There is no grief like the grief that does not speak.
~ Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Although there is no one right way to deal with your grief while you are going through the dissolution of your marriage, some coping skills are better than others. Talking with someone about your feelings can help the grieving process to keep moving, and not talking to anyone—that is, not wanting to deal with what you’re feeling—prevents you from moving on. This is so for a number of reasons.
In order for grief to pass, it must be acknowledged. Like a small child who tugs at your sleeve in an attempt to get your attention, your emotions need to be “heard.” If you ignore the child, she doesn’t stop tugging on you or trying to get your attention. She may, in fact, tug harder and may even start yelling! Emotions are much the same. They don’t go away simply because you don’t want to feel them or they are inconvenient. Experiencing pain, sadness, and loneliness but not expressing them keeps you stuck, because you become emo¬tionally clogged with whatever emotion you are not allowing yourself to feel. Talking about your pain is a way to acknowledge it.
Sharing your sadness with someone else can also bring you a new perspective on your situation. In some instances, hearing yourself tell your story can shine a light on your problem in a new way. For example, one woman described how hearing herself complain over and over again eventually helped her to realize that she didn’t want to identify herself by her pain any longer. Hearing herself was the catalyst she needed to move to the next phase of her recovery, because she didn’t want to become stuck in her painful story.
There’s also something very powerful about being wit¬nessed by another person as you grieve. Having someone simply listen to you can have a profound impact on helping you heal.
Moreover, it’s important to seek out people who can and want to be there for you. If you don’t feel safe and supported at this tumultuous time in your life, you will stop reaching out to others. If you are afraid of overburdening others, seek out more than one source of support. Perhaps you can find a divorce support group, a therapist, a new friend, or a relative. You cannot afford to lean on people who are not supportive, even if you think they “should” be.
Talking isn’t the only way to heal, but it is an important tool to use in your divorce recovery.
I share my grief with those who want to help and support me through this transition.
This article has been edited and excerpted from Stronger Day By Day with permission by New Harbinger Publications, Inc, copyright © 2010, Susan Pease Gadoua is the author of Contemplating Divorce, A Step-by-Step Guide to Deciding Whether to Stay or Go (August 2008), and Stronger Day by Day: Reflections for Healing and Rebuilding After Divorce (July 2010). Susan is a licensed therapist based in the San Francisco Bay Area with an expertise in marriage and divorce.
Other articles by Susan Pease Gadoua