such and such again if you bring him back to me") or literal bargaining with our ex ("I’ll never do such and such again if you come back"). This could also be figurative bargaining ("I’ll change this and that about my lifestyle and she’ll come back when she realizes I’ve changed").
• Depression– We understand that the relationship is over, and we face the reality that we have lost not only our significant other, but also the dreams attached to the relationship. Oftentimes the dreams are the hardest aspect of a relationship to let go.
• Acceptance– We acknowledge that the relationship is over and begin to feel that we are capable of dealing with it, healing from it, and moving forward.
Most importantly, Mary notes that the grieving process at the end of a relationship will affect the couple’s children. Stay tuned into their feelings, she says, and do not pressure them to get over it quickly. Mary advises to trust your support system, try writing a journal to come to grips with your feelings, and make sure that you are taking care of yourself (eating, sleeping, exercising).
So, while your attorney will be a very important part of your divorce, so too is the professional that can help with the grieving process and emotional healing of the breakup. If you need help in the New Hampshire area, feel free to call Crusco Law Office, PLLC for a referral.