Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Peace and good will-when it is time to move on?

Proven Strategies and Valuable Advice form 100 Top Divorce Lawyers

Moving On
Life is like a book: some chapters are more difficult to get through than others. When I started living on my own again, I thought about how the new chapters of my own life were going to be written. I began to ask myself many questions. Can people actually be single and happy postdivorce? If they can, how do they achieve this? What is their secret? Is it like one of those new fad diets--just follow these few simple steps and, poof, a new you, easilytransformed while you sleep? Or can you only reach that elusive goal of happiness when you find that perfect mate--your knight in shining armor or damsel in distress? You need to manage the emotional agenda so you can look on divorce not as something that's dreadful, but as a passage that you can then learn from. There are learning curves involved in all passages. You need to ask yourself if you are willing to learn.Psychologist Dr. Bruce Derman, Woodland Hills, CaliforniaDivorce is about helping two people find a way to separate, yet some people just separate without working anything out.

I've known some wonderful people who, five or ten years after their divorce, were still bitter and angry, still asking, "Why me?" and, "How dare you?"There are couples that, many years after their divorce, are still fighting over many different issues. They've really never gotten over the emotional divorce. They are still holding onto emotional agendas. They say, "You've hurt me more than I've hurt you. I feel I was the right one in our marriage, not you." And when you are stuck in an emotional agenda, there's no time limit. It can go forever.

Psychologist Dr. Bruce Derman, Woodland Hills, California
Who did this attitude help? They were stuck in their past and finding it hard to live in the present. They were still so emotionally scarred--still walking around feeling wounded and bruised, still grieving and venting to anyone that would listen, still complaining about how their ex cheated them out of a life together. I didn't want to end up like this, so what could I do to move on?"Smart" refers to your head and how you are thinking about this. But a divorce that is not only smart but wise is one that also doesn't leave behind people's hearts, including broken hearts, as they go through this. A good mediation allows space for grieving so that at the end of this process, the couple has more than just a good settlement financially; they also have been able to have some closure on the ending of this marriage.

Mediator Dr. Carl D. Schneider, PhD, Mediation Matters, Bethesda, MarylandCoping with Your Ex After Divorce People have different emotions and experiences when disentangling from a former spouse. Some are saddened by the loss of the person with whom they had hoped to spend the rest of their life. Others are thrilled to finally be apart. Still others are required to maintain a relationship for the sake of the children. Some people never want to see or hear about their former partners ever again. Others try to keep tabs on them; they become competitive and curious about what the other is doing and who he or she is dating, and they can become saddened by seemingly being replaced so easily. Whatever the circumstances, this is new, uncharted territory that you need to explore in order to adjust and move forward.

Staying Sane Throughout Divorce
As I was divorcing, I went through a kaleidoscope of intense feelings: fear, anger, rage, sadness, guilt, shock, frustration, and relief. I wanted desperately to piece my world back together, but I didn't want to feel the emotions or even to face what had happened in my marriage. My grief and fear manifested itself in anxiety and physical aches and pains. Day after day, week after week, I waited impatiently--and impassively--for my fate to be altered. All I wanted was to feel happy again. When not enough happened, I sank deeper into helplessness, blaming myself for the pain thatmy children and I were feeling. The more helpless I felt, the more I resorted to the blame and shame game and played a victim. It seemed that no one understood what I was going through. It is a mystery to me how the English language can articulate "sad" in three mere letters. In the first year of divorcing, I was so sad, it felt like a country I had to walk through all alone.

What made me feel lonelier still is that everyone felt that they had the right to comment on what I was going through. Much unsolicited advice was given that, although well-intentioned, was absurd and inappropriate. I felt that friends and family didn't really understand what I was going through. How could they? I didn't understand myself.What You May Be Feeling--and What to Do About ItDivorce has become so common today that people underestimate how powerful an experience it truly is. People don't know how to react to divorced people.

When one loses a spouse through death, it is expected that there will be a mourning period, and people are respectful; whereas during divorce, people say things like "you're better off without him" or "I never liked her in the first place" and on and on. These types of comments don't make things betterand can actually make you feel worse. If they only knew all the emotions you were going through, they might not be so flippant.GriefGrief is not a mental disorder; it is a natural, if painful, emotion that must be worked through. Throughout my divorce, though, I would at times get stuck in my grief and feel paralyzed. I would vent and cry about the same issues over and over again. It certainly was not productive. Finally, my good friend said to me (a year after my separation) "you're very difficult to be around these days."

I guess I was releasing a lot of negative energy. No matter how supportive your friends and family are, they will get tired of hearing the same story over and over. If you're still telling that same story a year later, you're stuck. Feelings of sadness are part of a natural grieving process, but you must deal with them in order to move on.Grief presents an opportunity to make important choices and think about the life you want to lead. There is an incredible amount of emotional work and healing that needs to be done when you're grieving, especially during the first year or two of going through divorce.

The emotional healing is hugely important, and the idea of grieving is always there in divorce. It gets to a more basic strategy for dealing with anger, and that is, anger is an easy emotion, it's easy to be mad. It's a safe emotion too. But what you need to do is recognize how you are feeling, and then look beneath that feeling. And beneath the anger, other times there is grief. Other times there is longing, other times there is fear and anxiety.

Professor of Psychology and Director of the Center for Children, Families, and the Law Dr. Robert E. Emery at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, Virginia

What Does the Grief Look Like?Mourning the loss of a marriage is similar to mourning the loss of a loved one through death, with a significant difference. You don't necessarily have the closure that you do with losing a loved one. If you share children together, then this person, whether you like it or not, is still in your life and a constant reminder of the loss. In dealing with the loss of a loved one, the healing process is a slow and steady upward incline. With divorce it's more like the Rocky Mountains, with emotions hitting many peaks and valleys and many bumps hidden within. You begin to move forward but then the holidays become set-backs, as you find yourself alone or you are no longer part of the annual traditions. A new relationship moves you forward, but if you lose that relationship it becomes another setback. If the legal side of divorce becomes overly stressful, you're set back even further. There is this jagged line going up and down because as you try to get better emotionally, these experiences seem to get in the way.The stages of grieving rarely happen to couples at exactly the same time.

It takes two to marry and only one to divorce. Many times, the decision to separate is made primarily by one person, blindsiding the person who was left. By the time the decision to leave the marriage has finally been communicated, the decision maker may have already grieved the loss of the marriage and is ready to move forward, while the one who was left is in shock and is years behind the other emotionally. So you've got a divorcing couple who are in different emotional states. One person is thinking "let's get this over with," and the other is saying, "whoah, I need to slow down, digest, and regroup."

Grieving during divorce is done individually, not as a couple. While you may think your spouse should be more concerned about how you are feeling, or vice versa, it's everyone for themselves. That can make the transition even more difficult. Not only are you forced to apply rational thought and reason at a time when you can't think straight, but you've quite possibly lost the concern and support of the person you trustedmost. Grieving is a three-part process with each phase having its own intense period of mourning. Each phase occurs in waves--highs and lows--and then gradually tapers off.

1. Love--the opposite of love is indifference. What you want to feel is a diminishing love. If you hate that person, it is still emotionally draining and time consuming.

2. Anger--the revenge, wanting your spouse to pay for this decision.

3. Sadness--thinking, what am I going to do?You are cycling back and forth through these stages.

You are grieving alone, you don't have a partner to grieve with, and you are grieving different losses. This causes you to wonder:Why doesn't he/she understand?Why is he/she so cold?Why is he/she so irrational?Professor of Psychology and Director of the Center for Children, Families, and the Law Dr. Robert E. Emery at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, Virginia

The Smart Divorce: Proven Strategies and Valuable Advice form 100 Top Divorce Lawyers, Financial Advisers, Counselors, and Other Experts (Chicago Review Press, July, 2007)
© 2007 by Deborah Moskovitch