Cultural norms can make divorce extremely complicated for men and challenging to overcome.
Statistics show that women are much more likely to initiate divorce than men. That shock and wave of emotions can hit like a tsunami leaving men overwhelmed and unprepared for the next steps they need to take.
Consequently, all this stress and unexpected uncertainty puts men at a great risk of developing serious long-term health problems. Counselors and therapists can play a key role in easing guys through this painful transition, but unfortunately there is still a stigma surrounding men’s mental health that discourages many guys from seeking the help they need.
Society tells us that guys just need to “suck it up” and “be a man.” Those harmful notions cause a lot of men to turn toward destructive habits that completely derail their divorce recovery.
According to the Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale, divorce is the second-most stressful life event behind only the death of a spouse. The same stages of grief that accompany the loss of a loved one are also often associated with divorce. Although divorce can actually be a time of great personal growth and reinvention, it is still the death of a relationship and a familiar way of life.
If you are struggling with your divorce, it might be helpful to read about each of the stages of grief, consider which stage you currently find yourself in, and think about what steps you need to take to progress to the next ones.
1. Shock & Denial
In this stage, your emotions are numb. You are in disbelief over what has happened. It is common to deny the loss to try to avoid the pain you are certain to eventually feel.
2. Pain & Guilt
The shock eventually wears off and gives way to suffering and hurt. As excruciating as this stage is, it is important to confront your emotions rather than bury them. Don’t hide from your sorrow and do not try to cope with drugs or alcohol.
3. Anger & Bargaining
Eventually, you move past sadness and experience anger. Individuals in this phase will lash out at others who are blameless. Try your hardest to control this impulse otherwise your risk permanently harming other important relationships in your life.
It is common to try to make a deal with a higher power to change your situation. “I promise to be a better husband if you’ll just bring back my ex-wife.”
4. Depression, Reflection, Loneliness
A lot of people find this to be the most challenging hurdles to overcome. Your friends and family are probably expecting you to start moving on with your life, but you are hit with long periods of sad reflection. This period is made worse if you’re spending time away from your children.
This is when the true magnitude of your loss starts to dawn on you and that can cause feelings of despair. While you might be tempted to close yourself off and isolate yourself from others during this time, take steps to make sure you are still moving forward. It might be helpful for you to start journaling and charting your emotions, which can lead to introspective reflection and personal growth.
5. The Upward Turn
Eventually, you are going to start having more good days than bad days. However, you are not totally out of the weeds yet as certain triggers can leave you feeling like you are back at square one.
However, you will start to get your life more organized and begin to adjust to your new life.
6. Reconstruction & Working Through
In this stage, you finally start making decisions and plans about your future without considering your ex. You’ll start setting goals for yourself and even become excited about the direction your life is heading. You are truly starting to “move on” when you reach this stage.
7. Acceptance & Hope
You’ve reached the finish line! You’ve worked through all your pain and negativity and found a way to accept your loss. This stage might not mean immediate happiness, but overall you are optimistic about life and living a healthy lifestyle. You are moving forward and continuing to heal every day.