Tait Counseling & Consulting is a dynamic, multi-approach mental and behavioral health practice based in Metropolitan Atlanta, GA. Established in 1999, we provide a wide range of behavioral, mental health, and consulting services. We approach treatment from a "Cognitive Behavioral Therapy" and "Mindfulness" approach. Dr. Lisa, Practice Owner, is a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC), and licensed and ordained minister in the State of Georgia.
Articles, Studies & Latest Trends:
The Difficult Stages of Divorce
by Dr. Lisa M. Tait
After twenty-two years I finally heard the words that I never imagined I would hear, “Your divorce is final.” I didn’t want to cry, nor did I feel a sense of euphoria in that moment. Surprisingly, things were very clear for me because I had begun the tedious process of healing long before the judge had signed the final divorce decree. As a mental health therapist I knew how important it was to “do the work” of ending what once was such a meaningful relationship. I had counseled countless couples during my 25 years of practicing therapy and I was under no delusion that somehow my own divorce would play out any differently.
It is true that divorce can be equated to a “Living Death.” The reason for this is that everything you once hoped for in that relationship (e.g., a lifelong partnership, growing old together, rearing your children together, retiring together and traveling the world, taking care of one another’s parents as they grow old, etc.) vanishes or dies in an instant. However, while that marital union may be dead you may still have to see your ex-spouse because of your children, financial obligations, similar social circles, working together, etc., and that means that your relationship is still alive. So how can you have a healthy relationship with someone with whom you have experienced such a devastating loss? I would offer that you must find personal healing and wholeness. Many people recognize the psychological trauma of losing a loved one to death but most of us have a difficult time equating this same trauma to divorce. If you fail to do the work of healing, the effects of divorce will show up daily in your social interactions, your work performance, and your relationship with your children and other relatives, and most importantly in your relationship with self. Studies have shown that after a divorce nearly 60% of persons who had previously experienced depression reported another depressive episode after their split. Another study in 2011 found that children of divorce are more likely to have suicidal thoughts.
Strategies For Navigating the Difficult Stages of Divorce
1. Create a Support Network - “Denial and Isolation” are the normal responses or reactions to handling the Tsunami of emotions that hit us after divorce. This defense mechanism protects us initially, but if we remain here too long we can find ourselves becoming depressed or even worse suicidal. Therefore after a divorce you must focus on creating a strong support network. Many times relatives and friends are more than open to being that “shoulder you can lean on.” However, if this is not possible you should find a Divorce Support Group (e.g., National Divorce Support Alliance), a private therapist or someone in the “helping profession” who can serve as a sounding board and resource. Having a therapist is nothing to be ashamed about, but feeling hopeless and helpless or watching your children suffer during the most difficult time of their lives is shameful if you don’t get help!
2. Start a Healing Hobby – Once the reality of your new situation hits, anger becomes the easiest, most expressive emotion you can display to show others your current emotional state. This anger, while aimed at your ex, is often taken out on others around you (e.g., complete strangers, friends, co-workers or family). The intense pain that we feel is re-directed from the inner most part of our being or core and expressed as outrage, anger and resentment. Take up an exciting healing hobby like photography, fishing, mountain climbing, scuba diving, get a pet, scrapbook, learn tennis, travel, etc.
3. Self Evaluate & Make Changes – Normally when a loved one becomes ill and their passing is imminent we immediately begin the bargaining process. Our hope is that somehow we can persuade the “powers that be” that somehow a change in us will warrant giving our loved one a second chance. Well unfortunately we do the same thing in a dying marriage. The worse thing you can do to yourself during this time is attempt to bargain with your “soon-to-be-ex” or the “powers that be” just to keep him or her in your life. Now is the time to really get to know you. Get counseling to save your marriage, but if the marriage is over remain in counseling to define and re-define who you are now (without a spouse in your new condition).
4. Laugh and Have Fun – Regardless of whether you asked your spouse for a divorce or they asked you, you may at some point experience feelings of depression. Depression is a state of low mood that can affect a person's thoughts, behavior, feelings and sense of well being. However, when you notice the signs you must begin to combat that feeling through laughter. Yes, laughing has been shown to have short-term and long-term positive effects. In the short-term it stimulates organs as your intake of oxygen-rich air, stimulates your heart, lungs and muscles, and increases the endorphins that are released by your brain. Laughter also activates and relieves your stress response and soothes tension by aiding your muscles in relaxing. The long-term effects of laughter are: a) improves your immune system, b) relieves pain, c) increases personal satisfaction and d) improves your mood. So don’t run to your doctor looking to medicate yourself from feeling. Watch a funny movie or go to a comedy club and literally laugh your troubles away. Laughter is the cheapest, most effective way to combat depression.
5. Accept Your Circumstance – The final stage of healing from grief and loss is acceptance. Some never reach this stage and therefore it should be held in high regard and treasured. Face it; something brought you to this point in your marriage (lack of communication, neglect, abuse, infidelity, etc.). Hopefully you attempted to work on your marriage before things got out of control, however, you must now accept that it’s over. Yes, this is harsh but it’s true… the marriage is over. No one wants to be forced to do anything against his or her will. You may still love your spouse but if they want out, you must honor that request and hopefully find an amicable way to part. Just remember that your healing can’t begin until you accept that your marriage is over! We can’t fix what you won’t face! The longer it takes for you to take that first step the longer it takes for your new life to begin.