Dancing The Transformative Grief Of Divorce

Playing with the black dog of grief yet seeing the light

– Wrestling The Black Dog of Grief –

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.Β 

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.

My Dance

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:

  1. Forming a deeper connection with my inner soul
  2. Artistic expression of my pain by writing about it
  3. Having a greater compassion for myself and others
  4. Personal empowerment to live my life to my full potential
  5. Reaching out to and helping others less fortunate than myself
  6. 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

Dancing The Transformative Grief Of Divorce

Dancing The Transformative Grief Of Divorce


(1)Kubler Ross
Images courtesy [vlado]:FreeDigitalPhotos.net

33 thoughts on “Dancing The Transformative Grief Of Divorce

  1. Congratulations on letting go, Elizabeth! I love your 6 ideas for positive transformation, and using the grief as a catalyst to creating the best version of you! The dance begins, one step at a time….

  2. Yea for you!

    I’ve been through traumatic grief 4 times (possibly more) in my not-so-long life. I’m so grateful that I’ve had the support and love I’ve needed to transition those griefs into transformation.

    You’re on that road. (Let me say it again, Yea for you! You’re amazing!) It’s difficult, and extremely painful at times-but it’s also an astonishingly beautiful journey.

    You will be so amazed when you discover what is up ahead, waiting for you to get there. I’m going to be cheering you on (and isn’t it amazing that I can do it from halfway around the world? And amazing that I found you–you’re inspiring.)

      • No, I do not dance but I catch myself singing and skipping sometimes.
        I used to sing as a child – ALL the time.
        So this is a wonderful process of not only transforming into the new me, but also discovering the old me that was lost.

    • You said it so clearly, and I believe it to be so, that the transition is made so much easier with support and love behind it.
      The support from the blogging community to me has been AMAZING. It has been equally and at times more uplifting than support from those close to me because the anonymity allows them and me to say exactly how we feel without offending anyone, and secondly, the support is coming from people who have lived through similar experiences so have huge empathy and a know-how of getting through.
      Thanks for becoming one of those.
      You are an inspiration to me because I know that you have had your own set of struggles yet your posts and your comments are always so positive and uplifting.

    • Thanks SO much for your continued support. I always try and write positive posts but that belies the truth of this roller-coaster transition. Yes, I am holding that hope firm in my heart. Thanks again πŸ™‚

  3. Thank you for sharing your journey. Experiencing and overcoming grief is definitely a process. I think there is a great deal of understanding and solace to be found in the teachings of Eckhart Tolle.

    Have an awesome day!

  4. What a very informative and insightful posting, Elizabeth! I concur with Fred Phillips’ suggestion (in your comment section) about finding something helpful in Eckhart Tolle’s book, A New Earth. Shortly before separating from my husband, I had suffered from clinical depression (undiagnosed, but very certainly real, nonetheless) and felt entirely hopeless. I came upon this book and it literally was the “something” I needed to pull me out of it just enough to come up for air and find a bit of hope.

    I could go on and on about this topic, about my ex’s struggles with chronic clinical anxiety, depression, trauma, victim-mindedness… with my depression and victim-thinking in response… but all of that doesn’t matter as much as what I did in the end, which was what you are focused on now–ultimately, I dealt with grief as a platform from which to transform to a better me. I hoped and prayed my ex could get there, too, but he could not. For me, it was instinctual to want to survive. That eventually led to a desire to thrive. That is what awaits you. It sounds as though you are well on your way!

    • Thank you for your reply and sharing your story. I always have found your perspective encouraging to me. In particular the pain of the past (as you describe it) is similar to mine and the survival instinct within me and having the correct attitude is the thing that will get me by in the end to a better place somewhere. Thanks for your encouragement.

  5. This was an awesome post, Elizabeth! I thoroughly was engrossed in your choices of words, your pictures and the way you have decided to contribute and become transformed by the grief that could have been allowed to consume you! I appreciate your way of inspiring others, by and through your experience, the way you present it, and your honest sharing.

    • Thank you for your kind comment. I particular appreciate the fact that you have stated that I inspire others. That really means a lot to me….. that my writing may have helped others. Thanks πŸ™‚

  6. I resonated with one commenter’s reply that, “the new me is mostly the lost me.” I wonder how many lost me’s have become reunited with her true self.
    Thank you for your thoughtful post.

  7. This is an excellent post, Elizabeth, and I imagine felt relieving to write. You’ve come through a lot, and I do believe you’re shining.

    • Thanks. You have raised a good point there as I do find that as I write a post on a particular aspect I feel some sort of relief. The ‘letting go’ by writing is tremendously uplifting. It makes me aware that even the most painful pieces …….. that we keep hidden …. all need to be written.
      In that regard I am inspired by you in your courage of writing of your own story.

  8. “It is not time that heals but rather living in an actively healing way.” is very inspiring! It always felt right imagining the new life as something INSTEAD that would become more and more absorbing.

    • Have you read Viktor Frankl’s ‘Man’s Search For Meaning’? He was a psychiatrist who survived the holocaust. He describes three phases of a survivor 1. admission (shock) 2. Being entrenched in the camp routine. and 3. Liberation.
      In the second phase he believes that those who survived were the ones who had thoughts for the future and a reason for surviving. Whilst I do not believe for a moment surviving divorce is anywhere near horrific as what he went through, the comparison is that there is a “limbo-land” of transition where you are not living your old life, yet your future has not started. It is the dreams and thoughts of a better future that is the one thing that is keeping me going through this transition.

  9. Pingback: Grieving for self after divorce | Almost Spring

  10. Pingback: Peace, fairness and divorce | Almost Spring

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