Shattered Vows, Mended Hearts: Navigating feelings of grief in Divorce

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Grief in Divorce MN

Are you in the midst of a divorce and experiencing a strong feelings of grief? Or maybe you divorced 10 years ago and something came up that sent you spiraling back to that feeling of loss and you can’t explain it? Grief is a common feeling to experience anytime during or after your MN divorce, and I was curious to learn more. This week, I brought Family, Marriage, and Grief therapist Brittany Squillace on to the podcast to help me further understand how grief can impact you after divorce and the best ways to manage it.


Grief is typically attached to a common loss, which is the death of a loved one.  But it can also surface with non-death losses, which are called ambiguous losses. Ambiguous losses are any losses that are vague and unclear. It can be hard to pinpoint what the loss is and why you are grieving. Divorce is a great example of ambiguous loss, because you are losing a relationship, the future you thought you had, and potentially you are losing a partnership in parenting. This is a huge change in your life. It's typical to experience these feelings if you are a person who doesn’t want the divorce, but it can also happen to the person requesting the divorce. 


When dealing with grief, the first thing to do is find someone who can help you work through your emotions in a safe way. Someone who can hold space for you, will not take on what you are experiencing, but will simply listen. They won’t make you feel bad or dismiss what you are feeling. It is hard to talk about grief, and socially not very acceptable because it makes people uncomfortable, so finding a trusted source can make a huge difference. Allow yourself to feel all the feelings, journal about what you are experiencing, and as the emotions get a little lighter, celebrate what you have gone through and look for opportunities.


The grief of divorce is unique because you didn’t lose someone to death, the person hasn’t stopped living because of this loss. Maybe you share a child/children with your ex which means that you will be seeing that person quite often and communicating with them. That can be a really interesting thing for your brain to understand - it’s a loss but they are still in your life. You have to determine how you are going to allow them to impact your story moving forward and how you will interact with them. It will take some work, and there will be moments where it feels impossible, but it will be ok! 


The last thing Brittany shared with us was that ambiguous loss or divorce (or anything that fits within that category) falls into a type of grief called disenfranchised grief, which is a loss and a grief that doesn't get recognized. When this happens, people don’t grieve the way that they should. One of the biggest ways  to care for yourself is to acknowledge that it is a loss; and give yourself permission to grieve. Then explore what you have lost, what’s already gone. The next step would be to look at what you are currently losing. Lastly, what do you fear losing? This will help you figure out where you may need to do some work and allows you to validate the loss you are experiencing. 


Grief does not discriminate. If you feel like you’re navigating a loss and you don’t know where to start, please reach out to Brittany, she’d be happy to talk with you and determine how she can support you. And as always, reach out to me if you are seeking divorce support or co-parenting support.

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