Recovery
Summary in Divorce

Pain and suffering are natural and inescapable consequences of any divorce. Sadness and anger, fear and anxiety, sorrow and denial -- all are voices in a Greek chorus reiterated in a divorce and its aftermath. A divorce is an end, and it is a beginning. That beginning includes recovery from the understandable dislocations that happen in all marriages that end.

Even when divorce ends a bad marriage gone terribly wrong, a divorce does not make people happy. Happiness, such as it is, is something that happens after the bad marriage ends, not because the bad marriage ends.
Divorce recovery is the long and sometimes difficult road to the point where life seems and feels normal. Ideally, it is the point where former spouses can, if need be, talk with one another civilly. People recover from a divorce at different speeds and in different ways. Some people look upon the recovery as a challenge; others fear it as an abyss. Sadly, some people never recover and they become bitter and twisted and fearful of another intimate human relationship.

The ancient Greeks believed that the reward of suffering is experience, yet experience can make a person its victim. Divorce recovery, in the end, means acceptance and the ability to go forward. The ability to keep a perspective, a sense of humor (even a dark one) helps in this, but in the end people recover by putting one foot in front of the other and living.

There is no single right way to survive a divorce; there is no universal right way to start over. A person does it by doing it. Anything within reason that gets a person through the day is perfectly acceptable, but even with help such as counseling and support groups, the emotional part of divorce survival is a self-help project. In the early stages of a divorce, getting through the day often seems no small accomplishment. "Time," as Thomas Jefferson said in a letter written in connection with the death of his wife, "is the Great Physician." The same is true for divorce.

For most people who made a good faith effort at making a marriage work, a divorce is like surviving the death of a loved one. A divorcing couple moves through stages very similar to those described by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, in her landmark On Death and Dying, including denial and isolation, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.

And all of this ignores the innocent third parties who are victims -- the children. A divorcing couple are no longer spouses; they remain parents for life, and they are actively involved in the lives of their children. Surviving a divorce includes the recognition that parenthood is unfinished business that continues long after a court ends the marriage.

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#76: Deciding when to tell the children about the divorce is a personal matter, but each parent should be aware, and if possible involved, when it happens. A child should never find this out first from anyone else.
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