Divorce First Aid

There is the first to know and then there is the second to know. This note is for the one who did not see it coming, or hoped that it would pass.


Marilyn Monroe with a representative of Joe DiMaggio

Divorce is premature death, a marriage succumbing to a fatal disease. The funeral arrangements can take a very long time and the burial occurs in a court of law, but the emotional work closely follows the death of a person. Divorce results in a bereavement whose severity is proportional to the importance of the relationship. When your home, dreams for the future, desire for intimacy, support system and family are all built on that one relationship, it is very important indeed.

Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’s stages of dying have been applied to grief and here they indicate the major attitudes and emotions in the wake of divorce:

  • Denial – It is not happening. S/he did not really mean “over.” Wait for the retraction.
  • Anger – How dare s/he make me feel this bad!
  • Bargaining – I’ll change. What will it take for him/her to call this off?
  • Depression – My life is crushed and nothing is enjoyable.
  • Acceptance – I am starting to think about how to live again.

First Aid Kit

Your divorce first aid kit contains only the bandages and ointments needed to stabilize your heart and carry you through the initial grief process. Recovery launches from “acceptance” above and is a much longer journey. Here are some suggestions for your kit:

  • a separation plan, especially for children and bills
  • a place to “lay your head” (and those of your children), however small or humble
  • two safe (confidential, nonjudgmental) friends with ample time to listen
  • ample time to weep and rest your body
  • a recommitment to exercise and nutrition
  • a lawyer who specializes in family law
  • an indefinite ban on romance
  • patience with yourself