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Are You Experiencing Complicated Grief? Signs and Symptoms to Watch for Post-Divorce



A young woman walking down a nature trail with a backpack in a forested area.

Divorce is one of the very few things people do not prepare for when entering into marriage. You meet your person, you plan for happily ever after, and you formulate a life built around this partnership.

When divorce becomes your reality, nothing about your day is the same. You wake up to an empty bed. Your closet is half empty. The toothbrush holder has one less toothbrush. 

Getting out of bed and starting your day can feel like an uphill battle each day. Just like any other loss, divorce can cause you to experience grief. 


What Is Complicated Grief? 

Dealing with grief after divorce is perfectly normal, considering how your life may have been uprooted. Change is hard, especially when it wasn’t the long-term goal. 

Complicated grief is a version that is more intense and longer lasting than normal grief. Grief should be temporary and should lessen in intensity. Complicated grief, however, is that which lasts for at least six months with consistently intense feelings.


How Does the Grief Process Work?

Grief is a very personal experience and can be influenced by many factors, including your background and your beliefs. The circumstances of your divorce can also play into your grieving process. 

Your journey is your own. The time it takes will vary. How you move along each of the phases and in what order will also vary. There is no right or wrong answer. If, in the immediate time after your divorce, you start to accept that your divorce is happening, this would be considered normal. If you’re still struggling after six months to a year or more, you may be dealing with complicated grief. 


Signs and Symptoms to Be Mindful Of

Signs and symptoms of complicated grief are very similar to those of normal grief. The difference lies in the intensity you feel and the time it takes to process. 

Mental Health Shifts

During the grieving process, you may feel sadness and loneliness. If those symptoms continue to persist or start to gain negative traction, anxiety and depression can develop. 

Significant shifts in mental health are not a normal part of the grief process. The intensity is more characteristic of the complicated variety.

Avoidance

Post-divorce, you may find yourself wanting to be over the past and ready to move on to the next chapter. There might still be moments of sadness or other various emotions, but you can deal with them.

If reminders of your ex-partner or your marriage feel too overwhelming and difficult to deal with, you may find yourself avoiding them. This is indicative of complicated grief and can also be problematic for healthy processing and closure. 

When you start to avoid matters, this can also turn into isolating behaviors causing detachment from the people and things you love. 

Difficulty Finding Joy

Divorce is hard. It’s not fun, but it shouldn’t steal all of your joy. You should still be able to participate in activities and hobbies that bring you joy. Socializing with your close support system should make you happy. 

Things that previously were enjoyable might not be anymore if they were shared with your ex-partner, but new ones can become replacements. When you can’t find that happiness or joy after time has passed, you may be looking at complicated grief. 

Trouble with Routines

When the divorce is fresh, it’s normal for your life to feel like it’s been turned upside down. But that feeling does pass. You find glimmers of hope to hold on to and little by little you start to take your life back. 

When dealing with complicated grief, you might have a more difficult time getting things back on track. Your routines stay out of sorts, partially because you haven’t properly accepted the situation. 

Are you dealing with complicated grief following your divorce? We can help. Contact us today to schedule an appointment. 


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