June 17, 2024

Divorce can be likened to a death within the family except that no one brings you food. I suggest you treat it as the great loss it is so you can come to peace with the situation.

Divorce, whether it is the result of a divorce or if you were the one who initiated it, can cause fear, anxiety and anger. It may also lead to bitterness, resentment and a feeling of hopelessness.

Face the Loss

Even though divorce is now more common than intact unions, it feels like failure in a world where failure is not an acceptable option. You may feel as if you are dying during the traditional divorce process. This is a very uncomfortable situation, especially if for years you convinced yourself that your marriage worked or was the right thing to do. You no longer need to pretend that your marriage works for you when it doesn’t. It can be surprising to learn that your friends have been able to predict this for years, but failed to tell you.

Losses are numerous. You lose a companion and a lover. You lose the dream of marriage. If your inlaws decide to side with one party or the other, you may lose all of your friends and even some members of your own family. You may lose your home, and all the comforts that come with it. You will probably not see your young children every day if you have them. If you don’t have enough wealth to offset this financial loss, then your standard of living will also suffer. These losses can affect your emotional well-being, regardless of your financial situation.

The Five Stages Of Grief

My experience of divorced people has shown that it mimics the famous Kubler Ross five stages: denial, anger, frustration, irritation and anxiety. Bargaining (trying to find meaning and reaching out to other people to share one’s perspective and story), depression, (feeling helpless, hopeless and hostile and wanting to escape the pain), acceptance and moving forward. The feelings can occur at any point in the divorce process from the moment a spouse announces their desire to get a divorce until the final court order. It is important to learn how to cope with the intense emotions that arise during divorce. This will help you emerge from the process feeling healthy and whole.

Denial The denial phase is often unnamed, and occurs without anyone knowing it, even the lawyers. Only the therapist of a client can know that this is taking place. Of course, they cannot tell anyone. The grieving phases of divorce aren’t something that traditional divorce attorneys discuss with their clients. However, if you choose a collaborative divorce then this will be an option.

Anger – The angry divorce phase is the worst nightmare of all. It is at this time that someone will “lawyer up” with the largest shark to get the best deal for the spouse. This is a reactionary moment. It will serve you and your family better in the long term if you hit the pause key before hiring a divorce attorney and rushing to the courthouse before you’ve processed your strong emotions. I’m saying that anger is something you should work through and not become stuck in. If you want the court to protect against abuse, you should go to court.

Bargaining This phase is similar to the grief process during divorce. It suggests that you may struggle to find meaning in this experience. It may be helpful to reach out and share your perspective. It is also the perfect time to reflect on your life and seek out a mental health professional. This is the time to give your life meaning, especially if your spouse derived personal satisfaction and identity from their role in marriage. Even the most resilient among us can feel vulnerable and lost. sharing your perspective can be helpful , but only if it is shared with the right people. Your spouse may not be your go-to emotional person anymore. I would encourage you to look for someone who can maintain your trust and is safe.

Sadness and Depression — This is probably the most difficult part of divorce. All of this hurts. This is both stressful and sad. Feeling your emotions is perfectly normal, and even healthy. It is not okay for you to constantly cry, especially in front your children. Get professional help if this happens. No one is exempt from the emotional turmoil that divorce brings. Handling darker emotions with compassion, and using a family system counsellor will benefit everyone around you. You will reach acceptance if you deal with the emotional issues of divorce first, before settling your financial future and your relationship to your children.

Acceptance — True acceptance of the reality is difficult. It’s so much easier for us to tell ourselves the story we want to hear. You will eventually say: “OMG I’m so tired of listening to myself talk about it,” or “Enough!” It’s time to move on and get this divorce over with.

It is important to note that in most divorces, these breakthrough moments do not always occur at the same moment. If you’ve had your breakthrough moment, but your spouse is stuck in another phase, it’s your job to be patient with your spouse and show empathy. You will be caught up on your own timeline. This cannot be rushed with arbitrary court dates or deadlines.

Expect that you will not feel all the emotions associated with divorce. You may experience some of them, but not others. This process is not “right”. Get professional support and don’t listen to anyone who tells how things will go or how long you will feel. Everyone is unique.

The Collaborative Divorce Process

At the start of a divorce, fear of the future can be common. You feel like a stranger in a foreign land. You don’t understand the language and you aren’t aware of all your options. You’re processing the loss. We add guilt to divorces to make them seem as if someone is at fault.

Even if your perspective changes after you have processed the pain, the traditional lawyer will still follow that path. You may not be so angry. You want to be at peace now that you’ve worked through your grief and are in acceptance.

The Collaborative Divorce provides privacy, dignity, and space to help you and your spouse move through this life-changing transition at a pace which makes sense for both of you. Lawyers play a supportive, rather than a combative or adversarial, role. A mental health coach is available to normalize the intense emotions. Financial neutrals are part of the team to help you and your spouse untangle the knots in your marriage so you can move forward with confidence, knowing that your divorce was handled as humanely as possible.

Collaborative divorce is about choice; it doesn’t accept a model that’s designed to tear people apart and make them feel shattered. It accepts both you and your spouse for who you are and recognizes that you will change and grow during your divorce. You can align the process with your core values. It encourages your spouse and you to work together to end the marriage amicably.

How does it work exactly? It works by having both you and your spouse retain attorneys who are collaboratively trained, and a multidisciplinary team is formed. Meeting agendas are prepared in advance, so you can control the pace of your divorce. The team will provide the right support at the right time. Collaborative Divorce, an out-of court settlement process, is legal in all states in the United States and is also practiced in Canada, England and Australia. It is also used in Denmark, Israel, Italy and Denmark. The process is structured and supported, and there’s an expectation that your spouse and you will be better friends and co-parents or healthier than a married pair.


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