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Divorce / Death: Closing The Chapter of The Book of Life

The process of letting go of unhealthy relationships through divorce or loss is quite challenging. However, closing this chapter in the book of life allows one to move forward and make healthier decisions. Thus, divorce and death are similar in that both require a sense of loss. The ones who address this process are the ones who give themselves permission to experience the bereavement and to become more introspective. Most individuals are fearful of facing this enormous emotional suffering.

Clearly, one may not be able to control or manage every single event that occurs within the life cycle. Many tragedies or disappointments occur that may create a sense of loss or sadness. As an illustration, when our love ones die we typically experience grief or bereavement which takes approximately eight seasons or two years to work through this process. The various stages of grief are as follows:

  • shock and denial
  • anger
  • depression
  • bargaining
  • acceptance

The following story illustrates how death may impact all ages:

A very young boy named Aaron had a beautiful black Labrador retriever named Onxy that he had known since birth. At the tender age of four, the dog suddenly died and this was Aaron’s first experience with grief. Initially, he was in shock and he could not accept that his dog had died. In hopes that Onyx would return home, he continued to provide food and water for him on a daily basis for approximately three weeks. Once he experienced the initial stage of grief, he began to become increasingly agitated and irritable. For example, he tested limits with his parents and was easily provoked to anger which is the second stage of the grief cycle. During the third stage of the bereavement, he experienced childhood depression whereby he isolated from his playmates and family and suffered from a decrease in appetite and disruptive sleeping pattern.

Finally, his parents took Aaron along with a bouquet of beautiful flowers to Onyx’s grave and explained to him the process of death. He asked all of the precious questions that children often ask about death such as “Can he breathe under the ground and will he go to dog heaven?” It was at that point that Aaron began to move towards the last stage of grief which was acceptance. His parents proposed the idea of allowing him to select a new puppy and he was thrilled! His response was the following:  “I don’t want just one puppy, I want 101 puppies with big black spots on them.” As the story goes, Aaron did get only one new Dalmatian puppy!

Divorce / Grief and the bereavement cycleLikewise, as adults the grief and bereavement cycle can be very painful. The sense of loss may also create a fear of embracing new relationships due to fact that one may worry about experiencing another loss. Similarly, when an individual experiences a separation or divorce it is also perceived as a significant loss that one may or may not be able to control. Studies show that approximately 91% of divorces and termination of relationships are initiated by the female gender. According to some studies, a women’s standard of living goes down 73 percent after divorce while a man’s goes up 42 percent. Currently, divorce statistics are rising, but a couple of years ago it was estimated that one out of every two marriages end in divorce. Why is the divorce rate soaring at this time?

Perhaps one explanation would be that women often report that they feel deprived of affection that they cherish and are clueless about what to do with this issue. Another theory is that the divorce rate may be blamed on the women’s movement. Clearly, women have become more independent emotionally and economically and they feel more financially able to terminate a bad marriage. Men often report that they harbor resentment towards their spouse because they have tremendous financial responsibilities for the family. Men also acknowledge that being committed and monogamous is very difficult. Moreover, extramarital relationships exist in American marriages in more than half or more of all distressed couples entering into counseling. In some cases, it may improve the relationship or it may lead to separation or divorce.

However, the list of consequences that couples often report that stem from an extramarital affair are as follows:  violation of trust, guilt, dishonesty or lies, anger depression, humiliation, anxiety, regret and remorse, disruption of careers, sexually transmitted diseases, unwanted pregnancies, jealousy, and/or separation and divorce. If the consequences are so severe, why do individuals risk having an extramarital affair? Simply, most individuals report that the extramarital affair allows them to have unmet needs in their marriage be met in their affair. Men are more likely to seek out an extramarital relationship due to the fact that their sexual desires are not met in their marriage. Whereas, women are more likely to seek out an affair due to the lack of intimacy in their marriage.   Therefore, males often report that they are more devastated if they discover their wife is having an affair due to the emotional attachment that she may develop with her partner. In addition, the stigma and shame that once existed regarding divorce seems to be more acceptable in our society.

Aside from the aforementioned reasons, both genders will hopefully learn to take more responsibility for choosing a more compatible partner and learn to meet some of their own emotional needs. However, it is important to examine various reasons for the decision-making process and to take responsibility for exercising poor judgment. If someone has been in an mentally or physically abusive relationships it would be helpful to take a closer look at why that individual elected that particular partner and why they were not attracted to a healthier partner.

In other words, look in the mirror at yourself instead of picking up the magnifying glass and pointing the finger at your partner. In the process of psychotherapy, it is typically effective if the individuals gains insight into their own personal issues and choices versus focusing on what is wrong with others. After all, you are the one that chose your partner and you are the one who is accountable for future choices that you make in interpersonal relationships.

The Monday Morning Blahs and the Sunday Night Blues

Do you ever have the “Sunday Night Blues” or the “Monday Morning Blahs?” Do you find yourself living and working for the weekends? It is important to find joy in the journey and incorporate some pleasurable activities, such as enjoyable hobbies during your weekdays, so that Eating Disorders and Stressyou can mange your stress. Pick up a copy of your favorite author’s new book on a Tuesday evening or spend the evening browsing the bookstore and buy yourself a latte and a  biscotti. Establish a movie night where you watch movies and order take-out and lounge in your pajamas.  Thus, improving your time management and scheduled events improves your stress management.

Individuals who know they have some control over their time management usually have less stress. One way to be in control is to incorporate more Type B personality traits into your lifestyle. Incorporating a more laid-back attitude will help safeguard your mental and physical health as well as replenishing yourself with leisure time such as taking time for yourself each day. Plan an occasional mental health day, such as a day of vacation during which you pamper yourself with a long walks, a facial, a massage, or playing with your frisky kitten, or just relaxing in your robe and slippers all day and watching old movies.

Identify your personal stressors by completing a stress inventory such as the Stress Map by Essi Systems. An inventory will pinpoint areas that are creating stress and will educate you on how to manage your stress more effectively. Examine your assessments and the charts. Identify areas that are particularly stressful for you and design a plan on how you will introduce change and be proactive. Learn to become more assertive and less aggressive in your communication style.

When people are assertive, they usually get their requests and needs met more often than when they are aggressive. One becomes assertive when one stands up for their rights in such a way that the rights of others are not violated. Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” Assertiveness implies that one can state their preferences without using accusatory statements that may be interpreted as blaming the other party. “I” statements such as “I would prefer to see the comedy instead of the drama. Assertive people express themselves without being self-conscious, accept compliments in a comfortable manner, and respectfully disagree with someone regarding an issue. Learning to say no and clarifying issues is also another manifestation of being assertive. WOMEN QUOTE: “The sign of a true lady is learning how to decline a dinner invitation without making an excuse.” One can be very gracious and say something along the lines of  “thanking for thinking of me, but unfortunately, I will not be able to join you” instead of “ I have to wash my hair and do my nails on Saturday.”

There are four basic interpersonal styles of relating to others: aggressive style, passive style, passive-aggressive style, and assertive style. The aggressive style is where one may raise their voice inflection and make demands and accusatory statements and the individual often does not consider the feelings of others. This particular interpersonal style often alienates others and is counterproductive. The passive style is where one does not communicate their needs or preferences and will often times aquiesence to avoid making waves. Girls who develop anorexia nervosa are often times very passive because they want to please others and do not want to ruffle anyone’s feathers by being assertive. Lastly, passive-aggressive is a style of relating in interpersonal relationships whereby one attempts to induce guilt or “pay back” another person by passively doing something to hurt that other person. An example would be to give someone the silent treatment because you are angry with them but you cannot find a way to express your anger in a direct manner.

Change stressors, such as moving across the country, starting a new job, or building a new home, are extremely challenging. Remember to allow yourself time to adjust to the changes, and try not to introduce too much change at one time. For instance, do not change to a new school system, train a new puppy and experience a breakup in a relationship in the same month.

The Ups and Downs of Stress

Stress contributes to eating disorder development

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