Mourning the death of a spouse can be incredibly difficult. The loss of a partner, friend, companion, and confidant is so universal that expressions of mourning are expected, and responses of sympathy are instinctive. Neither the surviving spouse, nor the people around them question the need to mourn, nor the appropriateness of offering comfort.
But when the loss is the result of divorce, the concepts of mourning and comfort become a bit complicated.
It can be difficult to mourn the loss of someone whose presence was the source of pain, humiliation, or hostility. Pride and self-consciousness can make it difficult to even acknowledge feelings of sadness, much less express them openly and welcome sympathy. It’s even more difficult to process when the divorce represents a genuine improvement in quality of life. It’s easy to see why mourning divorce is difficult. You would have to be crazy or pathetic to mourn the loss of someone you were better off without…right? Well, it’s complicated.
Going through a divorce involves the loss of more than just the other person’s presence in your home. For many people, they divorce only after spending great quantities of time, energy, and money trying to keep their marriage intact. In those cases, divorce represents a failure personally, as well as relationally.
The disintegration of the marriage also marks the death of the hopes and dreams for their family; everything from holiday celebrations to children’s graduations and weddings just became infinitely more complicated.
For some people, being divorced carries a social stigma and denotes a change in social status. It can also be difficult to find a balance between being authentic and making a public spectacle out of a personal conflict.
It’s important to remember that mourning is an appropriate response to the end of a relationship.
And, finalizing a divorce doesn’t magically erase the pain that led to it; give yourself some time to process your feelings. As with any loss, it is natural to experience the five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. People around you may be unsure of how to offer support. Give them a chance before assuming that they don’t care. You can be honest about what you’re experiencing without trashing your ex. It’s not easy, but in taking the high road, you can express your feelings without compromising your integrity.
Jill Howgate, LAPC