Like grief, we respond to and cope with the emotional changes of divorce by passing through distinct phases or stages. Which stage are you currently navigating? Read on to learn how one woman faced the emotional baggage of divorce, and get tips on what you can do to make this time in your life as healthy and constructive as possible.
In our last article, we met Sam, a business executive and dad who was going through a difficult divorce. We learned how Sam coped to help him process his feelings and move on. In this blog, let’s meet Jennifer, Sam’s soon-to-be ex-wife, and understand her attempts at coping with the swirling emotions their divorce has triggered. Jennifer is naturally experiencing many complicated feelings, but she is also learning how to deal with her new reality.
Jennifer, the soccer mom
Emotional Stage of Divorce: Shame. Sam’s wife Jennifer felt shame for being cheated on. She wondered what the other woman had that she didn’t. She had always been the person her friends sought out for advice, and now she felt like a fraud and a failure.
How Jennifer coped: Jennifer started individual therapy with a divorce therapist. Although she had often advised friends to get counseling, she had never done so herself because she didn’t think she needed it. To her surprise, Jennifer loved going to therapy because she had a safe space to talk about her feelings of shame without fear of judgment. Her therapist normalized her feelings and helped her become less critical of herself.
Emotional Stage of Divorce: Loss. Jennifer felt tremendous loss. With one fell swoop, her divorce ravaged her lifestyle, her sense of security, and her dream of the perfect family.
How Jennifer coped: her therapist suggested she keep a daily gratitude journal and write down three things each day – no matter how seemingly small — that she was grateful for. The more she cultivated a gratitude practice, the more she was able to focus on the good things she had, instead of what she didn’t have.
Emotional Stage of Divorce: Fear. Jennifer’s greatest fears were being alone, managing finances (she had left all things money-related to Sam), and being separated from her kids.
How Jennifer coped: she bought three sessions with a life coach who helped her create a plan for taking charge of her finances, determine what qualities were important in a future mate instead of compulsively seeking validation on dating apps, and focus on making the most of the time she had with her children when they were with her.
Emotional Stage of Divorce: Anger. Jennifer harbored anger at Sam for cheating, at the other woman for breaking up her marriage, and for not getting the life she’d planned. Her anger was causing her to engage in volatile email exchanges with Sam and bad-mouth him to the kids.
How Jennifer coped: Jennifer’s divorce therapist helped her work through her anger in session so she didn’t let it derail her co-parenting relationship or damage her kid’s well-being. Specifically, she created a list of coping skills to use instead of acting out in anger.
Emotional Stage of Divorce: Envy. For the first time in her life, Jennifer felt envy: for her friends’ marriages, for younger women who had their whole lives in front of them, and even for Sam, whose status as a middle-aged single man made him seemingly more desirable than a middle-aged single mother.
How to cope: Jennifer got a handle on her envy by volunteering at a women’s shelter. Besides getting a reality check on the lives of women who had far worse challenges, Jennifer learned to get out of herself by helping those in need.
Emotional Stage of Divorce: Stress. The stress of managing finances, figuring out a new career, and managing small children who struggled to cope with the changes in their lives, made it difficult for Jennifer to function. She suffered insomnia and anxiety attacks, and gagged at the thought of food.
How she coped: Jennifer saw a psychiatrist who put her on medication that helped stabilize her mood so she could eat and sleep. With rest and proper nutrition, Jennifer was able to manage stress more effectively.
Emotional Stage of Divorce: Destabilization. Without her former lifestyle and identity as a traditional married mom, Jennifer felt destabilized. She was stunned to discover that many of the people she thought were friends disappeared when her station in life changed.
How she coped: Jennifer actively planned more time with her real friends – the ones that liked her for who she was as a person, not what she had or what she could do for them.
Like Sam, and like all people finding themselves going through the process of a divorce, Jennifer can also find a stabilizing force in a legal plan of action put into place early on in her process. Working with a trained and experienced family law attorney at the outset will serve to remove a layer of stress and anxiety that comes with the fear of the unknown. The law can be complicated. Without question, having a strong advocate by your side to guide and advise you every step of the way removes that uncertainty. Knowing that your attorney is striving to move you toward your goal while you take care of yourself and your family is invaluable.
Please feel free to contact us when you are ready to take that step. Our strong and compassionate expert attorneys have years of experience helping clients just like you. We will make sure that your family and your future are protected. Secure your future. Call us today: 888-888-0919.