Divorce has an impact on almost every aspect of your life; it affects you financially, it affects your children, it affects your relationship with your family and friends, it can even take a toll on your reputation at work or in the community. Often people get wrapped up in the logistics, such as the legal implications and the financial impact of divorce, and the emotional toll that a divorce can take is overlooked. The truth is, that taking care of your broken heart is just as important as figuring out your new financial situation.
Post-divorce you may find yourself in a situation where you are living alone, in a society that is relatively couples-oriented. Adjusting to life on your own can be challenging. You may have to re-enter the work force, learn how to cook for one, and take care of things your spouse usually handled such as paying bills. This transition will undoubtedly have a psychological impact that should not be ignored.
While going through a divorce, your will experience a range of emotions, including denial, hostility, depression, heartbreak, and ultimately acceptance of the end of your marriage and embracing your new situation. These emotional highs and lows can be traumatic, and experts say it typically takes two years to work through the emotional implications of a divorce.
Furthermore, each stage of divorce cannot be separated and experienced independently. In other words, you cannot place your “emotional divorce” on hold while you work out the details of your “legal divorce” or your “financial divorce.” This means that often, major decisions about custody and property division are made at a time where you are not your strongest emotionally.
This article is designed to help you acknowledge that your emotional wellbeing is of paramount importance, and also to give you some tips on how to deal with the emotional trauma associated with divorce.
Trust Your Lawyer
The first piece of advice with regard to how to cope with the emotional fallout from the divorce is to trust your lawyer. Your lawyer is your advocate, and has your best interest at heart.
While you are experiencing the emotional roller coaster that is divorce, it will be hard for you to think and see things both rationally and clearly. Negotiating a settlement with your ex during this time of emotional turmoil can result in a “win at whatever cost” attitude and children being used as pawns or weapons. These circumstances will wreak havoc on spouses and children and have long lasting ramifications. This is why you should trust your lawyer.
Your lawyer is not emotionally invested in your case the way that you are, your lawyer can rationally approach the situation and advocate on your behalf, and your lawyer can also tell you when you are being irrational or where your requests are unreasonable. Your thoughts and wishes may be influenced by an underlying hope for reconciliation, or guilt over your contribution to the failure of the marriage. Trust your lawyer and listen to her advice, even if you think you are being completely rational, it is impossible to remove your emotions from the divorce in the same manner your lawyer can.
Don’t Rush Into a Settlement
As we mentioned before, your emotional recovery will take at least two years. For this very reason we encourage you to not be hasty when trying to reach an agreement with your former spouse. We suggest you experience a “cooling-off” period. Taking extra time can have serious advantages and ensure that decisions aren’t made while you are under emotional distress. Premature settlements can be dangerous, especially where one or both spouses are in emotional turmoil
Work with your lawyer in reaching interim agreements with your former spouse. Rather than making final decisions with regard to custody and property division, start small. Make preliminary decisions about who will stay in the marital residence, work out a temporary custody/visitation schedule, and consider reaching long-term settlements after you have had some time to deal with the emotional fallout of the divorce.
Shield Your Children
Your children will face their own emotional issues as you and your spouse go through a divorce. Their sadness, confusion and anger certainly need to be addressed by both spouses, however the easiest way for you to help your children through a divorce is by shielding them from your own emotions and feelings towards the other parent.
Minimize the communication that you have with your child regarding divorce proceedings and custody disputes. You should never use your child as a tool for your advantage in the conflict. You should not be badmouthing your spouse in front of the child, or competing for the child’s affection under any circumstance.
Contributing to your child’s emotional trauma will only compound your own emotional distress later on. Parents should be taking every precaution to protect their children and preserve their relationships with both parents.
Our last bit of advice regarding the emotional implications of divorce is to seek help in the form of counselling or therapy. This can ease your emotional trauma greatly and also teach you how to address your children’s emotional wellbeing
You may be wondering where or how to find the appropriate therapist or counselling method. Start with your lawyer. She should be able to provide you with a list of professionals trained to help those going through a difficult divorce. Every case is unique, and your lawyer may be able to recommend a certain path based on the circumstances and emotions involved in your case. You could also asks friends or family members or do a simple internet/phone book search for marriage and family counselling professionals.
The cost of therapy is also a consideration. Do not fret if you simply do not have the resources to employ a private practice professional to help you and/or your child through the divorce. There are community services that can help you and may offer counselling free of charge. Consider the Family Service Agencies and Children’s Aid Societies if hiring a private practice professional is beyond your means.
While it used to be the case that family counselling was conducted under the auspices that reconciliation was the ultimate goal, today counsellors only view this as one of several options. Family counsellors are trained to help you understand how separation or divorce will affect everyone involved from an emotional and economic standpoint. Counsellors can even offer advice on budgetary planning and childcare options for the newly single.
Even if you believe you are seeing everything clearly and thinking rationally despite the end of your marriage, it will not hurt for you to seek help for your emotional wellbeing. Often the scars of the emotional trauma from a divorce can manifest months or even years later, and addressing them early can save you more heartache down the road.
No matter how busy you are, be sure to give as much time to helping your heart heal as you do addressing the financial and legal logistics of your new life a single person. The emotional side of a divorce is easily overlooked and if it is not addressed can wreak havoc on your relationship with your former spouse and child.