Recently our team went to a training where one of the trainers said, “everyone going through a divorce is crazy” and although this comment was made in a humorous manner, it shed light how those going through a divorce are often times perceived. Just like physical health, our mental health is something that needs care. Many times, due to the abstractness of mental health it is not viewed as having importance. In addition, when someone is suffering with challenges related to mental health they are viewed as weak. What is often ignored is the stressors and biological vulnerability that we all carry.
In working with individuals, couples, and families going through divorce you are realize that mental health challenges to some degree is actually inevitable. Think about it, when a spouse is lost through divorce, one can find themselves without a clear roadmap for how to process both the loss itself and the development of a new life and identity separate from the marriage. There is also the part of a divorce where the future seems so unclear. Common feelings include fear, anxiety, sadness, shame, guilt, and doubt. For some there is a huge loss of identity, because for so long you were a husband or a wife that you may feel lost as to how to even understand who you are. The psychological distress of a divorce can make moving forward very difficult.
May is a perfect time to think about how life transition issues impact your psychological well-being, because this month is Mental Health awareness month. Becoming aware of mental health is not just about being aware of diagnoses like schizophrenia or bi-polar disorder but also taking some time to think about how life changes like a divorce has impacted your mental health. However, with being said, the stress of divorce can flare up symptoms of a mental health diagnosis that you previously had. A divorce is confusing because it can be a traumatic process even when you know that the relationship is no longer working. Going through a divorce is a lot like grieving and there are stages that we go through as we overcome the challenges of a divorce. These stages do not go in order and you can go through one of the stages again after overcoming it.
The stages are:
Denial is a type of defense mechanism that makes immediate shock easier to cope with and protects us from the pain of loss. By blocking out what you are currently going through, you don’t have to think about the difficult emotions to come.
Once one comes to terms with the reality of the divorce many people experience anger. You may feel resentful of your partner for things he or she did or said, or you may be disappointed with yourself for your own actions that may have contributed to the end of the marriage.
Bargaining is a time when you bargain with repairing the damaged marriage or convincing yourself that divorce is the right decision. This stage is often made of panic, fear and the desire to regain control. You may try to negotiate with your partner in an effort to correct what went wrong, or you may remind yourself of the reasons the relationship did not work.
Depression usually sets in as a person understands that the marriage is really over. At this time hurtful decisions and adjustments take place in the after the divorce, which can lead to deep sadness. For example, you may have to determine who receives various assets, who has custody of the children or who must move out of the house.
During acceptance, you come to accept the divorce as part of your life. You embrace the guidance and support of others and slowly begin to let go of negative emotions. The heartache is not gone forever, but at this point you are able to resume your normal activities without overwhelming sadness.
In understanding the challenges that come with a divorce it is easy to understand how some do experience high levels of psychological distress that impacts our overall mental health. In understanding divorce and mental health one realizes even the strongest person can become depressed during the process of divorce. Many individuals experience challenges with emotion regulation where they feel unable to calm themselves down or control their anger. Adjusting to the emotional, financial, and circumstantial changes that occur can be difficult and it is important to surround yourself with supportive people. Although it may feel impossible at the time, but it is crucial to value your emotional wellbeing during a divorce so you can lessen the negative effects. In coping through difficulties of divorce it is suggested to:
- Replace negative thoughts with positive ones
- Surround yourself with supportive people
- Seek counseling
- Monitor yourself with a psychiatrist
- Avoid unhelpful coping mechanisms
- Take part in activities that relieve stress
- Do not involve the kids in the conflict
- Keep the wellbeing of your kids in mind
- Maintain as much stability as possible
- Take time to reflect on your overall wellbeing
Divorce is always difficult especially when there is a high level of conflict. High conflict divorces can suck out your energy. This high level of conflict makes you forget how this divorce may beneficial. In addition, a high conflict divorce can result in a higher level of stress, debt, and distress. However, keep in mind there are professionals who can be of help for battles related to children and custody. If you are looking for any of this, consider utilizing a guardian ad-litem or a social investigator as a neutral party on the case. Sometimes these high conflict divorces involve psychological help, so ask yourself “where is there a psychologist near me?” as you may not even know where to go for this type of help. If you need guidance or support please visit rkcaregroup.com or call us at (305)900-7203.