They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues.
They are the messengers of overwhelming grief,
Of deep contrition, and of unspeakable love.
As a young girl I was told not to cry. If I scraped my knee or stubbed my toe or felt sad, I would hear the words, “stop crying!” Why do you suppose adults say these things to children? I believe it’s because they (the adult) doesn't want to feel sad. They don’t want the tears to come and they probably heard the same message growing up, “stop crying”.
Many of us are shamed into believing that we are not supposed to cry or that crying is for girls. Men are particularly shamed into not showing feelings of sadness. Sadness is marked as a sign of weakness. As Washington Irving so eloquently said;” they (tears) are not a mark of weakness, but of power.” Would you ever think of tears as being powerful? I do. It took me many years to come to that knowledge and wisdom, however.
Tears, and reasons why we cry, has been studied for many years. The APA, American Psychological Association, has done in depth research on the topic and posts an easy to read article on Why We Cry; by Lorna Collier, on their website. Some of the research looks at the cultural reasons why we do or do not cry along with the physiological differences between men and women that could contribute to the reasons why women cry more than men. Regardless of the research, I know that when I have a good cry I feel a whole lot better!
When you hear the word grief what comes to mind? Most people attribute sadness as being grief while sadness is only one part of the grieving process. Grief has five stages; denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Divorce is a continual process of letting go, and letting go of many layers within the relationship. The deep sadness we feel when living through (surviving) a divorce is as difficult as when we lose a loved one. Sometimes it is even worse.
Layers of loss: First, let’s look at the many layers of loss we can experience in a divorce.
Loss of a companionship
Loss of finances
Loss of home
Loss of a community; moving from your home and neighborhood you were living in.
Loss of family; in-laws, gatherings, vacations, holidays, birthdays and other celebrations.
Loss of friendships; friends choose sides or don’t feel comfortable asking one or both (from the marriage) to join in activities etc.
Loss of a sexual a relationship
Loss of a faith tradition
Loss of your role or identity; husband/wife role
Loss of future/dreams; growing old together, raising kids, grandparenting, etc.
If you were to cut an onion in half to expose all the layers inside, you could easily imagine filling those layers with all the losses there are related to a divorce. When we look at all those layers it’s no wonder most divorced adults ignore the healing process. It’s painful! As you read through the above list are there other layers you would add? Add them now.
For purposes of moving through the grieving process, each of these losses are significant and need to go through the five stages of grief. Each needs to be taken one at a time. -The process cannot be rushed!- For those who ended the relationship, you may have already grieved many of these areas in your life prior to the divorce. You may have already moved beyond the loss of companionship because it was never there or the loss of a sexual relationship because that ended long before the divorce. Take time to look at those layers of loss, it is worth your effort to work through them. You are worth the effort. If you feel you need additional help consider a counselor to help you work through your grief. Also, family counseling is must if you have children.
Suffer the children:
Hopefully you have noticed that many of these areas are areas your children will also need to grieve. They may have loss of friendships, loss of family (cousins, grandma and grandpa, etc..) If you move to a new school district they will grieve the loss of a school community. They will grieve the holiday traditions and other gatherings your family kept. These are all delicate areas we need to balance while healing from a divorce. Parents want to fix their children’s pain rather than watch them go through the grief. In Dr. Bruce Fisher’s book, Rebuilding -When Your Relationship Ends he writes; “Children too must grieve an important loss, although sometimes it is difficult for parents to let them do the grieving they need to do. When we see them in tears over the loss of the marriage or because they miss the other parent, we want to just take away the pain and reassure them, ‘Now, now, don’t cry, it’ll be okay…. Daddy will be back…. You’ll get to see Mommy soon.’ Reassurance is not necessarily what kids need; rather, they need to come to some sort of acceptance.”
Helping children through the grief means allowing them to feel their feelings. Let them be sad, allow them the space to cry but be there for them validating that this does hurt and eventually it will subside or change. The best way to help a child grieve and move into acceptance is for the parent to emulate the same healing process. Be honest. If the parent is showing consistent signs of moving forward the child will tend to follow.
-This is a doubly difficult area because not only is the parent grieving, they have to try to help their children grieve also. It adds to exhaustion, depression, even guilt and shame. For many who have been through the divorce support group they have shared that their children’s anger is much more noticeable (to them) than the other stages of grief. -
Pause for a moment and think about the areas of your relationship that you have already grieved.
What areas do you think you have not grieved yet?
Can you make time to take those areas to God and ask for help in moving through your grief?
Have your children grieved? If you are not sure this may be a good time to consult with a counselor who specializes in childhood grief and trauma.