Going through a separation or divorce? Having trouble managing the shame, guilt, anger, depression, self-loathing, hopelessness, fatigue, irritability, sleep disturbance, loss of interest in work/hobbies, aggression, reckless behavior, and/or substance abuse?
There is good news for people who are struggling with post-separation adjustment:
According to a 2011 study from the Journal of Divorce & Remarriage (52:109-124, 2011), authors Juliet Rohde-Brown and Kjell Erik Rudestam found a strong relationship between depression and lack of self-forgiveness—that the more depressed a person is, the lower their levels of forgiveness (of themselves, an ex-spouse, or both).
Make no mistake about it: divorce is a severe life stressor that can negatively affect a person’s mental health, physical health, emotional health, economic health, and social health---it can have a global footprint on a person’s Bio-Psycho-Social-Spiritual welfare. Researchers Amato (2000), Kitson & Rashcke (1982), Kitson (1982), Kitson & Holmes (1992), and Sweeney & Horowitz (2001) found that the process of completely integrating the stressor of divorce into all areas of an individual’s life stages takes approximately 2 years—regardless of how long the marriage lasted—and that these first 2 years of post-separation are the most critical time for disequilibrium to occur and healing to be fostered—and that the capacity to forgive, at least in regard to the self, promotes divorce adjustment.
These research findings suggest that it is critical for people to adopt positive self-regard and self-forgiveness during the first 18 months of divorce adjustment—that the early promotion of forgiving oneself and others (daily forgiveness practice, anger reduction, regulation of emotion, empathy fostering, compassion nurturing) are critical components of adjusting to divorce—before post-separation difficulties (shame, guilt, anger, depression, self-loathing, hopelessness, fatigue, irritability, sleep disturbance, loss of interest in work/hobbies, aggression, reckless behavior, substance abuse, etc.,) are fully realized.
The early promotion of forgiving oneself and others seem to be the most important findings of this research—and Mental Health professionals who work with divorced clientele might want to take a closer look at facilitating forgiveness of self/others into clinical therapy treatment.
James McLintock, MA, Clinical Psychology, MFTI, co-facilitates Divorce Care Workshops at North Coast Calvary Chapel in Carlsbad, California. He is an MFT intern at Living Water Counseling Center in Carlsbad where he focuses on working with divorced adults, separated adults, and specializes in meeting the counseling needs of police, fire, and emergency responders. To learn more about James—or to make an appointment, check out www.LivingWaterCa.com