Dealing with grief after divorce is a complicated thing.
It’s a lot different from dealing with grief after a death. Death is final. You’ll never look that person in the eyes again.
But after divorce, you still have to look your ex in the eyes each and every time you hand the kids off,and at each major event in the kids’ lives (think birthdays, graduation, marriage, grandchildren, you adult child accepting a Nobel Prize, etc.).
Finding closure is much more difficult and challenging than we often realize.
The ever-changing feelings you experience are confusing, frustrating, and messy. You end up wondering if this whole divorce thing has finally driven you mad. Especially when you find yourself longing to reunite with the ex you think you hate, but somehow can’t stop thinking about.
Wait, what? You want to get back together with the person who cause you so much pain?
Take a deep breath and relax; I promise — you’re still sane. Thoughts and fantasies about reconciling with your ex are actually completely normal in the divorce recovery process.
I had all kinds of strange thoughts while working through the grief of my divorce.
One of my recurring (and thankfully fleeting) ideas was … suicide. Other times, I’d think about reconciling with my ex. The thoughts kept coming and coming and coming and coming. Obviously, some of the ideas I came up with were better than others. It took some real effort to sort through all of them.And you’re probably experiencing something similar.
Many people start fanaticizing about getting back together with their ex.
But, the question left to answer is — WHY? Why would you (or I) yearn to reunite with someone we’re probably better off without?
Well, it turns out that, whether you THINK you’re “grieving” your divorce or not, you’re most likely still experiencing the 5 stages of grief identified by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross: Denial/Isolation, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance.
Take a good look at #3, “Bargaining.” It’s during that stage that thoughts of reconciliation and getting back with your ex surface — especially if you’ve gotten to the point of asking (OK, maybe it’s more like begging) your ex to take you back.
When we’re in pain, our brain starts doing what it’s fabulous at: problem solving.
It comes up with all kinds of ideas (and, yes, some of them are really weird) for getting us out of that pain. During this time, people often wonder how their life might have turned out if the divorce had never happened. From that point, it’s really easy to start seriously considering reconciliation as a viable option.
And we end up thinking this way because the brain has a tendency to view our past with rose-colored
According to Richard Walker, Ph.D, “People have an inherent bias to view their experiences in a positive light.” After reviewing 12 different studies, Walker discovered that we all tend to remember happier emotions longer than negative ones. The negative ones just tend to fade faster (unless a person suffers from depression, then both their positive and negative emotions fade at the same rate.)
So, as time goes by, it’s easier to remember the good times in your marriage than the bad times. And this fading effect makes the idea of reconciliation much more enticing and acceptable.
On the other hand, you may also think about reconciliation because you genuinely want to fix the issues in your marriage — the divorce was just the kick in the pants that you needed to realize things you could have done better.
If that’s the case, then you’ve have A LOT of work ahead of you, but that’s work you need to do on your own.
We feel like we’re the only ones going through all of the confusion, self-doubt and conflicting emotions— not to mention the worries about whether or not we’ve lost our sanity along with our marriage.
But though thoughts of reconciliation after divorce are common and normal — that does NOT make the option healthy or remotely in your best interests. Those fantasies are simply one way we deal with grief as a pathway to healing.
Knowing the REAL cause behind those thoughts can help you deal with them as you continue to grieve your divorce and move past it to enjoy a better life.
Dr. Karen Finn is a divorce coach and divorce survivor herself. She works with clients to help them decide if divorce is their best answer or not. You can join her anonymous newsletter group for free advice or email her at [email protected] for a free consultation.