Board Certified Counselor
When it comes to seeking help or obtaining professional counseling services it seems that divorced dads have a more difficult time doing so then women.
It is obvious of course to why this is, as so many men were socialized as children to believe that crying or showing emotion was feminine or worse yet, weak.
"Crying is for babies" or "be a man" are terms that have been coined in many households.
Unfortunately as a society men are expected to be tough and immune to emotion. The reality is that men have feelings just as women do, and they should be encouraged to deal with the pain and wide array of emotions that accompany divorce.
As helping professionals, we are particularly sensitive to the fact that it is difficult for men to seek professional counseling. Since professional counseling is not for everyone, it is important then for one to have a strong support system through friends and family. There are also support groups for men that specifically relate to coping with a divorce.
Divorce is one of the most devastating transitions that one can go through so in order to fight off the self-destructive patterns that can accompany a divorce it is absolutely crucial to deal with the emotions head on.
Therefore, if you are feeling apprehensive about seeking help or are afraid, just keep in mind that the help and support that you will gain is essential to your ability to move forward with your life in a healthy, productive manner.
Divorce is a loss just like any other, and the stages of grief often align with it. When I run a support group for divorce, the first activity is for the members of the group to identify where they see themselves in terms of the process as it is important to have that awareness in order to heal. The stages of grief are:
1. Shock & Denial: This is the phase in which one feels numb or no emotion towards the loss.
2. Pain & Guilt: As the shock wears off, the pain, tears and shame arrive. It I important to deal with the hurt and pain head on as it is perfectly normal to feel sad and shameful at the same time.
3. Anger & Bargaining: Sadness gives way to anger and it is not uncommon to feel like lashing out at people, but try to cope with this in a healthy manner otherwise you compromise your integrity and personal relationships if you can’t manage your emotions. Bargaining to a higher power looks something like, "Bring back my ex-wife and I will promise to be a better husband."
4. Depression, Reflection, Loneliness: Loneliness is probably one of the hardest emotional hurdles to overcome. Try to stay busy and active but don’t ignore the feelings at hand. Pick up a journal to chart your daily feelings, reactions, and emotions. This is also the stage where you may reflect upon memories of your relationship.
5. The Upward Turn: You will start to have more good days then bad but periodic triggers will make you feel like you are back at square one. Again, this is all perfectly normal and part of the grief process. Although it may feel counterintuitive that a small bought of sadness is helping you move forward, do not feel like you have regressed because you are continuing to move forward.
6. Reconstruction & Working Through: This is when you start planning, preparing, and making decisions for the future without your former spouse. You realize that life moves on and your confidence in your "new" life starts to emerge.
7. Acceptance & Hope: You made it! Accepting the loss and having dealt with all the negativity that came with it results in a healthy, happy, optimistic healed individual.
It is of my opinion that the grief process shall not carry any negative stigma to those that are courageous enough to seek help. You do not have to go at it alone anymore.
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Lisa Brown, MA, LPC, NCC, is a practicing therapist who helps people overcome life transitions specifically related to loss. For more information or to schedule an appointment, visit her website www.counseling-helps.org.