The experience of divorce or breakup can come as a shock or a relief.  It may even feel like having a death in the family.  There are many feelings that may come with the divorce experience like anger, hurt, betrayal, guilt, mistrust, shame or feelings of being at fault or being a failure. Here are some of the stressful factors which may affect divorce adjustment: •   Financial – divorce is hardly ever good for family finances •   Children’s Issues – the effects on them, possibly moving to a new school, custody issues •   Relations with ex-spouse over ongoing finances and/or children •   Other Relationships – a big adjustment as friends and relatives may start “taking sides” and feeling uncomfortable having you around •   Career – possibly returning to the workforce, or having a bad effect on an existing career •   Moving out of the home, or even away from the area •   Prolonged litigation of the divorce itself •   Return to the dating world •   Remarriage of either partner and relations with the new spouse •   These pressures may set off or aggravate existing feeling of anxiety, depression or panic attacks. Here are what some clinicians say are the stages of divorce recovery: •   Denial/Anger – The first realization that you are certainly headed for divorce can trigger bouts of shock and anger along with physical symptoms like loss of appetite, nausea, headaches and lack of sleep. •   Depression – Divorce may echo the feelings of grief and loss as when there is a death in the family.  You may experience overwhelming sadness and despair when going through this kind of depression. •   Grief – Acceptance of your divorce situation may lead to a withdrawal into the grieving process.  The missing spouse and children create an empty space in your life that can seem hard to fill at first with new social routines and parenting patterns. •   Recovery – As time passes, the emotional pain of the previous stages may not be as sharp.  You may feel more satisfied and confident as a single individual, and will settle in to new daily routines.  You will develop new healthy friendships with others and perhaps even be ready to date again. How will you know if you need professional counseling in divorce recovery?  You may want to seek counseling if you seem to be stuck in one of the stages indefinitely.  All couples are unique and the length of the recovery process varies widely.  If the couple has been emotionally distant for years then there may not be much of a long post divorce grieving process.  But if your sadness has turned into a deep depression where you no longer take care of normal things like going to work, paying the bills, being a good parent or enjoying your normal hobbies then perhaps a counselor can help. Divorce may signal the end of the marriage but it does not end the important role that both parents must play in their children’s lives over many years to come.  If your children appear to be suffering emotionally without end as a result of the divorce or if they have problems with grades or behavior at school that don’t clear up then that is another possible reason to seek family counseling.  The skilled therapist can be a valuable ally to both parents by initially serving as the children's advocate and assisting both parents in helping children through divorce. You can speed the divorce recovery process by consciously working through the outlined stages of divorce.  You can keep the lines of communication open with your spouse, children, relatives and good friends and by seeking divorce recovery counseling when necessary.  Suzanne is a licensed clinical social worker practicing in Rockville, Maryland and has over 20 years of experience in helping people with marriage issues, including divorce adjustment.  Please call her at 301-272-1320 for a free initial consultation with Suzanne by phone to talk about your current situation and how Suzanne may be able to help you.
Divorce Recovery
Suzanne Corcoran, LCSW-C, Counseling for Couples and Individuals in Rockville, Maryland