Next to a death, divorce is one of the most stressful life events a person may experience.
Divorce can take it’s toll on mental health. Regardless of whether or not the decision was yours, the other or both. Regardless of whether it was with or without children. And even if you are older and the kids have long since left the nest. It remains an adjustment.
Some will feel the effect on mental health immediately. Whilst for others, who have been planning it for some time and are pleased with their decision, it can creep up on them.
Much of what is at issue is uncertainty, concern for change and unanticipated negative outcomes.
At the very least for many is the issue of loss and grief. That can be anything from familiar routines to no longer seeing favored extended kin on the other side. Or it could even be friends who have taken sides.
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Uncertainty itself can create anxiety. Not knowing what will be, the concern for surviving economically, and concern about the care of children and their well-being can all take an emotional toll.
To add, as one is in a sense, distracted by the emotional response to their situation, responsibilities may suffer. Coping mechanisms stretch, and inappropriate coping mechanisms may take hold adding to further complications.
It helps to plan, to manage one’s mental health more effectively. Keep the understanding one still must remain flexible as even the best of plans doesn’t always come about.
Two other strategies can support one’s mental health when managing divorce:
- The first is sound legal advice. It is helpful to know one’s true rights as well as responsibilities. This doesn’t mean you have to follow what family law may dictate exactly. However, having good information can help you negotiate more effectively. You are always welcome to make whatever deals you think best suites your situation.
- The second is discussing your situation with someone neutral. This is rarely a family member or friend as they may have a bias in your favor. They may also assess your situation with only the knowledge they possess which may not be truly reflective of what may be helpful to you in your situation. From this perspective a counselor or divorce coach can not only offer emotional support but can also prepare you for managing your former partner as well as any settlement process more effectively. Given this is a specialty area of practice, choose someone with considerable knowledge and experience specifically in divorce, the legal process, mental health and working with difficult situations or people.
Do your homework. Add professional members to your team even if you barely need them. Mental health is something you want to protect and have these strategies in place before you may actually need to rely on them.
Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW
Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW is a Canadian Social Worker in private practice. He is recognized from his 65 episodes of the hit show Newlywed/Nearly Dead, to over 650 columns as the parenting expert of a major metropolitan newspaper, to more than 350 media appearances, to his book, Marriage Rescue: Overcoming ten deadly sins in failing relationships. Courts in Ontario, Canada, consider him an expert in social work, marital and family therapy, child development, parent-child relations and custody and access matters He speaks at conferences and workshops throughout Canada and the US and helps family peacemakers grow their practice.