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What is Divorce Grief?

Divorce is a painful and difficult experience that may include intense feelings of grief for many people. It is important to understand that, regardless of the circumstances that led to the divorce, divorce grief is a valid and important response to the end of a marriage. Many people seek help with divorce grief through therapy, peer support, and creating new life plans.

Marriages end for a variety of reasons, all of which may lead to a painful divorce process for one or both people. Regardless of how terrible and destructive the marriage may have grown, most marriages begin with a shared positive dream for the future that may be difficult to dismiss or abandon. The range of emotions involved in divorce grief is enormous, and people may find themselves in a different mood or even several varying moods during every day of the process.

In addition to sadness or depression over a failed marriage, common emotions associated with divorce grief include anger, feelings of betrayal, intense anxiety about the future, and numbness. People may suffer a crisis of self-image, suddenly unsure of who they are when not partially defined by a marriage or a spouse. Some may remain in denial about the divorce, sure that marital problems will be worked out sooner or later. Even those that leave a marriage completely sure that it is the right choice can be filled with grief and conflicting emotions over the situation.

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One aspect of divorce grief that may be confusing relates to the process of moving on after a divorce. It is not uncommon for people to feel guilty about creating a new life plan, or feel that they are betraying their now non-existent marriage by entertaining thoughts of dating, changing careers, or making other plans distinct from those that existed during the marriage. Guilt over moving on is common; some experts suggest thinking of this form of pain as a sign of the respect a person has for their former marriage vows.

There is no right way or right time frame for divorce grief. People may experience very different emotions, or grieve for different periods of time. It is important to seek sources of help that permit the expression of grief; people or groups that encourage a person to just “get over it” or suggest that a person has been sad too long are generally not helpful to the grieving person.

Sources of help for divorce grief are numerous. Many people find that therapy is beneficial throughout this period, as it gives them an outlet to express grief that may not exist with friends or family. Therapists can also help guide a grieving person toward the road ahead, and help them prepare for a new life. There are dozens of online groups for those going through a divorce that may provide a person who feels isolated with a support group of others enmeshed in the same painful process.

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