When you wake up in the morning, your hand instinctively reaches over to the other side of the bed before your eyes even open. No one grabs your hand. It just remains on top of the covers.
Once you muster up enough energy to get out of bed, you head to the bathroom. There’s one less towel hanging up. There’s one less toothbrush in your holder.
Next up is getting ready for your day. You open up your closet and only your clothing is displayed. In the drawers, only your clothes are folded and take up space.
You walk down the hallway and picture frames that once held your smiling face are now empty and collecting dust.
Can you experience complicated grief after a divorce? Let’s find out.
Defining Complicated Grief
Experiencing grief after any type of life change or loss is entirely normal. Life changes can be hard to adapt to. Grief can be complicated, but not all grief is defined as complicated grief. Complicated grief can make it hard to accept that the change has occurred. You may even feel stuck and like you’re unable to move on.
The Grieving Process
There aren’t a set of rules, regulations, or guidelines on how to cope or grieve. Each person experiences grief and the grieving process in their own way. With normal grief, you’ll begin to start to accept that you’re getting a divorce. You’ll acknowledge your feelings and allow yourself to feel them, even the painful ones. Over time, you’ll start to adjust to your new life, start new friendships, and maybe even dive into the dating scene again.
Complicated grief is something that someone who is going through a divorce can experience. If it’s been over a year after your divorce and you’re still struggling with your grief, you may actually be dealing with complicated grief.
The Signs and Symptoms
The signs and symptoms of complicated grief actually look very similar to those of normal grief. The main difference between normal and complicated grief is how long someone experiences these symptoms. With normal grief, the intensity that a person experience grief will gradually fade over time. When it comes to complicated grief, the feelings don’t fade, even after an extended period of time. These are some of the most common signs and symptoms of complicated grief especially in relation to divorce:
- Avoiding reminders of your marriage
- Difficulty enjoying life after divorce
- Feeling like you or your life doesn’t have a purpose anymore
- Hyperfocus on your divorce
- Increased longing for your married life or your former partner
- Intense sadness over the loss of your marriage
- Isolation or withdrawal from others
- Lack of acceptance
- Lack of trust
- Ruminating over your divorce
- Trouble getting back into your normal routine
Complicated grief can also show physical signs and symptoms. Changes in eating habits, sleeping problems or insomnia, increased stress, and a weakened immune system are common physical signs.
How to Heal Through Divorce
Do some of these signs and symptoms of complicated grief hit a little too close to home? If you’re struggling with complicated grief, you’re not alone. Complicated grief is treatable.
A licensed and trained mental health professional can assist you with getting the help you need and deserve. A therapist will be able to help you accept, acknowledge, and process all of the signs, symptoms, emotions, and thoughts you may be experiencing. With the right time and dedication, you’ll be able to move on to your new normal.
If you’re struggling with coping with your divorce or moving through the grieving process, reach out to us today to set up a consultation for grief counseling or divorce counseling.
About the author(s)
Karen is the founder and Clinical Director of Cohesive Therapy NYC. She earned a Masters in Social Work from New York University and has extensive training in Hypnosis, Anxiety, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Brainspotting, and DGBI. She is a member of the Institute of Certified Anxiety Treatment Professionals, The Rome Foundation, the National Association of Social Workers, The Crohn's and Colitis Foundation, and the American Social of Clinical Hypnosis.