John's Blog

The Blog of John Gibson, PhD

divorce stress

Psychological Distress and Divorce

This is a quick followup to my last post. I thought maybe I should list the more common stressors that most people face when they go through a divorce process.

1. Intense negative emotions -- anger, hurt, sadness, guilt, shame, fear
2. Legal issues -- sorting out custody arrangements; hashing out settlement details
3. Co-parenting issues (if children)
4. New worries -- financial, juggling tasks, shift in roles, new tasks
5. Reworking identity -- married to divorced; making new dreams
6. Loneliness -- loss of partner, loss of some friends
7. Stigma -- coping with judgments, disapproval of others

As I said in my prior post, every week of my career I help people cope with the stress of divorce. This has become a routine part of my work. What I can tell you is that not everybody experiences these stressors in the same way, of course, or with the same intensity. This means that the strategies people use to cope will vary, depending on the person and the situation.

The divorce process may be painful, but people can and do get through it. And although it may be hard to believe -- especially when your swimming in a sea of negative emotions -- some people do more than just cope with the experience, they also grow. Yes, they sort out what happened and why, and hopefully develop a deeper understanding of who they are and what they need. But if emotional pain has any value it’s that it teaches us about compassion. By facing fallibility in ourselves, we are more able to accept it in others.

Compassion -- for ourselves, our former partners, our neighbors -- is perhaps the one true antidote to bitterness.