If you are going through a divorce, it might feel like it’s an event, and you likely believe that there will be a clear before and after once your papers are signed or your former partner moves out. Yet, if you’ve gone through a divorce several years ago, you might now realize that the letting go and healing in a divorce can be a long and sometimes triggering process.
At Center for Shared Insight, in Denver Colorado, we often compare divorce to climbing a mountain, where there are always false summits (when it looks like you’ve reached the top and then you see there’s a whole lot more trail to go), rolling hills, rocky terrain, and smooth patches of trail. Even once you get to the actual summit, you still have the hike back down to the trailhead - you’re tired, hungry and your knees start to ache as you make the final stretch.
Climbing a mountain, or getting a divorce, might feel easier if it was your idea, usually due to you having done some of the emotional prep before deciding to initiate the divorce, but either way, it’s important to focus on the full summit and embrace the real length of time it might take to heal and overcome the emotions of your divorce.
In this post, we help you recognize the many layers of work that must be done for long-term healing and acceptance of a divorce or failure of a long-term relationship, so that you can be sure to truly clear the way for a new partnership when the time is right.
Milestones & False Summits
There are several milestones in the divorce process that require different types of support. Some common ones are:
Filing the Dissolution of Marriage Paperwork
One party moving out
Finalization of the divorce
Major holidays/anniversaries apart
Anniversary of your divorce
Sometimes, it may feel you are “over your divorce” when the paperwork is signed, but the truth is that you’ll experience a variety of emotions in subsequent years if you allow yourself to feel the full spectrum of your mourning. Those emotions will likely range from nostalgia to anger to regret to blame as you move through the stages of grieving and letting go.
It’s important to remember that ending your marriage or long-term relationship isn’t an event, but it’s a process with many false summits and ups and downs. Therefore, don’t end your support network too soon, whether that be group therapy or individual sessions, or write off your marriage as a distant memory before you truly work through the process effectively. Be willing to look at and feel what comes up months and years later, and work with a trained professional to help you process, understand, and overcome what will inevitably bubble up.
In addition to tuning in to what might be false summits in the healing process, it’s important to notice how you might be triggered by certain places, dates, songs, or even smells that cause you to recall memories of your ex and your marriage. Many times, when you are going through a divorce, your focus is on all the negative parts of the relationship. This is a way to validate your decision and make the transition out of your marriage easier. A phenomenon called “confirmation bias” is a way your brain finds evidence of the decision you’ve made -- to leave your marriage or to accept the divorce. However, as you get away from the filing and finalizing, you’ll likely start to recall positive aspects of the relationship. There was a reason you fell in love with this person and married them. Driving by the place where you had your first date, or smelling the type of flowers you always had in the home you shared might cause you to feel bittersweet or even question your decision to get a divorce many years later.
In fact, sometimes the dating process itself can trigger you. If your new partner calls you by a nickname that your ex often used or even acts in a way that reminds you of your previous partner, you may be triggered into working through some of the unconscious dynamics of your previous marriage and divorce. And, if you choose to ignore these dynamics, it’s likely that you won’t be able to fully be present to your new partner as you still have a need to heal your past. Other times, an unresolved marriage and divorce can create feelings of isolation and loneliness as you navigate the confusing grieving process alone.
At Center for Shared Insight, our team of therapists helps clients recognize when they discontinue support too soon or when they might be triggered to recall a positive or negative memory of their previous marriage. We not only help clients work through the emotions they feel, but we help them proactively recognize what they might feel so they can prepare for things like their first holidays alone or the feelings they might have on a wedding anniversary following their divorce.
There are layers to reaching the full summit of the divorce process, and our team is equipped to help you reach a place of more comprehensive healing and awareness through tools that are designed to bring you insight and transformation.
If you are in the process of getting a divorce or have been divorced for many years, we can help you determine your unique path to healing. Contact our team for a free consultation to learn more about how we can support you and your growth as you move through the full process of your divorce.