Divorce and Death are Always the Same where Grief is Concerned
Divorce is a loss of an emotional nature and has therefore the same response in producing grief as any of the 40+ other instances of loss which also produce grief. Bereavement is not the only producer of grief but is probably the best understood.
A recent blog gave 5 reasons why death and divorce are not the same. In terms of grief they are always the same. Both are the loss, change or end of a familiar pattern of behaviour in an emotional relationship. Loss and grief is also unique to the individual and should not be compared so we should never say that one person’s loss is greater or less than someone else’s. Grief is about feelings, and we do not make up our feelings so we do not make up grief and its associated pain.
Death is permanent and so is divorce. Even if a couple get back together again or remain on amicable terms the relationship that they had as a happily married couple will change permanently. The issue of trust will certainly change. The split or ending can also be very sudden and unexpected and one might never know where their ex is living or how they are living or indeed if they are alive. Not every divorced couple has children to act as some sort of bridge between them. If you were to ‘bump into them’ occasionally, the sight of them and memories of what is lost could easily re-traumatise you, so seeing them is not something that can be thought of as a plus against never seeing a deceased loved one again.
In my own personal divorce story, I thought I was happily married, had no suspicions that things were not right and my ex-husband just announced one day that he didn’t think he could live with me for the next 25 years. He refused to talk about why, denied having an affair and when I found incriminating messages on his phone, because he was having an affair, and accepted his offer to leave at 1.30 in the morning, my life and relationship changed suddenly, dramatically and irrevocably. He never returned leaving me to sell the house and move out. After 27 years of marriage I was on my own. I am not allowed to know where he lives or anything about him, he may as well be dead. If he had died I would not have had additional feelings of deceit, abandonment, rejection, betrayal, fear and loss of self-esteem, to contend with. My divorce is very final and there are plenty of others who will have a similar story.
Children are not always involved in a marriage and if they are may not have a choice in seeing a parent again if the divorce is acrimonious and visiting rights are not sought. Plenty of abandoned, single parents and children will testify to this.
I would have preferred it if my husband had died suddenly as my friends and family would not have been torn between me and him. I would have received sympathy, understanding, compassion, help, support from everyone. People may have had some idea what to say and do for me. All my memories would have been happy, pleasant ones. If he had died, sadness would obviously have been present but not the hurt, rejection and deceit that the memory of our 27 years together brings up.
So, divorce is permanent, it is final, it is not always a conscious choice, it is not resolvable. It is an ending of an emotional relationship, as is death and it does carry other harmful feelings and emotions which add to the grief. No loss can be compared because all grief is uniquely individual.
Finally, the grieving and mourning process can be dealt with in the same way even to the extent of having a divorce ceremony. For all rites of passage and major life changing events there is a ceremony and divorce is no different although it is not well known. A divorce ceremony can involve the couple but is usually for one person and it can be solemn to mark the life change or it can be a celebration of a new life and opportunities. It can be particularly helpful where children are concerned to re-affirm that whilst Mummy and Daddy might not love each other, they will still always love their children. It is also a marker of an end and a beginning, much as a funeral is. (For more information visit www.celebrant-services.co.uk)