It Comes in Waves: Coping with the Emotional Effects of Divorce

By: Genevieve Coleman
Last Update: November 18, 2016
emotional effects of divorce

As a person who has experienced divorce as well as the death of a spouse, I can tell you one thing is for sure: The emotions effects of divorce that you are feeling and will continue to feel will astound you.

There is sadness, there is Grace, there is anger and outrage!  There is deep pain and feelings of helplessness. And there is always grieving.

One of the best pieces of advice I will be sharing with you in my blog is that it is important to feel every emotion as it happens to you. Kind of like letting the wave of that emotion wash over you.

Yes, I am saying give into it and experience it fully. Let that feeling have its way with you!

(Just try not to do too much of this in public however, as it may be embarrassing to others. Just joking. Humor is also extremely important throughout this whole process, believe me!)

The important aspect here is to feel everything completely. Stuffing your feelings, putting on a "pretty face" for others, pretending you're not hurting at all - just angry and indignant - all of that will only keep you stuck in those emotions. And under the surface you will still be boiling with anger and unexpressed grief because of what you have lost. You have been taught, perhaps, that it's not lady-like to scream, pound pillows or express any anger. You may believe that because you asked for the divorce, you are not justified in feeling upset about it at all - only relief. You may believe that it is not polite to “air your dirty laundry in public,” so you say nothing. There are many reasons why women and men deny the feelings that come up during an emotional experience like a divorce. Perhaps you need to look strong for your children or for the rest of your family. Perhaps a part of you was deeply ashamed that things didn't work out. Perhaps for religious reasons your grief is so deep you don't even allow yourself to recognize it for fear of being ashamed in front of your God.

Please get in touch with those feelings and allow them to come to the surface where you can face them. If you need to talk to someone you trust, in a professional atmosphere, in order to recognize these very human emotions, then by all means give yourself this gift while you are going through this very trying time.

And be aware that those feelings and emotions may repeat themselves and come up again and again throughout this emotionally healing journey. Just like waves.

Now there are many "good reasons for divorce," and it is great to celebrate your freedom from any sort of tyranny. I always advise depressed clients to remember why they have chosen to extricate themselves from a painful situation or relationship that is detrimental to their health. Yet even in physically, mentally abusive or emotionally restrictive relationships, you will still go through a grieving process. That is the natural way your emotions work. Emotions are the guideposts of our life. So it's always very emotionally healthy to pay attention to them. They are here for a reason and every feeling is good!

So the first step along this journey to a healthier, happier life is to honor every emotion that you are feeling - fully and completely (and most times, privately).

Everything you decide to feel and recognize as an "honest emotion" is perfectly acceptable. No one has the right to tell you how to feel or when to stop grieving or being angry. Only you know when you're sick and tired of feeling bad. And then you will stop. Or just rest! And that may last a whole day, a whole week or longer. You will go up and down experiencing a whole range of emotions.

As you ride the waves of these emotional effects of divorce, you will feel better and better as the days go on because you're not shoving down any important feelings.

That's the healthiest way to begin your journey; with self-awareness of every feeling. You will find new strength and happiness along the way.

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