Whether you are experiencing life as a single parent from separation, divorce, or through death, grief is real and exists. This topic was a common one discussed frequently during my early therapy following my divorce and moving out. My therapist used to say divorce was like a slow death and that I would have to go through the five stages of grief.
For those unfamiliar with the stages of grief, they include Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance. Reflecting back over those early months of my divorce, I remember wondering how quickly I could get to the acceptance phase. I wanted to move on and put all this behind me. The caveat is that no matter how much you research these stages, which I did, is that you have to go through all of them to get to the last.
My therapist often noted the stages overlap meaning there was "No Pass Go" and you could also backslide even if you thought you could check off one of the boxes. I found this to be true in the anger and denial stages. Early- on I constantly wondered what I had done to end up at this phase in my life. Why was I divorcing, becoming a single dad with two young children, fighting for 50/50 physical custody, all while starting a new medical practice? My anger was rooted being that one year prior, I had moved our family cross country for an anticipated better work-life balance and was now ending a marriage in divorce. I now at age 37 had to start life over on multiple levels from square one. I often thought is this happening? These two phases intersected so many times it frustrated me. I also often actually wondered if I had entered the depression phase. Would that phase be worse? I would soon find that the depression phase was a culmination of the anger and denial stages. Surprisingly, the bargaining stage was present only for the first month or two before knowing. I had accepted that I was not going back or going to try.
So how did I get to the acceptance phase? Is it possible to get there? YES, it is!! My acceptance stage is grounded solely on knowing there is absolutely nothing you can do to speed up the grieving process. As I have described to friends and colleagues also facing similar problems I tell them you have to "Feel the Feels". Meaning you have to dig deep, rediscover your true self, and rebuild your core values. It takes time, energy, and a lot of effort. You should not expect that replacing something or someone during the early phases will fix the problem. Rebuilding a firm foundation is fundamental but will lead you to a successful outcome. Is this a painful process? Absolutely! Will you feel defeated? Absolutely! So, take time to grieve, internalize a positive path forward, and surround yourself with an excellent support system. You absolutely cannot rush the grieving process expecting a good outcome. Grieving can have positive rewards if you approach it the right way. Are you ready to put the work in?