Dealing With Grief

Man dealing with grief post-divorce and contemplating reconciliation.

Don’t worry, those thoughts are normal – whether they’re wanted or not.

They’re confusing, frustrating and add to the horrible mess of wondering if the whole divorce thing has finally driven you mad.

What I want you to know is that thoughts of reconciliation are completely normal when you’re dealing with grief after divorce.

So take a deep breath, relax knowing that you’re still sane as you read on to understand what’s up with those bizarre (and usually unwelcome) thoughts of reconciliation that are popping into your head.

Dealing with grief after divorce is a complicated thing. It’s lots different than dealing with grief after a death. Death is final. You’ll never look that person in the eyes again.

After divorce, you have the opportunity to look your ex in the eyes each and every time you hand the kids off and/or at each major event in the kids’ lives (think graduation, marriage, grandchildren, accepting a Nobel Prize, etc.). So finding closure after divorce is difficult and makes the whole dealing with grief thing more challenging.

Regardless of the grief you’re experiencing, you’re likely to go through the 5 stages of grief identified by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross:

  1. Denial and Isolation
  2. Anger
  3. Bargaining
  4. Depression
  5. Acceptance

Take a good look at 3. Bargaining. That’s what those thoughts of reconciliation and getting back with your ex could be about – especially if you’ve gone to the point of asking (OK, maybe it’s more like begging) your ex to take you back. And if so, they’re just a normal part of dealing with grief post separation and divorce.

Many people have fantasies of how their life would be if the divorce had never happened. They’ll start dreaming of getting back together with their ex.

When we’re in pain, our brains start doing what they’re fabulous at – problem solving! They’ll come up with all kinds of ideas (and, yes, some of them are really weird) for getting us out of that pain.

I had all kinds of strange thoughts when I was working through the grief of my divorce. One of the recurring (and thankfully fleeting) ideas I had when I was dealing with grief post-divorce was suicide. Other times I’d think about reconciliation. The thoughts kept coming and coming and coming and coming.

Obviously some of the ideas I came up with were better than others. It took real effort to sort through all of them. And I’ll bet you’re experiencing something similar.

With all of those ideas your brain is coming up with about how to solve the pain of dealing with grief, it’s really easy to start seriously considering reconciliation as a viable option. And the reason it’s so easy is because we all have a tendency to view our pasts with rose-colored glasses. According to Richard Walker, Ph.D, “People have an inherent bias to view their experiences in a positive light.”

What Walker discovered after reviewing 12 different studies is that we all tend to remember happier emotions longer than negative ones. The negative ones just tend to fade faster. (Unless a person suffers from depression, then both their positive and negative emotions fade at the same rate.)

So, as time goes by, it’s easier to remember the good times in your marriage than it is to remember the bad times. And this fading effect can make the idea of reconciliation much more palatable.

Finally, you might be thinking about reconciliation because the divorce was the kick in the pants you needed to want to put in the effort to fix the issues that caused the divorce. (If that’s the case, then you’ve got A LOT of work ahead of you.)

For most of us, dealing with grief post-divorce is one of the most excruciating experiences we’ll ever face. We feel like we’re the only ones going through all of the confusing and conflicting emotions – not to mention the worries about whether or not we’ve lost our sanity along with our marriage.

But thoughts of reconciliation being better than continuing to deal with the grief and healing after divorce are common and normal. So just get curious about which of the causes above are really behind the thoughts and you’ll be able to deal with those thoughts of reconciliation in the midst of dealing with grief more easily.

I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a divorce coach and advisor. I work with clients just like you who are struggling with dealing with grief after their divorce. You can join my newsletter list for free weekly advice or schedule your FREE 30-minute consultation directly in my Time Trade calendar.

Looking for more help in getting over your divorce? You’ll find what you’re looking for in Dealing With Grief.