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Written By : Sun Fiji Newsroom. Change; Divorce & Separation; Elderly Parents; Grief; Chronic Illness; Marital Conflict; Financial Worries; Moving House; Retirement; Unemployment.
It is true that the only constant factor in life is change and as such we all should be able to handle it. But you and I both know, this is not so – we often find change distressing.
The degree of stress also depends whether the change is of our own making. If you are a tenant and are asked to move, this is more disturbing than making the decision to move to a flat of your own accord. If you are assigned to a new job because you’ll probably feel the stress more than if you choose another job yourself.
Choice is a key element that influences the way we react to change. Psychologists believe there is less stress if you make a choice – even if it turns out to be wrong -rather than having it made for you. It is also better to make a wrong decision instead of being paralysed by fear of making decisions. But if you do make an inappropriate choice don’t keep blaming yourself. It adds to an already difficult situation.
We talk about major life changes being the cause of significant levels of stress. The highest rated is the death of a spouse which is a terrible loss for the bereaved person. The untimely deaths are the most painful; if a person has been seriously ill or is elderly, the fact of their leaving the family is generally more accepted than a sudden loss.
We do not rush the grieving process. It is foolish to try to set limits on it. Weather the pain and take small steps to fill the void is the best way. It is unwise to start searching for a substitute too soon. Other people may be able to fill only some of the roles your spouse played in your life. Transition, of course, means change. The impact of that change has less to do with the event itself-having a baby, or retiring from your job – as with the way the change alters your many roles as spouse, employee, offspring or friend. A transition can even be a non-event such as realizing you will never get promoted or that you are not able to conceive.
How well we handle the transition depends on our resources. Resources are in four areas; Situation, Self, Support, and Strategies (the 4S’s).
Examine your reaction to the situation to see if it’s positive or negative; expected or unexpected; present at a good or bad time; voluntary or imposed. Ask yourself if you have previous experience in coping; if you believe in the possibility of other options; whether you are an optimistic or pessimistic person.
See if you have support and consider your resources under these categories; financially, emotionally, family, friends, and colleagues.
Lastly, work out strategies, and see what you can devise to change the situation and its implication; and manage stress.
2. Divorce and
Only the death of a spouse ranks higher on the stress scale than divorce and separation. The latter also signifies a kind of death – that of a relationship, with the accompanying emotional loss and added burdens of guilt, anger and betrayal. Like a bereavement, divorce creates major changes – in living arrangements, finances and contact with children. And, depending on one’s circumstances, one becomes uncertain of which role to play – the wounded or the good, the unfeeling spouse or the martyr.
Divorce differs in its effects from that of a death in the family, because in the latter people gather around you to give you support. Your self-image doesn’t suffer. But with a divorce one may reluctantly have to take stock of one’s life.
Take a middle-aged woman whose husband has left her for a younger woman. Like a widow, she feels the stress of living alone, possibly combined with feelings of growing old and watching her children leave home. She may have to face new career demands but combined with all that is the added humiliation of being publicly rejected for another.
Then there is the wrangling over money, property and children, adding up to an avalanche of distress which could be much greater than the stress of losing a spouse.
While separation and divorce are never easy, there are ways of preserving your self-esteem and not going bankrupt emotionally or financially. These are practical steps you can take on when you have realized tat your marriage is, in fact, over.
Divorce is not something that happens out of the blue, it evolves through disintegration of a relationship. Each marriage is different. Some couples know that the break is good for them because life apart could not possible be worse than life together. But for many that decision is not that easy to make, and that is an agonizing situation to be in.
One approach to decide if you should get a divorce is to ask why you are considering the break.
The answers may be
- Divorce is a rational solution. To undo an unhappy situation that is not likely to improve.
- Divorce is a stress-related response. Marital unhappiness may not be the cause here at all, but some external factor, like a serious illness in the family. This may impose excessive stress on one partner who copes by opting out of the marriage.
- Impulsive decisions. Most common of these are those initiated by jealousy – a woman divorces her husband to woo him away from another woman. This strategy generally fails leaving the impulsive partner raging for years.
- Decisions encouraged by others. Professionals, like marriage counselors, may advise divorce if the marriage appears to be causing extreme stress.
Seeking a divorce is a highly charged issue, “you can start by asking yourself” ‘Am I divorcing the person or the marriage?”.
Keep some of these
points in mind:
l Friends make good shock absorbers. Confiding in others is a good way of coping with the shock of “I can’t believe this is happening to me.” Remember also there is no stigma attached to divorce; that makes it easier to turn to friends for support.
l Don’t hang on to anger. If you do this you are delaying dealing with more urgent things – acknowledging the hurt ad then attempting to take a balanced view.
l Grieving is normal and healthy. Both people in a divorce are in a sense bereaved.
l Don’t pretend your ‘ex’ does not exist. Divorce does not sever all ties. You may have shared a great deal, particularly if you have children.
l Give yourself time. Divorce takes longer to get over than a bad haircut. It may even take a couple of years.
l See the divorce as an opportunity for improvement. This could e a period of growth. You can also see this as another start.
l Resist making rash decisions. You may want to flee from your situation by changing your job, or moving to another city. But such impulse decisions should be resisted, they just impose an extra strain.
l Consider counseling if you feel you cannot manage on your own. If you are reacting to the divorce by turning to alcohol or drugs or suicidal thoughts, think seriously about seeking professional help.
l To be continued next week
By Sunila karan
Counsellor/Personal Development Trainer
firstname.lastname@example.org For stress management/counseling & communication training