Loss is a term often associated with dying. It is common to hear “I’m sorry for your loss” when a death has occurred. Divorce can be experienced as a “death” which requires a similar grieving process. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, a famous investigator of the death process, mapped out the common emotions of the dying, which can be similar to the feelings that arise in divorce.
Kubler-Ross’s “Five Stages of Grief” are: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. I see these emotions play out daily individuals who are in the process of separation or divorce, those who have already divorced, and in children and adults who have experienced divorce in their family of origin. In contrast to most popular thinking, Kubler-Ross believed that death/loss taught us something about life. If taken seriously, we must be willing to consider that unresolved divorce grief is related to not having “learned something” important about oneself, one’s ex-spouse/partner, or life itself.
In a series of posts, I’d like to explore the grief process as it relates to divorce, using stories from the individuals I work with daily. Not surprisingly, I have seen divorce be part of a positive transformation in some and an irreparable trauma in others. In either case, I respect the courage of my patients to put themselves in a position face head on the pain that comes with divorce.