THE EMOTIONAL IMPACT OF DIVORCE
Updated: Jan 23, 2021
As written by a wonderful client of mine after she completed The Grief Recovery Method .
In the summer of 2016 I discovered my husband of 27 years had been having an affair with a much younger woman in her 30s. My husband worked in London during the week, and returned home at weekends and holidays. After I confronted him about his affair, he left me, but continued coming back at weekends, staying with his new girlfriend. I filed for divorce, which is still an on-going process.
The emotional impact of my husband’s behaviour was devastating. A psychotherapist friend of mine has identified him as having narcissistic personality disorder, although I didn’t know this until recently. His deliberate cruel behaviour towards both myself and my daughter was so hard to process, after all the years we’ve been together. He wouldn’t communicate with me, apart from very business-like and subtly abusive e-mails about money and legal matters. Whenever I got an email from him, my heart would race and I’d feel like I was being stabbed.
During the first few months, my adrenals and digestive system were shot to pieces. I threw up every day for a month, as I couldn’t digest food properly, and my weight dropped very rapidly. I had weekly sessions of acupuncture, and my therapist said anger and fear were damaging my health and well-being. The acupuncture helped somewhat, although I was still having problems waking up at 3 or 4 in the morning, and obsessing about the situation I found myself in, and not being able to switch my mind off and go back to sleep. This gradually eased over the following months.
The thing I found hardest to cope with was my daughter’s intense grief and pain. She had always been very close to her father. She was devastated that her father was able to discard her like a used tissue, and didn’t even contact her, or give her a card or gift, at Christmas. Her emotional pain manifested into physical symptoms too, and she had a number of panic attacks at the college, where she attends. During the Christmas holidays, she became agoraphobic, fearful that she’d see her father with the girlfriend she felt he’d replaced her with. Despite being upset at seeing photos of her father she felt compelled to look on social media, even though I advised her not to. Finally, she stopped doing so, to my relief.
As the months went by, intense emotional pain she and I felt began to lessen. However, in April I was told that my husband’s girlfriend was pregnant, and our daughter heard me telling my sister this news on the telephone. I felt overwhelmed with a kaleidoscope of emotions, including anger, shock, grief and deep sadness. Shortly after, I was sitting in a café with friends after a yoga session when someone started talking about a new-born baby. It then hit me like a ton of bricks that my husband, who I’d known for 36 years, was having a child with someone else. My response was visceral and had I stood up, my legs would have buckled beneath me. I felt like I was going to faint, and I experienced such a blast of sorrow that if I’d started crying I wouldn’t have been able to stop. I had a drink of water and went to the loo and managed to calm down after taking a large dose of rescue remedy. I told my friends how I felt, and they were very sympathetic and helped me process my feelings.
The following week, I was in the same café after yoga and started talking to Dawn Ford, who was a friend of a friend. Dawn told me she was a grief recovery specialist and I booked a session with her for the following day. I immediately felt better, knowing I was doing something tangible about processing my intense emotions with a professional who understood exactly what I was going through.
After the first session with Dawn, and reading the accompanying handbook, which I devoured as soon as I got home, I experienced relief and great clarity about what I was going through. I felt instantly comfortable confiding in Dawn and her therapy room had such a peaceful atmosphere. Dawn’s great warmth and empathy engendered complete trust and the ability to fully open up to her. The comfort and intense relief I felt after each session was so healing.
I loved the fact that there were seven sessions, and the fact I was required to do an assignment at home between sessions. Emotions which were jumbled up in my head, and which could be triggered at any time, became clearer. Plotting a time-line of my relationship with my husband and both the good and bad times we’d shared, made it easier to think clearly. Although I was sad that the seventh session was my last one with Dawn, writing the final letter of goodbye to my husband, and reading it to Dawn as if it was him, helped me immensely, as I felt I had closure.
My daughter also had seven sessions with Dawn, and I am so, so grateful that we were both lucky enough to do this. Grief support with specialists like Dawn should be funded by the NHS, as it would save them money on prescribing pharmaceuticals to people suffering from the physical manifestations of grief. I will be eternally grateful to Dawn for the wonderful service she offers, and she’s helped both myself and my daughter more than she’ll ever know.
Photo credit - Siora Photography