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The Powerful Emotions of Divorce
Divorce is an Emotional Event
If this is your first major loss, and divorce often is, the intensity of the emotions may take you by surprise. There isn’t much in life that prepares us for the divorce journey.
Many people think only of the legal aspects when considering divorce. How hard can that be? You file the papers, wait the allotted time, the judge signs the final orders, and you’re done, right? Sort of. It may seem like a legal process with some emotional components, but in actuality, divorce is much more an emotional experience with some legal aspects to it.
The Two Big Ones: Grief and Anger
Grief and anger are two powerful emotions present throughout the divorce process. They will show up intermittently throughout. In the beginning, one or the other will be stronger. Thankfully, they don’t show up with equal intensity at the same time. Working through the emotions to a healthy completion is the focus of the second turning point. Working through them means both embracing them and resolving them. In the process, the emotions also need to mature. Fortunately, in their mature forms the feelings aren’t as painful.
Woven in and around anger and grief, depending on circumstances, are other major emotions such as loneliness, guilt, rejection, anxiety, shame, and fear, making for a difficult emotional soup. Working through these emotions brings relief. It can also bring discouragement when you find yourself looping back through emotions you thought you’d left behind. There is a dance or orchestration between emotions as healing takes place. It is not a linear process.
Emotions as Guides
Ultimately, in order to move on with our lives, we need to disengage from our former partner and our former life. Our emotions are both our guides and our gauge as to how we’re doing at this. We can’t handle experiencing all of the emotions at one time, so our psyche chooses the strongest emotion in any given moment to concentrate on. When that emotion is at a manageable level, it will move on to the next one that needs attention. They play off of each other throughout the divorce process, intensifying and calming as you work through them or as situations change. Honor yourself as you turn your attention inward—your emotions need your attention now. This is where the second divorce turning point: calm your emotions and thoughts, begins to build on the first turning point: self-care. It is deep internal work and will require some self-focus. You will honor yourself by acknowledging that it is a necessary part of your process. It is not selfish to take care of yourself.
Anger, grief, your self-worth, and how much you’ve disengaged from your former partner are all linked together. Like the Whac-A-Mole game at Chuck E. Cheese restaurants, you just get one emotion to go below and another pops up somewhere else.