Stages of Grief in Relation to a Divorce
After a divorce, the range of emotions experienced can be overwhelming and confusing. Although the Five Stages of Grief is most often associated with those who have experienced the death of a loved one, the impact and tragedy of divorce often brings us through the different stages of grief, as described below:
Denial and Isolation
Sometimes, a first reaction is to simply deny the loss: unbelief or refusal to believe. This stage may last a few moments or longer and may cause one to withdraw from others, especially when the impending loss is obvious (e.g. signs of an affair) We can work it out. This really is not happening. He is only doing this because… (Mid-life crisis, wrong friends, etc.)
After a loss, the grief becomes anger. The grieving person will be angry for various reasons: angry at the person who caused the loss, angry at God for allowing the loss to happen, angry at the world, angry at the circumstances or angry at self for letting the loss occur…even if, realistically, there was nothing that could have been done to prevent the loss. This is not fair! What did I do wrong?
The grieving person will attempt to bargain with God or the other individual involved in order to attempt to prevent the loss from happening. If you come back, I will change and do this or that. God, if you prevent this, I promise I will never do/always do…. (E.g. keep the house cleaner, stop spending money, be better in the bedroom, etc.).
This stage can also be referred to the zombie state or the daze phase. Numbness will set in and it becomes difficult to function properly. I cannot go on. This is more than I can bear. I have no idea what to do. I feel nothing.
Eventually, the anger, sadness and mourning taper off and the grieving individual simply accepts the reality of the loss. The loss has been accepted and the fact that life must continue becomes a realization. Nothing I do or say can change the circumstances.
Remember, everyone must go through these stages at an individual pace and the stages do not necessarily have to occur in this order and stages may be repeated. There is no “set” timetable for each stage. One thing to be mindful of is the awareness of being “stuck” too long in one stage. When this occurs, an individual should seek professional help.
Although there is no “magic formula” for working through the various stages of grief, one should always allow time for grieving. Utilizing support groups (divorce, grief related…both virtual and real-life), licensed counselors, therapy such as journaling, and medical personnel trained to deal with depression and pastoral support are many methods available to assist someone traveling down the road of grief after a divorce.
Divorce and the Holidays: Spending the Holiday Alone
A divorce/separation brings many changes, which are more pronounced during the holiday season. If a holiday dinner has been focused around family (particularly at the in-laws), or if the x has the kids for the holiday, these traditions can abruptly cease and necessitate the need to create new traditions.
When my ex-husband and I were married, we lived in a big city, a thousand miles away from my family. Unless my parents sent us plane tickets so we could join them, we were alone. Our church population was quite transient, as in there were displaced Yankees who did not have family around. I love to cook, but its no fun cooking for just one or two. So, what we did was that we sought out folks who were alone for Thanksgiving Day (or Christmas) and invited them over to our house (or apartment before we moved) for a big dinner. Our house was always full of folks…I guess the “misfits”.
That being said, are you finding yourself alone this year for the holidays? Here are some things to do:
- Seek out those who you know will also be alone and plan on some sort of get together. These folks could include: out of town or international college students, folks with no family in the area, senior adults or others.
- Many homeless shelters, churches or city missions have meals for the homeless and destitute, so find out where these are and volunteer to serve others. Reaching out to those less fortunate is a good reminder of God’s blessings.
- If you like to cook and have the resources…cook! Go out and find those who never get invited and invite away. If you know some single moms who are not around family, either invite them or take dinner to them. You know how much of a blessing that will be.
- Sign up for a short-term mission project during the holidays. Many denominations offer a plethora of short-term experiences.
- “Adopt” an elderly couple or widow or widower whose family is not around. You can take them dinner, invite them over, run errands, and just spend time with them.
- Do you love animals? Become an animal foster or volunteer at the local animal shelter. A word of caution, though: you may become a failed foster parent.
- Travel….be daring! It is perfectly OK to travel alone and you can find some inexpensive travel packages during the holidays and, as a bonus, you can typically meet some new friends along the way.
- Move. Go on a hike, bike ride or engage in some other form of physical activity. Exercise is the most inexpensive and more effective anti-depressants on the market
- Visit random folks who are in places such as nursing homes or hospitals. Not every patient has visitors.
- Volunteer to spend time at the local homeless shelter or other places such as the local Ronald McDonald House (which houses families of children who are hospitalized).
- Go out to eat (wither alone or with someone else who is alone). Be sure and tip your servers well, though!
- Like quiet? Enjoy the time alone to “catch up” on some reading, organizing, resting, or spending time with your Father. But, be careful not to turn it into a pity party! No pity parties allowed.
The more time you spend reaching outward to others means that you have less time to spend looking inward to your own troubles. And, conversely, although most of the suggestions above involve reaching out to others, there is nothing inherently wrong with being alone and enjoying the peace and quiet (as long as it does not involve a pity party). Throughout the years, I have learned that, even though one’s attitude may not change a situation, it can certainly help one cope.
Remember that: this, too, shall pass!
Abraham: Are You in a Holding Pattern?
Are you waiting? Are you tired? Are you tired of waiting? Is your life in a perpetual holding pattern?
You are not alone.
Abraham: God promised Abraham that from his seed a mighty nation would arise. Abraham: the man whose elderly wife was barren; the man who left all to pursue God. Do you realize that length of time that elapsed between the revelation of the promise to Abraham to the fulfillment of the promise (Isaac’s birth) was twenty-five years? That’s 25 years of waiting. Abraham watched his nephew, Lot, accumulate wealth, status, and prestige in an up-and-coming (albeit wicked) city…while Abraham lived in a tent with no heirs except his head servant and a bunch of animals.
Do you think that Abraham became tired of waiting? Absolutely! We know the story…how his wife, Sarah, thought up a plan for Abraham to have a child through her maidservant, Hagar. And we know how much that really did NOT work out. (Genesis 16)
So, yeah, Abraham messed up when he tried to “help” God. Have you ever wanted to “help” God along with something? Do you ever feel that God is moving too slowly for your liking? I would venture to guess that most of us have felt like this…especially when we are in a holding pattern.
Twenty-five years later, Isaac was born to Abraham (age 100) and Sarah (age 90). Had this happened in 2011, the plain of Hebron would have been overrun by every news media and genetic scientist known to mankind because, after all, it is not every day that a nonagenarian gives birth to a healthy baby boy! They would be receiving calls from Oprah, Jay Leno…all of them….
But, the bigger story in regard to Abraham is the fact that God honored His promise. Yes, Abraham had to wait 25 years for the promise to be fulfilled, but, even though Abraham got ahead of God’s plan and failed (he failed many times, as recorded in Genesis), he believed God. God was faithful to Abraham. He used the holding pattern to teach Abraham to become fully dependent upon Him…to the point that Abraham was willing to sacrifice Isaac upon God’s command.
Twenty-five years earlier, Abraham received the promise but did not see the entire picture. God, who is not bound by the law of time as we are, in His infinite wisdom and knowledge, could see the ENTIRE plan…which involved the holding pattern. Holding patterns are no fun…waiting is the pits!! But, sometimes the waiting is absolutely necessary in His Sovereign Plan.
You may be currently living in limbo…in a holding pattern. You may not see God working. You may see the wicked being blessed while you are living in absolute poverty. You may not even feel God’s presence. BUT…and praise God for the BUT… HE IS HERE. He can see the entire picture. He has read the end of the story. You (and I) simply need to trust Him. What He says, He does. He will NOT break His promises. He can be trusted because HE IS GOD.
Are we going to mess up? Count on it. Are people going to betray us? Yep. Is life going to be fair? Ha! Abraham failed many times but God did not zap him down when he failed. Instead, Abraham regrouped and continued to pursue God as his friend….while he waited and waited.
We can take God at His word because He is God: For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you; plans to give you hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:11