Death and divorce have more in common than simply starting with the same letter. They are both major losses and life changes for the people who experience them, and are surprisingly similar in the effect they have on people!
Here are eleven ways divorce is like death:
1. Sometimes it comes after a lengthy and painful “illness” of the marriage and is to be expected after a certain point. This kind of divorce is likely after months, maybe even years, of distance, conflict, and any possible variety of dysfunction. As heartbreaking as the end of the marriage is, it may come as somewhat of a relief for the weight of such a stressful relationship to finally reach a conclusion. No one wants to see the suffering and agony prolonged any longer than it already has!
2. Sometimes it happens suddenly and takes you and everyone else by surprise. Some lives- and marriages- come abruptly to an end that no one may have predicted. These shocking break-ups blindside all involved and can be the most difficult to recover from.
3. Any loss, whether a divorce or a death, forces the participants into the five stages of loss:
Denial- is this really happening? My marriage can’t really be ending! How could my spouse do this?
Anger- I didn’t deserve this! This isn’t fair! My Life is torn apart!
Bargaining- What if I just forgive him and take him back? Maybe I can make her love me again.
Depression- My life is over. I’m ashamed. I feel so bad for my kids. I will never love again.
Acceptance- Okay, it is what it is. I’m going to be okay. I have a second chance at life!
4. It has to be announced to everyone, and it can sometimes be difficult to know how to break the news to different people. A death prompts an obituary, and the family left to release it must decide what details to include, such as what family members to list, which can sometimes cause friction if there are rifts within the family. In a divorce, each spouse will most likely notify all of their own friends or family; but, there are often issues with one spouse or the other skewing the facts, alienating their ex from others, or engaging in trash talking. Raw emotion brings out the worst in so many!
5. Suddenly there is a battle over property and arguments over who is left holding the bag for responsibilities such as outstanding bills, disposing of unwanted property, and lawyers most often have to get involved to settle disputes and equitably divide assets.
6. A ceremony of sorts has to be held to finalize the event. When someone dies, the community attends a funeral to say goodbye. A divorce is a more private affair, but it still concludes with a final, legal event in a courtroom. Both a funeral and divorce hearing serve to put a stamp of finality on what has happened and hopefully contribute to the sense of closure everyone can feel about the loss.
7. Family and friends may mark the occasion of a funeral with a gathering to share memories and support, while a divorcing person may cling to friends or, depending on the celebration, toast to the end of an era. Divorce parties are becoming more popular as a way to commemorate the event, but people often have mixed emotions about whether to congratulate or pity the divorcee’ (and quite honestly she may not know how to feel either!), and others will defer to their beliefs against divorce by not saying or doing much at all.
8. The ring eventually has to come off. A widow or widower eventually has to consider whether or not or when to finally remove their wedding ring and accept their new single status. The same is true of divorced people, although the ring is usually removed prior to the final court hearing. This is a tangible sign of how well and how far a spouse is moving through the stages of loss. It’s a personal choice, and includes the decision to consider dating others and opening up one’s heart to future love. Not every spouse will decide to move on with another partner in the future; but, it’s up to them to decide.
9. Former spouses and children may have wounded hearts that require professional help. It’s hard to endure massive changes in who one lives with and the structure of everyday life without someone to talk to who can help process all of the feelings of loss, confusion, and moving on with life. Counseling, or at least the listening ear of a trusted friend is very helpful to healing moving on with life.
10. The memories will linger. Those who knew you as a couple (or knew the deceased) will continue to bring up the subject of your ex or the marriage. Kids especially will talk about their other parent, or you will be reminded of the past by pictures, seeing old places you used to go together, and remembering other aspects of the relationship (both good and bad). It was a part of your life that won’t go away. Whether bad or good, there are lessons to be learned from what you experienced and you can use what you’ve learned to help you become a better person- or to at least have a better sense of what you want out of life or a future partner. Though we might wish we could make the ghosts of our former relationships go away for good, they do serve a purpose and are a part of who we are!
11. Eventually your life will start to feel normal again. Even when you do think of the marriage again, it will be in a fleeting moment of film reel from your life, rather than a soul crushing eclipse over your time and ability to be happy. Your life will become yours again and the future will become gradually brighter as the gloom of the past fades away.