to Divorce: The Therapistís Perspective
By Evelyn Smith of Divorce Lifeline
Smith has worked with the Divorce Lifeline program for both children and
adults, for 26 years. She is also in private practice in Bellevue where
she works with adults, children, couples, and families. Divorce Lifeline
can be contacted at: 206/624-2959. Evelynís private practice can be contacted
Even though every body in the family goes through the five stages of grief,
they go through them in different speeds and in different ways. It is
not a straight line for everyone. One stage is shock and denial.
Sometimes one of the spouses has decided years before they tell the other
spouse that they are planning to divorce. So the one who has not been
part of this decision making is truly in shock and denial when the spouse
shares this with them. The children of course may go through the shock
and denial considerably after the parents. Likewise with anger
sometimes people go through shock and denial and then they will be angry
and then they will go back to denial again feeling like this canít really
be happening and then go back to anger. Another stage of grief is bargaining.
Often at this stage one spouse will make all kinds of promises to be better
or the children will make promises such as saying they will keep their
room clean forever or their do their chores, etcÖ in their efforts to
keep the family together. The last stage is depression and both
children and adults experience depression when the family goes through
divorce. Often people donít recognize the extent of the depression of
the children. So that is something to be particularly aware of and itís
hard for adults to focus on the depression of children when they themselves
feel so miserable. The last and final stage of grief is acceptance.
Coming to an acceptance of the fact that the divorce is going to or has
taken place and that life is changing for the family but that people can
go on and be o.k. in life. This adjustment period usually last from 2
to 5 years. People are continually surprised at how long it goes through
the divorce process.
The First Year
The first year of the process after separation is usually very chaotic.
There is a tremendous amount of loss and grieving that goes on and its
amazing how one loss leads to another and the whole process seems like
a domino effect to a family. It often feels crazy with different members
of the family feel like their going crazy and there is also a lot of bitterness
and a lot of fighting, a lot of depression and unfortunately its while
everybody is feeling all upset like this that often the financial and
custody battles take place and people really arenít thinking as clearly
as they need to be thinking to make decisions that will effect them for
the rest of their lives.
The Second Year
The second year is usually much more stable and routines that had gone
out the window in the first year tending to get reestablished. This is
very important, again, helping a family get back to some feeling of normality
and particularly for children to feel more stable.
The Third Year
The third year actually usually involves a feeling of real awaking for
the family. There are new initiatives. Not all the energy is going into
just daily survival as usually happens in the first two years. Obviously
how long it takes a family to go through the adjustments of divorce depends
a great deal on what other losses each of the parents have had during
their lifetime and how successful they have been in handling those and
what kind of support system they have around them. The better the adults
are able to handle their divorce situation and their feeling and emotion
the better the children will be. There is five function of the family
all effected by divorce.