I Wanted This Divorce So Why Do I Feel So Bad?

by Betsy Ross LICSW CGP on February 27, 2011

Recently, a client spoke about how exhausted she had been feeling. This took her by surprise as, after years and years of unhappiness and finally feeling able to move ahead with a divorce, she didn’t expect to feel so irritable, de-energized, and just plain tired out. “Why should I feel so lousy if I’ve finally gotten up the nerve to ask for what I want: A divorce, and the chance to move ahead toward a happier life?”

This is not surprising as even though she has begun the process of getting her life back on track, she is nonetheless experiencing the feelings associated with the ending of a significant part of her life, in this case her 34 year marriage.

There are distinct feelings or emotional stages to pass through when undergoing any important life shift–the death of a loved one, job loss, the end of a relationship, or even moving to a new part of the country. There are some different ideas out there about exactly how many stages there are (I’ve seen 4, 5, or 6 stages according to different sources) and about what each stage involves. There  is agreement, however, on the idea that individuals who undergo divorce are going to feel a variety of feelings at different points as they move through the process. These include, but are not limited to:

Anger (at their soon to be ex-spouse, friends, family, or even at the world)

Anxiety (about living independently, of being alone, of what the future may bring, about the children’s well-being, about  job stability, living in a new place, etc)

Sadness (a strong sense of loss, of hopelessness or helplessness, feeling unmotivated and easily or often fatigued)

Confusion (Not understanding how/why this happened, feeling unable to move ahead, feeling “fuzzy headed” and uncertain, having difficulty with decision making)

(While feeling some degree of each of the above is to be expected, if you find that you are feeling incapacitated by any of these, so much so that it is interfering with your ability to function and live your life, it is a good idea to take some action. Talking to a therapist or counselor about what you are experiencing can be very helpful in helping you to through this). 

In time, some other sensations can be added to the mix such as:

Relief (That the difficult parts of the marriage are passing or gone, the worst may be over, the level of conflict has been reduced)

Excitement (About starting a new life, finding a new love, having a new beginning)

Happiness (In new surroundings or with new friends, enjoying the freedom of single life or newfound independence)

Calm (The worst is over, the most difficult part is behind you)

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