All of a sudden, the self-destructive things many of us do in our divorces don't seem so inexplicable. The depth of our losses, in fact, explains this telling observation from Judge Terry A. Crone: Couples come to court disputing what? Almost always they say it’s over who gets the velvet Elvis painting. I swear, every case has a velvet Elvis painting. But it’s never over the painting, it’s over their hurt.
Isn't that the way they say it goes? Well, let's forget all that. And give me the number if you can find it, so I can call just to tell 'em I'm fine and to show I've overcome the blow, I've learned to take it well. I only wish my words could just convince myself, that it just wasn't real-- But that's not the way it feels.
--Jim Croce, "Operator"
Divorce represents the death of a marriage and all the hopes and dreams that went into it. And the death of a marriage, like any death, requires a grieving process for healing. In almost every divorce filled with unending rage, conflict, and injury is at least one spouse, if not two, resisting this process and becoming stuck.
During divorce, an emotionally intelligent person will pass through a grieving process resembling Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross's five stages of grieving death (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance). When experienced temporarily as part of the process of grieving, each step has its beneficial purposes. But, each stage also holds great risks for anyone who uses it as a final destination.
The better that one can embrace the need to pass through each of the five stages, including depression, the sooner and more fully he (or she) can experience the wonderful promise at the end of the grieving process. What is that promise? It's nothing less than the awareness that:
Divorce is not the end of the world,
it does not mean annihilation,
and it can yield to life, joy, and (yes) love.
Here are some guides on the five stages that may help you in your journey.
1. Denial: “She just needs some time,” or “He's acting out some midlife crisis,” or “This only happens to other people”—these are some of the hallmark phrases of denial. It's a numbing response that often follows a refusal to acknowledge a loss as oceanic as divorce. But like all stages, denial is meant to last only a limited time.