Divorce Counseling and how it can help
Divorce is a life changing event for all who are involved, leaving many emotionally distraught, and unsure of their future. Whether you are currently in the middle of a divorce or have already finalized the divorce, divorce counseling can help you and others affected by the divorce gain invaluable insight and tools to process the divorce, coping with the changes, identify goals needed to move on and build a positive and healthy life-relationships.
Given divorce is a difficult life-changing decision, and perhaps more so for those with children, consulting with a lawyer is advisable as well as potentially a pre-divorce counselor. A pre-divorce counselor can teach you and your partner how to effectively communicate and behave civilly, as you address any conflicting and/or confusing divorce-related emotions, while figuring out all the other legal matters that accompany a divorce.
When considering children,pre-divorce counselors can provide tips on how to tell children about their parent's pending divorce, to potentially minimize any trauma and/or emotional pain. It is important for children to experience a civil and healthy divorce; one without blame, name-calling, or disrespect. The best way to minimize your children’s trauma and safeguard their well-being is by being civil towards your ex and vice versa, which may require both parents to develop effective communication skills and a parenting plan.
Divorce does not usually mean the end of some relationships. In fact, some have continual investments and/or children that keep them some how tied to another. Post-divorce counseling can help many with any lose-ends (emotions, relationships, parenting, etc.) – in a healthy and productive way; improving self-esteem and self-confidence; accept some realities; reclaim their identity; and embrace their new life.
Do I Really Need Divorce Counseling?
For some, divorce is crippling, and overcoming the sadness and loss can seem insurmountable. And, as with any major life change, divorce can affect all aspects of the individual's life – from their emotional well-being, to their physical health, and relationships with others.
Below are some warning signs that may indicate a need for professional help. These symptoms range from mild-to-severe, and although everyone is unique, these are common signs you should consider when seeking divorce therapy.
- Problems falling or staying asleep throughout the night
- Self-loathing or feeling like a disappointment
- Feeling unworthy of love or happiness
- Sudden and dramatic weight loss or weight gain
- Social withdrawal and isolation
- Loss of interest in activities you used to enjoy
- Uncontrollable anger and rage
- Chronic depression
- Suicidal ideation (thoughts) and attempts
- Anxiety or excessive worry that interferes with your ability to perform everyday activities
Respectively there are Emotional Stages of Divorce to be mindful of
Divorce is much like death. When clients are grieving a loss, they move through several stages as part of the mourning process. Divorce follows a similar pattern, although it has its own unique phases. The goal of a divorce counselor is to help you traverse through the emotional stages of divorce. He/she also aims to help you understand that what you’re feeling is normal and natural. Lastly, divorce counselors help you prepare for your impending divorce, navigate the divorce process, and/or move on with your life once you are divorced.
Listed below are the emotional stages of divorce:
During the denial phase, people will most likely try to “carry on” with life, as normal. People in denial typically refuse to acknowledge what is happening. They “attempt” to ignore the situation, as a way of dealing with their shock and/or numbness.
Pain and Uncertainty
As the denial wears off, and reality sets in, people typically experience pain and sadness. During this stage, you will mourn the loss of your marriage. This is especially true if for the individual who wasn't the one who wanted or initiated the divorce. Furthermore, the uncertainty of what lies ahead can cause anxiety and depression.
During this stage, people want someone to blame. The truth is, for many, it feels good to transfer their negative emotions onto someone else, namely their exes and/or their new partners.
While no one person is to blame for the end of a marriage, it’s normal to feel like you need someone to blame for your loss. The truth is, “blaming” is a natural part of the divorce process. The anger only becomes a problem when people are unable to control it – i.e. lashing out at your children.
During the bargaining phase, people are probably going to want to “correct” past mistakes. This stage involves regret, and a desire to changeto get back what they once had.
The guilt phase occurs when people blame themselves for the divorce. During this phase, people most likely will recall all of the mistakes they made during their marriage; wishing they had done things differently.
Being depressed is a normal progression, as people move through the stages of divorce. During this phase, people may feel sluggish, have a hard time getting out of bed, lose appetite or start overeating, and/or lose motivation. You may also feel
During this final stage of divorce, people learn to accept what has happened and come to terms with the fact that their marriage ended. People may still feel sad and mourn the loss, but by this stage, they are more at peace with what happened. Eventually, people will be ready to move on with their life.
How Can Divorce Counseling Help Me?
There are many ways divorce counseling can help. The first step requires the individuals to give themselves time to fully grieve the loss of the relationship, companionship, support, and your future together. This process is not meant to be tackled alone, rather friends, family, support groups, and divorce counselors can all play a significant role in the recovery process.
A divorce counselor can help you in the following ways:
- Work through the stages of divorce
- Teach individuals the necessary coping skills to deal with the emotional pain of divorce
- Provide a forum for the entire family to receive counseling and support
- Provide relationship coaching to help the individuals understand the reason the relationship failed and prevent future relationship problems
What Can I Do To Help Myself in the Meantime?
Ways you can help yourself before, during, and after divorce include:
- Regularly exercising – i.e. brisk walking around the neighborhood or going to a gym
- Eating regularly and choosing nutritious foods
- Aiming for eight-hours of sleep every night
- Spending time with friends and family, who are supportive and positive towards you
- Engaging in relaxing and enjoyable activities that nurture you – i.e. reading, knitting, painting, and/or cooking
- Expressing gratitude to others and surrounding yourself with positive people
- American Psychological Association (APA). (2019). Marriage and divorce. Retrieved from https://www.apa.org/topics/divorce/
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). (2017). Faststats: marriage and divorce. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/marriage-divorce.htm
- Scott, S. B., Rhoades, G. K., Stanley, S. M., Allen, E. S., & Markman, H. J. (2013). Reasons for divorce and recollections of premarital intervention: Implications for improving relationship education. Couples & Family Psychology, 2(2), 131–145. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4012696/
- Uppsala Universitet. (2017). Fifty-fifty split best for children of divorce. Science Daily. Retrieved from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/09/170907104302.htm
- Connolly, M. E. & Green, E. J. (2009). Evidence-based counseling interventions with children of divorce: Implications for elementary school counselors. Journal of School Counseling, 7(26), 1-37. Retrieved from https://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ886140