The Impact of Unwanted Divorce vs. Death of a Spouse
When someone is confronted with legal separation from the person to whom they've committed their adult life, it may seem as though their whole life is disintegrating right before their eyes, especially if they're not the one choosing the separation. The future stops existing, and only an empty present looms ahead. For some, the feelings evoked by a divorce and the issues that surround it pass relatively quickly; for others, the anguish and consequences last for years.
Many people who have suffered through the emotional trauma of divorce strongly believe that losing a spouse as a result of an unwanted divorce has had a greater impact on their emotional health and well being than losing a spouse in death. A significant number of therapists and other psychiatric professionals agree, for they understand that divorce is far more than just a legal process. (Rich and Schwartz)
Essentially, when one spouse divorces another, he or she is rejecting their partner, physically and emotionally as well as legally. This rejection can be emotionally devastating to the spouse who doesn't want a divorce, and can inflict even more psychic damage than death, for the widow or widower of a deceased spouse knows that their partner did not choose to die.
Along with these feelings of rejection, the spouse who wanted to stay married also often feels betrayed. Their partner vowed to love and honor them forever, and to stand by them in sickness and in health, and to devote their lives to them. With divorce, all of that is taken away. Those promises of love, fidelity, and companionship are broken, by the choice of the spouse pursuing the divorce. In contrast, when death takes away a spouse, it is certainly not by choice.
Like those who have just been widowed, newly divorced people may be grief-stricken, and emotionally anxious about how they'll live from now on. They will perhaps be angry, guilty, depressed, or all three. They will almost certainly feel apprehensive about having to handle many of the daily tasks of living with which they may have little or no experience, or may have taken for granted.
Unlike the widowed, however, they still must deal with the reality of having a living
ex-spouse who will almost certainly cross their path frequently in the months immediately following the decision to divorce, and perhaps well beyond that. This is one of the most difficult factors many divorced people face. It can be very hard to see their ex-spouse, especially if the ex-spouse is in a new relationship.
The impact of divorce, then, shouldn't be underestimated. Even in a day and culture where the breakdown of marriages is commonplace and divorces an accepted occurrence, marriage is still sacrosanct. Weddings are still built upon oaths of commitment, and marriages are still legally and emotionally binding. Even the most cynical people go into marriage with the...