Depression is an unfortunately necessary phase of divorce grief, but please don’t feel that it necessary to go through it entirely alone!
Healing from a major life event, like divorce, is a process built from several stages. During this process, an individual works through the many thoughts and emotions associated with denial, anger, and bargaining before the sad reality of the circumstances result in the next step: depression. Depression is characterized by relentless sensations of sadness, loss, doubt, and decreased functioning in many areas of life.
My time in the prison of depression lasted for years. As many do, I began processing through grief while still in my marriage. I recognized that my relationship was in need of intensive care as much as five years before lawyers were called or alternate living arrangements made.
I had already examined my marriage through the lens of comparing it to others and trying to convince myself that ours was within normal limits.
I had already yelled and screamed and shaken my fist at the heavens in frustration as I watched my marriage crumble.
I had already begged, pleaded, and tried to explain away what happened and why.
Now, I was a crumpled ball of anguish and despair who spent her free time crying, in bed or crying in bed. My life lost meaning.
I was a robotic version of myself who somehow managed to crawl out of bed each day to prepare children for school, work, and take care of my home. I recall a nurse I used to work with talking about highly-functional depressed women who could somehow carry on with life for the sake of their children. A voice inside of me screamed out “that’s me!”
I could never imagine feeling lonelier. I had a husband, children, co-workers, and others around me, but I felt utterly invisible and alone. My time at work chatting with co-workers and my adoration of my children was all that kept me alive. I fantasized on a continuous loop about driving my car off of a bridge I frequently passed by. I’m certain I would have gone through with it, too, if the fear of leaving my children without a mother hadn’t kept me hanging on.
My misery was compounded by the fact that I had a spouse. I lived in close proximity to the person who was supposed to be my confidant, companion, and partner; but, I was meaningless to him. It was as though I was trapped inside a giant glass jar. I could pound away at its sides and scream at the top of my lungs, but nothing I did could get his attention. I could speak full sentences to him and he would not even look my direction.
I was by myself in a one-person marriage only surviving so that my children would have someone to love and attend to them.
From the bottom of the well I wallowed in, I was aware that the state of my life wasn’t right. I knew life wasn’t always sunshine and roses, but it also shouldn’t be silence, solitude, and agony. Something had to change, and I was sure that I would die if it didn’t.
In a way, I was already dead. I doubt I would have been less relevant, visible, cared for, or alive if trapped underground inside a coffin instead of my soundproof glass jar! My death might have eventually gained some notice when children were unfed, laundry was undone, or bills piled up unpaid. Otherwise, my presence to my ex-husband was of no consequence. Our divorce forced a similar response when my absence shattered the routine and our break-up rattled him awake to our situation.
It’s no wonder that the end of marriage results in so much sadness.
Divorce is, after all, the death of the relationship, and requires working through all the feelings associated with that loss. Depression is a logical step in the process because everything finally shatters, and we’re left with all the fragments of our past, our extinguished hopes and dreams, and the raw emotions of our new reality. How could we not be numb, hopeless, and a complete mess?
Even if we’re the one who finally pulls the trigger on our divorce, it often still comes as a result of the frustrations experienced while trapped in our jar of loneliness and the realization that our marriage has ended. While the release of all the pressure and mourning may be welcomed, divorce will always be a sad conclusion to a significant chapter of our lives.
The good news is that depression due to divorce need not last forever.
We all have to climb out of the darkness at the pace that works best for us, and only when we’re ready. There is a danger, however, in lingering in the dark for too long or to the point of losing motivation to go on. I had to finally acknowledge that I was in a dangerously dark place and would need intervention to be free from my pain.
Depression is an unfortunately necessary phase of divorce grief, but please don’t feel that it necessary to go through it entirely alone! Solitude may be the biggest comfort, at times, and one of the more effective ways to tune out the static all around us to think and reflect. Don’t be afraid, however, to reach out to others to unload some of the burden. Friends, family, support groups (online or in person), counselors, doctors, clergy, and others can help make this step more bearable.
I also highly recommend finding other outlets for emotion to release pain and increase endorphins. Consider exercise, meditation, art, writing, and other pursuits that can help clear your mind, provide focus, and reaffirm that there are still many beautiful things about life! Even depression finally ends, and when it does, we can be ready to embrace the final stage of processing divorce: acceptance.