Sometimes I still feel low and I was wondering what that meant. Was this a normal part of the transitional stage of divorce or did I have a problem? I decided to do some reading. Here are some definitions and explanations that I found.
Grief – A grief is a loss of something you cannot get back no matter how hard you try. It can be felt after any loss such as after the death of a loved one, divorce, losing your job or dreams or your youth or your security. Psychologists(1) describe stages denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance with the predominant symptom of sadness. Symptoms come and go, eventually running their course to a state of resolution.
Trauma – A trauma is a distressing event which feels unreal. You may suffer flashbacks to the event and the predominant feeling is of terror. You may see yourself as a victim and develop a distorted self-image.
Depression – Depression can be a temporary low mood after a loss or stressful event or it can be an illness (‘Clinical Depression’). In clinical depression the predominant feeling is a pervasive one of hopelessness. There is a loss of enjoyment in pleasurable activities and a chronic feeling of low self-esteem.
Complicated Grief or Traumatic Grief – If suffering remains six months after a loss or there is difficulty reaching normal functioning, then you may be suffering complicated grief or traumatic grief. It is more common when there have been several losses overlaid upon each other or a trauma complicating the loss. In complicated grief there can be a terrifying feeling of loss of self. Treatment focuses on processing the loss, as opposed to depression where the focus is often on treating the symptoms. Sometimes depression may overlay grief and treating both may be required.
Grief After Divorce – It is recognised there can be grief after divorce. Many symptoms of complicated grief (intense pain, intrusive thoughts, confusion over identity, inability to trust, difficulty moving on, prolonged bitterness or anger) apply equally or more to divorce than after a death.This is especially true if the marriage ending was traumatic, sudden, or the divorce processes have been distressing or prolonged. There is difficulty reaching closure as the person you are grieving is still around and in the case of abandonment or betrayal, there is a massive attack on your self-esteem and feelings of self-worth.
Trans-formative Grief – People can get stuck in grief in trying to get back to ‘normal’ rather than accepting the old normal is gone. In trans-formative grief the focus is on using the loss as a catalyst for positive change and growth. Trans-formative grief recognizes the multiple levels of change that have occurred, and focusses on finding a new ‘normal’ with meaning and fulfillment in the new changed world. It is not time that heals but rather living in an actively healing way. Instead of remaining stuck as a victim of a tragedy or trauma the person makes their own choices and becomes the creator of their new life.
I recognised grief after divorce was a transition, but the suffering continued to drain me. Reading about complicated grief sparked changes in my thinking knowing my suffering did connect back to my losses and that there had been complications in my situation of a traumatic nature. This gave me a reason for my continued pain but no solution.
Reading about trans-formative grief provided that solution, of using grief as a way to transform my life. Here are a few ideas:
- Forming a deeper connection with my inner soul
- Artistic expression of my pain by writing about it
- Having a greater compassion for myself and others
- Personal empowerment to live my life to my full potential
- Reaching out to and helping others less fortunate than myself
- Becoming actively involved in a cause I feel passionate about
I am now ready to take first step to mark the beginning of my transformation, of letting go of my old me.
Let me try my Dance of Trans-formative Grief
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