Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Emptiness of Rejection

It is difficult for anyone to understand how terrible it is to be in a marriage with someone who simply does not love you anymore. You see: to come home to nothing is a terrible pain.

Human beings need love and affection like plants need water. We are dry and half dead without it. We marry in order to make that love become part of our everyday life. But when that love departs, we are scarred because the very nature of love requires vulnerability. Love, as it where, opens us up. And the nature of rejection hurts us in that very place. No one can hurt you like the person that you love.

For some, it is easier to leave then to endure this unique kind of pain.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Why Write Books on Divorce?

People often ask me why I am writing a series of books on divorce. The easy answer is that I have seen too many bad divorces and too few good divorces. And I know that kids benefit for good divorces.

I also enjoy writing and one has to grab a subject and get deeply into it in order to write with intelligence. There are other subjects that move me, spiritually and children, child development, the nature of yearning and even the history of science. (Not to mention, how to make marriages a better option than divorce.) But when you see the dam breaking, one feels compelled to hold the water back.

Too many people divorce in too selfish a way. This is fueled by many factors. Society teaches us that our own needs come first. I don’t agree with this value. Self preservation in divorce compels men and women to fight for what they are due. I agree that this makes sense, but once someone starts this fight, the other person’s will be compelled to protect himself. These fights are often very costly financially and to the well being of the children, who have to watch from the sidelines.

Finally too many people simply start new lives and impose it on the kids before they are ready. I don’t agree with this. Patience has its virtue and let kids digest the divorce before providing them with more change.

So, why write so much on divorce? Over one million children are affected by divorce every year in the United States. I hope to make a difference in their lives.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Denial, for Better and for Worse

Denial is a natural part of the grief process; this isn’t really happening to me!

The Value of Denial: When you are first told about divorce or a medical illness for that matter, the mind often drops into denial. It protects you from the fear of what is to come. It gives you some time to mobilize your psychological resources in order to deal with the problem. Denial is a temporary buffer to the pain of grief and the fear of the unknown.

The Hazard of Denial in Divorce: Some people need to plan an exit from their marriage and capitalize on their partner’s denial in order to gain precious time in the process. Sometimes marriage therapy is a charade meant to buy time. This is the worst case scenario. Sometimes marriage counseling is used in a sensitive way by the one who is leaving to help their partner accept what is happening. In the first situation, the leave-ee (the one leaving) keeps his partner’s denial alive as he plans his exit. In the second and much more loving scenario, the leave-ee stays in couple’s therapy in order to gently lead her husband to the realization that their marriage is really over.

As a couple’s therapist, I have seen both.

Denial with Children: Denial has its role, particularly with the kids. Some young children simply need to believer that everything is going to be okay and you don’t’ want to rock the boat too much. Some kids are in denial throughout their youth, allowing them to grow without too much grief over the loss of their family.

Denial is a complicated and often misunderstood phenomenon in the world of divorce.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The Pursuit of Happiness

As a student of philosophy I am often struck by how the values of culture can influence each individual, whether we know it or not. Religious faith, for instance seems to correlate with a longer lifespan, less alcohol abuse and better marital life. It may be that the values of the church/synagogue/mosque simply influence a greater commitment to family and one’s personal medical hygiene.

Marriage and divorce are also influenced by the culture at large, but maybe not in the best way.

In the post modern era, we tend to see our leaders as self serving and not all that wise. And without accepting that all leadership is flawed, the modern mind often rejects community norms, in favor of self fulfillment. So, steadfastness to community values like a commitment to marriage and children is weakening as our institutions weaken. What we have on the other side is the undisputable value of individual happiness. After all, if we have one life to live, why not enjoy it to the fullest?

But there is a rub. We are human beings and by virtue of being human, much of our happiness (and yes, torment too), comes from being a creature of relationship. We love, we marry: and we have kids, parents, brothers, sisters, friends, coworkers and pets. Get the point? Human beings are social beings, and therefore, we live a web of relationships. If individual happiness trumps everything, then we get divorced when we are unhappy, we fight for our rights because we think we were wronged and we tell ourselves that our children will learn from our example and become self centered as well.

Love requires more. Think about it.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Oscar Curse

There is a lot of buzz these days about the Oscar Curse and it may well be true according to researchers at the University of Toronto, who found that women that have won best actress are over fifty percent more likely to divorce than those who were simply nominated. Let’s be clear: since this accounts for a miniscule part of the population (256 women over 76 years versus over a billion normal women over the same period) these results simply do not apply to most people.

So what can we learn?

First, our actresses and actors are part of an elite class that dominates our consciousness. Remember that they are just people and suffer aches and pains like the rest of us. No one is exempt from the drama of being human.

Second, this rarefied group of women test social norms. By and large, they are more successful than their husbands, more visible and more powerful. Perhaps we don’t have a social norm for the kind of man that can skillfully handle this situation?

Third, commitment to a career, at its most ambitious level can be detrimental to marriage. This happens all the time with successful CEOs who have devoted their precious time to their career and not to their marriage. They divorce often. And actors of this caliber probably fall into a category of people who have neglected the plainness of a successful marriage in favor of career.

Finally, many people stay in an unhappy marriage because they are worried about money. Sometimes it works to their advantage because their marriage improves (but not always). Our star actresses don’t have to really worry about surviving. If anything, they may have to take care of their ex husband with support after the divorce.

(Sigh) Life is so very short. We should all find happiness.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

What Are Your Values?: Part Two

In my psychiatric practice I am witnessing a major societal conflict about values. And it is happening in the lives of the individuals who are sitting on my couch, right in front of me.

Value One: The value of personal happiness: Shouldn’t I be entitled to be happy?

Value Two: There is the value of family and clan: My family needs me; I can’t consider breaking up my marriage!

Culture is powerful and with so many divorces catching our attention, whether it is Al and Tipper Gore, Tiger Woods or simply your best friend, we are all influenced.

What are your values? Are they to your happiness or to your family or a mix of both?

The Intelligent Divorce enters at this point. I believe that even if you are choosing divorce. Or if divorce has chosen you, there is another choice to be made. Can you choose a divorce with more functionality than you may have otherwise done, by consciously deciding to divorce intelligently?

Now, that is a value worth pursuing.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Celebrity Divorce: Troy Aikman

When the former Dallas Cowboy quarterback announced his separation, I was happy to see so little gossip on the subject. It seems like both parents are keeping their cards close to the chest. This is something that I admire. Too many celebrities - or their spouses - share the unhappy details of a failing marriage. This is the price of fame. But there are children involved and they must be protected.

Tipper and Al Gore handled their breakup privately, which is a model for all celebrities. Troy and Rhonda Aikman both appear to be dealing with their difficulties with maturity as well.

It sounds like there is some love left in this marriage, at least for their children.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

What Are Your Values?: Part One

According to the Federal Reserve Board's 1995 Survey of Consumer Finance, only 42 percent of children aged 14 to 18 live in an intact two-parent married family. This according to The Heritage Foundation (2000) has left many children at risk for a host of problems, from academic underperformance to mood issues like depression and self destructive behavior.

What we are seeing is a redefinition of commitment to family and children. Unhappy marriages also yield significant hazards to children, but with work and time some of these marriages improve. So what is happening?

We are slowly changing our values from commitment to family and clan to commitment to individual happiness. In a way we are all losing here. Divorce is now a perfectly fine option to an unpleasant marriage, and a nasty divorce is sometimes a “reasonable” option to a calm divorce in which you may not be getting everything that you want.

The philosophy of The Intelligent Divorce is to bring our values back to baseline. Our children need stability and a lost marriage does not mean an unending war. We must value the structure of the family, even if it now means the structure of a family has been reconfigured because of a divorce.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Intelligent Divorce Research Center

It is with a lot of excitement that we are announcing the creation of a new website for news and current research on divorce. We call it: The Intelligent Divorce Research Center. The site will have up to date information about the latest research on divorce. It will keep tabs on divorce in the news and will make its own news by conducting national surveys regarding divorce that may be of interest to the media and to the public at large. We plan to be up and running in April, 2011.

The Intelligent Divorce Research Center is a joint venture with Jill Brooke, who is a media personality, having worked for CNN, CBS and most recently, as a columnist for the Huffington Post section on divorce.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Taking Charge of Sleep: Part Four

For the final piece from the Taking Charge of Sleep series here are some great tips from the National Institutes of Health.

  • Stick to a sleep schedule. Go to bed and wake up at the same time each day—even on the weekends.

  • Avoid large meals and beverages late at night. A large meal can cause indigestion that interferes with sleep. Drinking too many fluids at night can cause you to awaken frequently to urinate.

  • Avoid medicines that delay or disrupt your sleep, if possible. Some commonly prescribed heart, blood pressure, or asthma medications, as well as some over-the-counter and herbal remedies for coughs, colds, or allergies, can disrupt sleep patterns.

  • Don’t take naps after 3 p.m. Naps can boost your brain power, but late afternoon naps can make it harder to fall asleep at night. Also, keep naps to under an hour.

  • Have a good sleeping environment. Get rid of anything that might distract you from sleep, such as noises, bright lights, an uncomfortable bed, or a TV or computer in the bedroom. Also, keeping the temperature in your bedroom on the cool side can help you sleep better.

  • Have the right sunlight exposure. Daylight is key to regulating daily sleep patterns. Try to get outside in natural sunlight for at least 30 minutes each day.

  • Don’t lie in bed awake. If you find yourself still awake after staying in bed for more than 20 minutes, get up and do some relaxing activity until you feel sleepy. The anxiety of not being able to sleep can make it harder to fall asleep.

  • See a doctor if you continue to have trouble sleeping. If you consistently find yourself feeling tired or not well rested during the day despite spending enough time in bed at night, you may have a sleep disorder. Your family doctor or a sleep specialist should be able to help you.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Local Event in Westchester, NY: Do You Want to Write a Book?(What You Need to Know)

The Katonah Study Group For Integrative Medicine

March 23, 2011

Katonah Library


$15 (unless you are a member)

Most people have a book in them, just waiting to come out. In this workshop you will learn the steps required to produce a really good book. Writing a book is one of the most joyful things to do, because it’s a creative act; but a good book requires more than inspiration, it also needs perspiration and organization.

The program will be interactive in nature, allowing for Q and A. And, since you may not want to do it all alone, we’ll be providing resources that could prove invaluable.

Who Should Come: Anyone itching to write a book, on any number of topics.

Guest Speakers:

Mark Banschick, MD: author of the The Intelligent Divorce series.

David Tabatsky: author/editor of many books from The Chicken Soup for the Soul - The Cancer Book, Children’s Letters to Obama and Marlo Thomas’ The Right Words at the Right Time.

Penny Cohen, MSW: author of Personal Kabbalah: 32 Paths to Inner Peace and Life Purpose


  • Finding the Book Idea that is Inside of You

  • Developing that Idea (and Table of Contents)

  • The Book Proposal – What’s Involved

  • Learning How to Write for Your Audience

  • Getting the Help You Need (writing, editing or marketing)

  • Getting Published

Membership Privileges

Fifty dollars lasts all year (Compare to 15 dollars a meeting at the door!)

Future Scheduled Dates:

April 27th, May 25th, June 22nd

For Directions consult our website:

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Taking Charge of Sleep: Part Three

We all toss and turn when under stress. The mind loops around, again and again. Do I have the right lawyer? Will I have enough money to live? What is happening to my children? What if I get sick? Have you ever noticed that anxiety comes out at night, just before you go to sleep (or at least try to go to sleep). Bedtime is a vulnerable time for the soul and this anxiety can undermine how much sleep you get.

Sleep is required for all human beings. When we fail to get enough (7+ hours a night), you will feel tired, burnt out and more regressed. The brain needs to heal from all the stress of the day, and sleep was designed to aid in this healing.

Here are some pragmatic ways to ensure a better sleep:

  • Physical and mental pain both interfere with sleep. Seek professional help when these problems inhibit your ability to get the rest you need.

  • Exercise during the day. It relaxes the body and helps to work off excess tension.

  • Before bedtime:

    • Take a warm bath.

    • Read a good book.

    • Drink warm, decaffeinated tea or warm milk.

    • Call someone with whom you’re close, like a parent or friend, to talk about your day.

  • When it comes to sleep aids, melatonin, valerian root, or chamomile tea may help you.

  • As a psychiatrist I am well aware of the use of pharmaceuticals in the treatment of sleeplessness. For the record, I am very cautious about using them for many reasons. That being said, they may be useful for some patients with life interfering sleeplessness. For example, low doses of Trazadone or an anti-psychotic mediation like Seroquel, can be helpful on a short term basis. The most commonly prescribed sleep agents are hypnotics, like Klonapin and Ativan, and non-hypnotics, like Lunesta and Ambien. See your doctor before pursuing any of these options.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Active Listening and Effective Communication: Part 1

Active Listening and Effective Communication

Active listening is a set of techniques designed to slow down hostility and anxiety in the present moment. It introduces something that’s often lost when a marriage falls apart—the willingness to respectfully listen to one another. Active listening defuses reactivity and ongoing power struggles. It includes joining, curiosity, mirroring, clarification, and two additional called “sticking to the problem at hand” and “ striking when the iron is cold”. Active listening presupposes that you feel safe and that your ex is open to compromise.

Joining- Joining occurs when you remind your ex that the two of you are “in this together” for the sake of the kids. In the heat of an argument, this statement can defuse the tension and get you back on track.

“Michael relax, I want to remind you that we’re in this together.”
“Rachel, I know you worry about the children. I do, too.”

By reinforcing the idea that the two of you are working together, it eliminates the potential power struggle and makes you equals in this difficult time. Sometimes this can be done as a concession in which you relinquish control of a situation, and other times it can be done as an assertion in which you bring yourself up to an equal level of power as your ex. Joining also helps to define the goals you both have, whether they be to reach a separation point or to make sure your kids come out of this process the best way they can.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Taking Charge of Sleep: Part Two

In an interview with Andrew Solomon, author of The Noonday Demon, Dr. Thomas Wehr (NIMH) said, "Grief, which leads to depression, disrupts your sleep one way; falling in love, which can lead to mania, disrupts your sleep another way."

It’s no secret that sleep is tough to get when you’re stressed out. One study found that sleeping for six hours or less was more common among divorced and separated men and women than among adults in other marital groups (Schoenborn & Adams, 2010). This is a problem, because while some adults may require more or less sleep, 7-8 hours of sleep is believed to be a healthy amount (NINDS, 2007).

So, what can you do? Try to maintain a regular schedule. When you don’t have your kids, make sure you get the rest you require. You’re not much use to anyone exhausted and sick.

Caffeine after 1 pm will make it hard for you to sleep. Try cutting your consumption down to no more than two cups of Joe a day (or the equivalent), and have all of it before the afternoon.

If you want to pleasure of coffee, order a 1/2 caff when you go to the coffee shop. This way, you get the experience and pleasure of coffee with half of the caffeine. And don’t underestimate the amount of caffeine in one of our favorite comfort foods—chocolate. It has a ton of it.

At bedtime, a good book, a cozy couch, chamomile tea, and perhaps some soothing music can help settle you down. Melatonin is the only hormone secreted exclusively during sleep, and a small, non-addictive dose from a health food store may promote a good night’s rest for some people.

Be cautious of using alcohol as a sleep-inducing agent because it will work poorly and ultimately lead to dependence. Booze may put you to bed, but it’ll almost certainly give you REM rebound and wake you up four or five hours later more restless than you were before.

When nothing else works, you may want to temporally use a hypnotic agent prescribed by your doctor. This is a second choice, but when sleep is elusive, it may be needed.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Taking Charge of Sleep: Part One

If the average person lives 70-80 years, consider that 15-20 of those years are spent sleeping—that’s no small thing. All mammals sleep; it’s an essential part of life.

Since ancient Egyptian times, sleep has sparked the interest of philosophers, religious leaders, and scientists alike. The buzz around dreams alone is enormous. Everyone wants to know what they’re all about: Do they predict the future? Do they say something about who we are? Are they arbitrary?

Sigmund Freud’s first great contribution was The Interpretation of Dreams (1900). He tells us that our dreams are not random; they teach us about our lives. As Virginia Woolf wrote: “Yet it is in our idleness, in our dreams, that the submerged truth sometimes comes to the top.”

Sleep is meaningful, restorative, biological, and yet, even today, an enigma. We don’t know what it does for us precisely, but we know that we can’t live without it (NINDS, 2007). In fact, sleep deprivation is a technique used in torture to retrieve information.

People who have psychological issues, whether it’s anxiety, depression, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or worry itself - are all soothed by slumber. The brain needs time to recuperate just like a sore muscle needs to be still. We may not know how neuronal firing, dreaming, and the REM stages of sleep heal a wounded brain, but it’s fair to say that this is exactly what it does.

If you don’t get enough sleep, you may be more at risk for Type 2 diabetes and obesity, and sleep apnea is associated with cardiovascular disease (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2007b). Indeed, research has found that sleep problems (like trouble falling asleep or waking up early in the morning without being able to return to sleep) are associated with a shortened life-span for middle-aged men and women (Nilsson, Nilsson, Hedblad, & Berglund, 2001).

Your divorce is probably not a dream. More likely, it’s a nightmare. But getting a good night’s sleep can help you stay the course and stay rational (National Institutes of Health [NIH], 2006). A tired brain yields a tired mind, which means a higher likelihood of doing or saying something you might regret.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Hello Bad Habits

Example One

Your wife left you and you’re feeling despondent; you’re not sure how you’re going to make ends meet.

All of a sudden, you find yourself with a cigarette in your mouth. Your father died of emphysema ten years ago and, until this moment, you hadn’t picked up since.

The stress of divorce has pushed you to the cigarette’s comfort, even though you know it can kill you.

Example Two

You’re living alone and you just went on a date with an interesting guy. He told you he doesn’t want to see you again, so you return home alone and rejected. Your kids are sleeping upstairs. Your mom just left—she watched them while you were out. You rarely drink, but you find that half a bottle of wine is already gone. And you’re almost finished with a carton of ice cream.

Examples One and Two aren’t evil, but on a repetitive basis, they are surely destructive to your health and well being. Both situations are examples of regression; when a person returns to a less mature way of functioning because they are under stress, they are, by definition, regressed.

Note that the emotional instability and a sense of helplessness, so common in divorce, can be precursors to resuming bad habits.

Example One is very common. Data from 2005-2007 revealed that, in the US, the population of divorced and separated men and women had almost twice as many smokers (30.6%) as the married population (16.2%) (Schoenborn and Adams, 2010). Once you start smoking again, it’s difficult to stop. As hard as this fact may be to swallow, we’d like to point out that the life expectancy of a chronic smoker is ten years shorter than that of a non-smoker (Kaufman, 2004). Since your kids need you alive and well, this fact is as precious as the statistic on car accidents.

Example Two is also common. Schoenborn and Adams (2010) found that obesity was more prevalent and healthy weight less prevalent among divorced and separated women than among married women. Heavy drinking was also more prevalent in the population of divorced and separated men and women than it was in the married population. If smoking and drinking or binge eating were your coping mechanisms of choice in the past, you may now find yourself returning to old standbys.

If you’re hurt or angry, alone, sad, or worried, there are wholesome and intelligent ways to manage your pain - ways you can take pride in and that will make you feel good. Ways that can help avoid a loss of control, regret or, even worse, medical illness.

First, acknowledge that you have regressed. It is not as bad as it sounds. We all do it. Regression is common for everyone under stress, married, single or divorce. The problem with divorce is that the stress can take years to abate.

Now deal with your upset with both long term planning and short term prevention strategies. Take pleasure in knowing that you are alive and well and that this will get better one day. I mean it. Find pleasure in taking better care of yourself. It is a good antidote to the destructive pleasures of pigging out, drinking or smoking.

Long term, take care of your body through healthy exercise and eating right. Have people around you to call or hang out with. There is such healing in experiencing that you are not alone. Finally, when alone and in despair, call someone.

Have a buddy who is on your side and beat the need for a destructive pleasure.

After all, the best mistake is the one you don’t make.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Driving You Crazy

Imagine driving along the highway and thinking, "She doesn’t love me anymore." "What’s going to happen to me?" "Should I get a new lawyer? Maybe there’s something wrong with the one that I have."

The inner voices continue. "I can’t stand him; he’s so selfish." "Nobody is calling me back!" "What’s going to happen to my children?" As the voices get louder and the worries increase, you become more distracted and overwrought. Your anxiety begins to impair your ability to drive safely

You don’t notice that you just went through a red light.


It may have been a while back, but the National Center for Health Statistics published some scary data on car accidents and marital status in 1970. They found that the fatality rate was higher for divorced men and women of all races than for those widowed, married, or single.

In fact, on average, the death rate was 2.5 times higher for divorced individuals than for married individuals.

Next time you are driving while ruminating on your divorce, remember, your kids need you alive and well. You may be preoccupied by how much you hate your ex wife, or how you have so little money, or how you can’t wait to go on a date; or you may be concerned about the latest round of legal accusations. Whatever it is, this can distract you and lead to a fatality.

Do your kids a favor. Just pull off to the side of the road and chill a bit. Take a deep breath. Let go of some tension. Feel the pleasure of being alive and know that this will all be over some day.
It is good to be healthy and alive for your kids.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Local Event in Westchester, NY: Transforming Illness Into A Self Healing Journey

The Katonah Study Group For Integrative Medicine

Presents: Paul Epstein, ND

February 16, 2011

Katonah Library


$15 (unless you are a member)

Please bring your favorite dish - drinks will be provided

Transforming Illness Into A Self Healing Journey: How Biography Becomes Biology

Disease tells a story, not just about our cells and a diagnosis, but about our self and our life. We will explore the mind body connection and the role of attitudes, beliefs, stresses and emotions in the healing process. Our challenge is the integration of curing and healing. Learn how healing happens when we engage in our inner healer and how illness is an opportunity to embark on a journey of self-healing and awakening.

Paul Epstein, ND is a naturopathic physician, mind-body therapist, mindfulness meditation teacher, international speaker and workshop leader with over twenty five years experience in Mind-Body Integrative Medicine and its clinical application. A 1984 graduate of the National College of Naturopathic Medicine, he did a residency in behavioral medicine, stress, and lifestyle counseling.

He has trained in the Internal Family Systems Model of Psychotherapy, studied at the Academy for Clinical Guided Imagery, completed the three-year training program for meditation teachers at the Spirit Rock Meditation Center, and is a certified yoga teacher. He is the guiding teacher of the Insight Meditation Community of Fairfield County, and is a faculty member for The Graduate Institute Masters Degree Programs in Experiential Health and Healing and Holistic Thinking, and has taught counseling at the Naturopathic College at the University of Bridgeport in Connecticut.

He travels worldwide leading mindful healing retreats and trainings and mentors health care professionals to integrate mind-body therapies in their life and clinical work. As a practitioner, he integrates a whole-person integrative approach with contemplative psychotherapy. He maintains a private practice in Westport, Ct. transforming stress, pain and illness into a journey of self healing and an opportunity for spiritual awakening.

Membership Privileges

Fifty dollars lasts all year (Compare to 15 dollars a meeting at the door!)

Future Scheduled Dates:

March 16th

remainder of dates will follow.

We look forward to an exciting year of learning and networking with you - The Katonah Study Group


Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Where Are My Friends - A Case Study

You know, now that I’m struggling with some depression, I realize how much I lost with this divorce. Danny, my ex, never really wanted to hang out with my friends, and while I liked his friends, now that we are divorced, they want to hang out with him. So it’s slim pickings for me. You know I wonder if this is what happens in most divorces. Why do friends feel the need to choose?

Sandra, age 53

Like Sandra, your community of friends and family may not be there for you in the way you expect. You may have one or two good friends who are there. You may be surprised by who shows up and pays attention; you may be saddened by those who don’t. In death, you these issues don’t come up. In divorce, they do.

For-warned is for-armed. Just know that if you are going through a divorce, you will need to find people who care about you. Don’t spend a lot of time in disappointment, because, there are going to be people who will disappoint you. Instead look for those who care – and they are there.

You can make grief last a lot longer if you focus on how people fall short. Many do.

Try DivorceCares, or find a support group, or reconnect with old buddies that have always cared about you and be open to discovering those friends that actually come through for you. They are a godsend.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Where Are My Friends

The loss of a marriage is a real death. That is why people grieve in divorce despite the fact that nobody has died. Grief applies to other human losses and not to a loss that comes from death. In some ways it is trickier to recover from divorce than from a death, because when you lose a spouse, a child, or a parent to death, the community responds in a positive ways because everyone understands.

But, when it comes to divorce, not everyone understands. It’s a process that pushes people’s buttons—some people will judge, others will pull away and others will simply feel awkward. You’ve probably known a divorcee who lost his friends in the process, or whose buddies felt they needed to choose sides. For some family and friends, divorce creates a dynamic they are just not prepared to handle.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Value of Grief: Part Three (2)

The bandage keeps the wound from getting reinjured and it stays there to protect the skin from being poked or prodded. In divorce the bandage is a commitment to keeping you protected and safe as you heal. Sometimes this can be in the guise of a good therapist, or a lawyer who protect your rights. But the most important “bandage” in divorce is your wise decisions to set limits with your ex when necessary. You cannot allow yourself to be bullied or manipulated. And you may need some time away from the situation as you heal. Ultimately, unless he is a total jerk, you will have to step up and co-parent with him. But you can only do this effectively after you have done a good bit of healing.

Finally, both wounds of the body and of the soul, take time to heal. The deeper the wound, the more time it takes to heal. Give yourself the time that you need. Grieving is good for you as long as you are healing. Pathological guilt is when you simply can’t move on.

Grief slows you down so you can appreciate what you had, digest your hurt, and ultimately, focus on the future. Towards that end, it may even affect you physiologically. You may lose your appetite or become ravenous, or have difficulty falling or staying asleep. This is your mind telling you that it needs time to heal, and by managing your divorce intelligently—perhaps with guidance from a minister, pastor, rabbi, or therapist—you will heal.

Allow yourself to grieve. Keep out of situations that will open it up, yet again. Keep yourself surrounded by those that care for you. Take good care of yourself and protect your rights and need to feel safe. Keep your eye on the prize: your children. Time will help you to heal.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Value of Grief: Part Three (1)

When you are hurt, like cutting yourself with a knife, the body bleeds. When your skin is cut, bleeding occurs because there is no defense initiated as of yet. Platelets and clotting factors need some time to seal the initial wound. The grief over a divorce works the same way; like being left or hearing that she does not want to be with you anymore. You cry in despair or feel the emptiness that rejection brings. The body feels the pain of the injury and you do as well. It can be unbearable. But then the brain secretes endorphins and the pain system learns to habituate to the acute pain so a person can function. This is what happens in grief as well. The acute pain cannot be in your conscious mind 24/7; it ebbs and flows, especially if you are triggered by something.

A physical wound remains tender, even after the clotting has stopped the bleeding and the acute pain has subsided. It is very easy to reinjure the wound if it is poked or if you move in the wrong way. In fact, if you go back too quickly to life as normal, it is likely that it will break open and start to bleed again, and you are back to square one. In your grieving over the divorce, it is easy to reinjure or open up your wound. You can be triggered by something your ex says or does. You can be triggered by seeing a happy family playing in the park, only to remind you of what you have lost. Or, you can open the wound by dating prematurely and experiencing rejection, once again.

In order to help a wound heal, you add a dressing, like an antibiotic and keep it clean. This is lovingly attending the brokenness of the wound. In your divorce, the dressing consists of people who really love you. It also includes taking loving care of yourself, keeping up with your exercise routine, eating well and trying to get a good night’s sleep.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Value of Grief: Part Two

Grief is the natural, psychological response to the loss of a marriage, and you need to go through it in order to come out of your divorce healthy and strong. Let’s understand grief more deeply. It will help you go through it in a healthy way. Fighting grief usually makes it last longer, like going back to a sport before an injury has really healed. This is how you get hurt, yet again

Take a look at the chart below. It will help you visualize your mind’s immune reaction:

The body has its wisdom in healing, and so does the mind. You can literally see the pain of a physical wound and watch as the immune system takes charge of the healing process. Psychological wounds heal in the same way, you just can’t see it. There are two lists below. The left enumerates the stages of the body’s healing process. For each stage on the left, there is a corresponding stage on the right, describing the mind’s therapeutic equivalent for psychological wounds.

Grief slows you down so you can appreciate what you had, digest your hurt, and ultimately, focus on the future. Towards that end, it may even affect you physiologically. You may lose your appetite or become ravenous, or have difficulty falling or staying asleep. This is your mind telling you that it needs time to heal, and by managing your divorce intelligently—perhaps with guidance from a minister, pastor, rabbi, or therapist—you will heal. It bears repeating: grief is a positive thing.