Depending on which expert you talk to, the most stressful life transition is either the death of spouse or child, or divorce. As a mother, I’d have to say the death of a child is the worst imaginable possibility that fills the nightmares of most parents. Setting that one aside, I’m going to call a tie for being widowed and going through a divorce. Both events leave us with unfulfilled dreams and expectations. Where we were once one half of a whole, we are now left trying to figure out how to fill up that other half so we can become the whole.
Where we were once one half of a whole, we are now left trying to figure out how to fill up that other half so we can become the whole.
Judging from the number of divorced people I meet versus widowed people, I’d say divorce is far more common. I think we can all agree that either of these scenarios will turn your life upside down. While the stress level may be the same, the way we heal from either of these will differ. I think this is due in large part to the way people react to our situation.
When someone loses a spouse, people offer sympathy. They come around with casseroles and desserts, and offers of support. When your spouse dies suddenly, nobody tells you that you are better off, that they never liked your spouse in the first place, or that you should feel great animosity toward them. People acknowledge your loss and genuinely feel bad that you are now on your own.
Divorce is a whole other animal. While you certainly find out who your true friends are and who you can count on for support, the community at large is not sympathetic. Couple friends tend to shy away from you as if you now have a communicable disease. Many people believe they have to pick a side so they stay away to avoid that. Other people thrive on divisiveness and jump at the chance to take sides. They believe extreme negativity about your spouse will somehow make you feel better. Family members can be the worst about this. Rarely will you find an unbiased person who will just be with you and listen without judgement.
In both cases, the supportive people who do help you through the beginning stages of your grief will generally fade away back to their own lives around the time you really need them. You go through the motions, the funeral or the divorce, and then after things settle down you find yourself looking around and wondering, “What the hell do I do now?”
“What the hell do I do now?”
There is no single answer to that question. It is a process. You can go through this process all on your own. Read books, watch videos, muddle through alone. But why would you want to?
Get some help! Engage the services of a therapist or life coach. Join a club or social group that shares your interest. Reconnect with forward thinking friends and family. This is the time to start doing some of the things you have always wanted to do. Get out of your comfort zone and expand your horizons. Don’t just sit on the couch waiting for life to throw something at you. Being single again does not have to equal being alone. Take control of your circumstances. Get out there and find your tribe!