Jane was frozen and numb in disbelief. She had been married for 37 years. Now, she was not… Divorce was unfathomable! Marriage was forever. At 65, Jane is suddenly single. How can it be?
Mary is feeling angry and bitter. Her husband cheated on her. She never saw it coming. “I don’t deserve this! After all I put into our marriage he betrayed me! I can never trust him again!”
Carla is now struggling trying to raise her daughters as a single mom. Family dinners are awkward and strange without Dad at the table. The girls, ages 4 and 7, ask every night when he is coming back. Carla is overwhelmed, exhausted and depressed.
Jane, Mary and Carla are reeling emotionally from their recent divorces. They are grieving the loss of their husbands and their former way of life. A section of family, as they once knew it, has been sliced away. Their couples community of friends has changed drastically.
There has been no funeral for the death of these marriages, but the pain, loss and letting go are devastating. In her hospice work with the dying, Elisabeth Kubler-Ross defined 5 Stages of Grief. You may be familiar with them as applied to the death of a loved one, but they apply to many other kinds of loss, including divorce.
1. Denial – This is not happening to me. I can’t believe it.
2. Anger and Resentment – I don’t deserve this. It isn’t fair.
3. Bargaining – If I had been a better wife, he wouldn’t have left me.
4. Depression – My loss has left me feeling hopelessly sad and immobilized.
5. Acceptance – This is really happening. I know now that I need to accept it so I can move on in my life.
While Jane, Mary and Carla are each grieving their divorce, the circumstances of their loss has them experiencing these stages differently, with greater time spent in one stage rather than another.
At age 65, the circumstance of Jane being one of a growing number of seniors going through Grey Divorce has her rooted in denial. She just can’t believe it! Financial, health and estate planning in retirement is daunting and challenging enough as a couple. What is she going to do on own? ” It wasn’t supposed to be like this! They were supposed to grow old together!”
Mary is consumed with anger and resentment. “How could he have done this to me?” Her husband’s betrayal burns within her. She is not yet able to see clearly enough to realize that his affair was a symptom of something awry in their relationship, not the cause of it. Her healing is twofold, infidelity and the death of her marriage.
Carla is stuck in depression. Just getting out of bed in the morning is so hard. She feels like giving up, but her daughters need her, so she pushes through as best she can.
No matter what the loss, we all experience these 5 Stages of Grief differently. They can occur erratically in varying order. As described in the stories of Jane, Mary and Carla, we can find one or more of these stages harder than others.
It is riding the waves of emotion through these stages that brings us to acceptance. The work of grieving is clearing a path to allow for moving on in our lives. With support and care, the journey forward can hold gifts of self-discovery and new beginnings that we might never have thought possible. This is the power of healing.