Mourning a Loss: Processing Divorce

6 years ago
A black holeMood Swings

I've been in a funk lately. A few weeks ago I was in denial. Last week I was deeply sad. This week, I'm angry. And now I've figured out what's been bothering me. I'm mourning the loss of my sister-in-law.

I recently wrote about a couple struggling with whether to stay married after many years of unsuccessfully trying to make it work. I was referring to my brother-in-law and sister-in-law. The week I wrote that post, the decision to end the marriage became a reality. The petition has been filed and served.

While I know it was the right decision, our family has now been irrevocably changed forever. I have never gone through divorce with anyone close to me before now, but it's much harder than I ever expected it to be for me.

My Sister-in-law

For some, "losing" a sister-in-law might not be a big deal, but it is to me. I have loved her since the moment I met her. She is more sister than sister-in-law. We have laughed together, cried together and prayed for each other more times than can be counted. We have been knowing and loving each other for 17 years now. That's a long time.

She is one of the funniest persons I know. She has been through more in her almost 37 years than many people in their 60s have. She is stronger than she knows. She is as smart as a whip. She and I can communicate volumes with each other with just a look from across a room. She is my sister.

I can say that nothing will change. We can still send texts to each other. We can still go to Sonic for Cherry Vanilla Diet Dr. Peppers when we visit in Texas. We will still be in contact. But the truth is everything is changing. Our family will never be the same. My head tells me this is the right decision for them, but my heart is broken, and it feels as if she has died.

Grieving a Loss

I've been confused by my restlessness, my heavy heart, my sadness, my anger deep inside for the last several weeks. Then, it hit me today. I am going through the stages of mourning a loss. For as long as I've had a relationship with my husband and been involved with my husband's family, my sister-in-law has been there with me for the last 17 years. Now she will not be there.

While she alone is not to blame for the divorce {After all, it takes two to tango.}, she is the one leaving the family, and she is the one who is bearing the brunt of my feelings.

According to the experts, grief is not a single event; it is a process. It takes time. There are stages each person goes through while sorting out the details in one's head and heart. These stages of mourning can occur due to the death of a family member, a friend or a beloved pet; a divorce; a breakup; loss of job; or other major loss.

Seven Stages of Grief

Here are the Seven Stages of Mourning a Loss, specifically relating to divorce:

  • Shock or Disbelief ~ A person may be unable to believe this is actually happening and be unable to thoroughly process what it will mean. This stage may last only a week or so.
  • Denial ~ A family member may deny or literally forget that the divorce is occurring. This is a mind game played to protect the person from the pain of loss.
  • Anger ~ This is a common response for a person faced with such a significant decision with little or no perceived power resulting in a potentially negative effect. These circumstances often generate feelings of helplessness, which can fuel an individual's anger.
  • Bargaining ~ An individual will attempt to make a deal with God to change the situation. This is not a prevalent stage in all cases though.
  • Guilt ~ During this stage, a person may feel that he or she did not do enough to prevent the loss. A person may wish to go back and change things in the past to stop this loss from occurring.
  • Depression ~ The state of chronic, debilitating sadness is a common and natural reaction to loss. A person may be stuck in a constant state of reflection of happier times; unable to move forward with life.
  • Acceptance and Hope ~ Eventually, the person comes to terms with the reality of loss. With this acceptance there is a realization that life has changed forever, but there is still life and hope and a future. A person can then move forward with a different perspective .

Source: Live Strong

Everyone reacts a bit differently with each stage. Adults and children also have different responses to each stage of grief. For more information about these stages and how children are affected, check out this article on Children Grieving.

Clearing My Head

So, where does that leave me? Stuck somewhere between Anger and Acceptance. While I am not the one going through the divorce and we don't often get to physically see our relatives in Texas, it is a palpable change. And yet, I am surprised by my feelings and by how much this has affected me.

My solution: I'm hitting the open road; I'm getting the heck outta Dodge; I'm taking a road trip with my boys. I can't wait to feel the freedom of the wide open spaces; feel the wind on my face; and get my groove back.

Will I feel better when I return? Maybe; maybe not, but I'll keep working out my feelings and clearing my head. Eventually, I'll reach acceptance and there will be a new normal for our family, but I'll always remember our good times and even our not so good times together as sisters.

The Scoop

Have you experienced such a loss or reaction to such a loss? How did you deal with it? And don't worry; I'm taking you on the road with me. Stay tuned. Over and out....


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