Divorce challenges the basic sense of who you are, who you’ve been, and who you’ll become. Healing from a divorce is not like getting over the flu where one rests, drinks lots of fluids and comes out the other side good as new.
Surviving a divorce is much more like recovering from a traumatic accident in which you need to relearn basic tasks in order to thrive in a new, forever changed life.
There are two different healing processes people go through during the emotional roller-coaster ride of divorce. First, there is the grief of losing a loved one. The second process is the struggle for a more complete sense of personal identity, now that you are not a “we.”
Putting together a new and meaningful post-divorce life does not happen overnight. Some people can do this on their own, depending on the magnitude of their post-divorce problems and how much support they have. But many need help, and that’s nothing to be ashamed of.
Signs and Symptoms That Signal The Need For Help
Reactions to divorce vary. However, there are many signs that signal the need for professional help. If you are experiencing any of the following, you should consider meeting with a mental health professional who specializes in divorce counseling.
- Depression – If you feel a prolonged sense of sadness, uneasiness, or anxiety that you can’t seem to shake, clinical depression may be the cause. Your counselor can determine whether or not your depression is a normal part of the grieving process or is due to other causes.
- Self-Doubt or Low Self-Esteem – No matter how good looking you are, how much money you make or how accomplished you are, self-doubt or low self-esteem can set in after a divorce and rob you of your feelings of self-worth.
- Obsession with the Divorce – Many obsess about what went wrong with their marriage, who was at fault, and how unfair the situation is. While all of that may be true, excessive preoccupation with the dissolution of your marriage will not help you move forward.
- Persistent Anger – In some cases, the grief and loss that happens as the result of divorce expresses itself as persistent anger and aggression, not only toward an ex-spouse, but in response to the world in general. Often, this anger masks underlying feelings such as sadness, fear, or anxiety. It is important that a professional counselor identifies the defensive anger and helps you access the grief reaction that is necessary for your healing.
- Difficulty Concentrating on Day-to-Day Life – If you are having difficulty focusing at work, giving your full attention to your children, or participating in friendships, the pain you feel over your divorce may be drowning out important aspects of your life.
- Inability to Plan for the Future – When you were married, you may have taken for granted what the future held. Divorce erases that future, and many people feel at a loss to redefine it.
- Substance Abuse Problems, Sleeping Disorders, Risk-Taking, and Other Addictions – It is common to dull the pain of divorce with alcohol, drugs, sex and a host of other addictive behaviors. But soon the escape can turn into an extension of your problems. A skilled counselor can help you identify your compulsive behavior and, if necessary, refer you to a specialist who can help “wean” you. Typically, this rehab process must happen first, paving the way for you to access your underlying grief feelings.
People in the midst of divorce can feel rejected, abandoned, helpless and fearful. As a soon-to-be non-partnered person, they can feel confused about their identity.
No matter which of the above warning signs you may be experiencing, a good point of reference is this: If you are questioning whether or not you need counseling, you probably do. Trust your instincts and reach out for help.