The following article was written by Dr. Strober and originally published on DivorcedMoms.com.
The Webster’s Dictionary definition of Closure is:
A closing or being closed,
A finish, end, conclusion,
The feeling that one’s prolonged state of emotional distress over some traumatic experience or situation has finally ended.
Divorce is one of the most stressful experiences in a person’s life. After deciding to live the rest of your life with someone, have children with them and basically share all of life’s ups and downs, one or both of you decide it would be best for your family to get a divorce.
This is by no means an easy decision or one to take lightly. The time during and after your divorce will be an emotional whirlwind with many spins and turns that can leave you feeling quite unsettled, to say the least, and leave many of you wondering if you will ever find peace in your life again. While everyone is different and heals at different speeds and depths, the following are five ways to find peace and closure after divorce:
1. Live and Let Go. There may still be residual feelings that just don’t let you let go. Is it feelings of failure of the marriage or jealousy of his new relationship? It is important to explore these feelings, optimally in individual therapy with a professional, so that you can try to move on and disengage yourself from your ex’s romantic life.
2. Remember he is still the father of your children. No matter how irritating or infuriating your ex may get, always remember he is still the other person loving and raising your children with you. If you can think of your children and the impact your constant battling has on them, it might help you to take a step back and choose silence over another shouting match.
3. Accept him for who he is. Realize there is a reason you are divorced. Trying to have him change the way he treats you or attempting to have him see how he has done something wrong will get you nowhere except in yet another argument. Acceptance will hopefully give you some inner strength to allow yourself to see just why this relationship wasn’t working anymore.
4. Own your own actions. If you continue to blame him for all that went wrong in your marriage, you will never truly be able to heal or move on. You will continue to have the same struggles in your next relationship if you cannot acknowledge and accept your role in the problems in the marriage.
5. Allow yourself the time and emotional journey to mourn the death of your marriage and your family as it once was. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, a Swiss-American psychiatrist, is widely known for her book, On Death and Dying (1969) where she first discussed her theory on the five stages of grief as it related to individuals dealing with the reality of their own death.
Since then, her theory has been applied to any significant loss in a person’s life, including the death of a marriage. The main goal here is to get to the last stage of acceptance, all on your own timeline. Not everyone goes through every stage and not everyone goes through them in the same order. These stages are:
Denial: This can start even during the marriage. It is what helps avoid the overwhelming feelings that you start to feel when you feel something is not quite right with your marriage. You want to deny that he doesn’t pay as much attention to you as he did in the past, not believing he really wants out of the marriage or that there really is no way to “fix” things.
Depression: The feelings of sadness that your marriage is over and that life as you know it will never be the same. You might feel you will never be happy again, will never be able to have a successful romantic relationship, or never be able to support yourself.
Bargaining: I consider bargaining the “if only…” stage. You may question your actions of the past and wish you could go back and change things. If only I was more accepting of his bad habits. If only I didn’t nag him so much. If only I tried harder. Basically, you are trying to rewrite history and think that then everything might have worked out.
Anger: Everything he does gets you angry. He doesn’t spend enough time with the kids, he doesn’t speak nicely to you in front of them, he forgot about the parent-teacher conference. The anger could also be directed at others (I can’t believe John and Mary went out for dinner with him and his new girlfriend! How could they do that to me?) or even the universe (What did I do to deserve this? Why me?!). Anger is easier to feel than sadness.
Acceptance: This is the goal that you strive to achieve. When you reach acceptance you are ready to move on with your life. Acceptance is finally being able to let go. This doesn’t mean there won’t still be some feelings of sadness and regret. It may seem like you will never get to this stage and can’t imagine ever not feeling sad/angry/etc., but for most people, there will be a time when those overwhelming feelings do pass and you are finally able to live a peaceful existence.