How Shame Stops You From Processing Grief

Going through divorce brings out so many raw feelings. One of the major ones is grief – the mental sorrowing over the loss of the dreams one had for the marriage, the painful regret over what you wished it had been. To move through grief, one has to acknowledge the feelings of loss and learn not only to cope with them, but to overcome them while reclaiming and reinventing your life.

There is another feeling that often comes up during a divorce that can block the grieving process – shame. When people experience shame, they often feel overwhelmed and just can’t deal with anything else. They really have to deal with that emotion first in order to progress.

Where does this shame come from? Some of the common themes are –

• feeling like they didn’t stand up for themselves in the marriage or the divorce
• feeling like they didn’t take the red flags seriously enough to get help sooner
• feeling like they sacrificed their own needs to placate their spouse in the hopes that he/she wouldn’t leave the marriage, but then the spouse left anyway
• feeling shame that they let their spouse get away with bad behavior for so long

The effect of this shame is that it has changed who they are. They often experience a loss of self, damage to their self-confidence, and depression.

If this is something you are going through, it’s important to get emotional support and connect with others to help you recover. Several times a year, I facilitate Separation/Divorce Support Groups, both in Berkeley and San Francisco. The sharing of experiences within the group helps participants to gain insight, acceptance, and self-awareness. Many people have difficulty talking with friends and family members about the feelings brought about by divorce. It can be a great relief to talk with others who are going through a similar situation.

In one of the current groups, we have been focusing on shame and how to overcome it. We talked about compassion and found that most group members at first had a very difficult time being compassionate with themselves and forgiving themselves for the situation they are in. I saw the real struggles each individual was having, some of which stemmed from damage in their family of origin, and how they weren’t able to fix their relationship with their ex-spouse. However, the group members had a great deal of compassion for each other, and being able to see and feel each other’s pain and struggles also helped them individually. As members told their stories, cried, and expressed their emotions, they experienced great relief just having the compassion of the others in the group. Hearing themselves express their feelings, and having others hear and understand what they have been through, allowed them to release the negativity from their minds and their bodies. It gave them permission to let go of the shame and forgive themselves, enabling them to start moving through the grieving process.

If you would like more information about the Separation/Divorce Support Groups, please visit my contact page to email or phone me, or to request a 15-minute inquiry appointment.

You can get through this, and re-create the life you want. You just need a little help and support.


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