This post today is solely aimed at trying to create some understanding and solicit some empathy for those who travel through the separation/divorce journey.
Everybody’s doing it
Divorces are all too common in our world. So the temptation can be to expect too much, too soon. After all, doesn’t divorce happen to half of those who marry? Many of those people seem to be doing just fine.
But that is like telling a pregnant mother not to complain or talk about the pain, just hurry up so we can see the baby. There are some things that a soon-to-be mother can do to help stay healthy and many things she can control about her behaviour, but there are going to be pains and there will be some unexpected emotions. A new life can happen once this is over, but the pains are real and the process can’t be rushed.
Divorce really is like a Death
Those who walk through a separation/divorce feel various degrees of the stages of grieving. It’s true. Divorce is like experiencing the death of a loved one. With the experience comes denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.
I had a few mentors and friends tell me that I needed to be prepared for these stages. As much as I tried to deny it, they were right. Of course this previous sentence just proves which stage I was in while I was arguing my point. But they were giving good counsel to me. All of theses stages had recurring roles on this new life journey that I was on, and usually without warning.
What I also learned was that no one can be pushed through the stages. It’s important to let yourself be honest and feel everything that’s happening. This blog post about forgiveness by Donald Miller was actually very helpful for me when I was struggling with anger. It’s easy to just bury your emotions, but let yourself feel.
Worse than a death, perhaps?
So, what makes a Facebook divorce harder than dealing with the death of a loved one?
1. No Funeral
When someone dies, the typical support systems and rituals kick in and most people know how to respond. The funeral service and subsequent ceremonies bring people together. Friends and loved ones give flowers and cards, we all eat someone’s leftovers, laugh, cry, and just enjoy sharing physical space with others.
This doesn’t happen with any divorce that I’m aware of. People don’t gather together to re-live the ups and downs of the now deceased marriage. They don’t read a eulogy, and nobody puts anything in the ground. Rather, people become a little more distant.
Now with Facebook, people find it hard to share in the emotions of the moment. There is a disconnect usually because of distance, and as great as it is to get a personal message, not many are willing to travel to you to just be with you.
So Divorcing in today’s world means that you’ll never have the “I’ve been to the funeral, the ceremony is over, I witnessed the final goodbye and now it’s time to start my new life.” There is no ritual that sufficiently replaces this.
2. No Finality
So to go along with my first point, there never really is finality with a divorce. Even if the papers are signed and your spouse (ex-spouse) has moved away, they are never really gone. They haven’t left the planet.
On Facebook, this is just magnified. Common social connections exists and attempts at closure constantly hit speed bumps every time a new friend finds out about your life change. New emotions emerge when unexpected posts appear on your wall.
I didn’t personally have the online social challenges that some others have had, but I’ve witnessed cruel online interactions between couples and heard many stories. It’s heartbreaking. Thankfully that didn’t happen in my situation.
But my emotions were very fragile at times. Progress towards feeling ‘normal’ again would get halted occasionally with even the most innocent of moments. It would feel like someone was pressing a rewind button on my life again and again, and I couldn’t find the remote to make it stop.
3. No ‘Friends’
Ok, this may be an extreme statement, but there are many people who have hundreds of Facebook friends and hardly any are true friends. It is always my hope that there is at least one person who will reach beyond the screen to be a real support.
Unlike the masses of people who flock to you when a loved one dies, many friends react differently when you get separated or divorced. They are more distant. Some quickly judge your new status and don’t bother seeking to understand, only thinking the worst, while others just don’t know what to say. Maybe you chose to be silent.
Either way, this leaves you with less of a support than what you really need.
Now I’m not saying that you need all 600 of your closest friends trying to comfort you, but you do need to reach out to a few trustworthy friends. Otherwise, you will very quickly fall into a trap of struggling to face daily expectations alone. Ordinary tasks become extraordinary climbs as your exhausting emotions result in a tired body and mind.
So what can you do to overcome some of these challenges?
Let’s talk about that in the next post. There are some things that you can do if you are going through this. There are also actions that you can take if you are a family member or a friend of someone going through a separation or divorce.
Thanks for reading!