Francesca Moresi – Psychotherapy in London and Online

Divorce hurts! How can we heal?

A recent study on the effects on divorce concludes: “Divorce is a significant risk factor for acute myocardial infarction (AMI)”.

It is well known that divorce causes a revolution into the life of the partners. Today, it is commonly ascertained that divorce also has a noxious impact on the physical and psychological well-being of the divorcees.

In fact, the breakup of an intimate relationship is one of the greatest stresses a person can endure. Let’s explore what happens.

We can think of the divorce as a process where the divorcees go through several changes and losses that involve all the areas of their lives. Some of these stressful events are not actually very different from the stress many people normally go through in their lives. What is different is the increased impact of so many different stressful events, losses and total changes when they happen at the same time.

When two people decide to separate, they loose the psychological and emotional attachment to each other and the family unit breaks up: this usually induces a stage of grief. Also, the identity of the partners has now changed and this is something very hard to go through; people can feel anger, anxiety, anguish, depression, regrets, guilt and loneliness. Many individuals will also feel “to have failed” and this can decrease their self-esteem and confidence.

At the same time, what happens to the body? Well-known psychologist Jurg Willi states that this strong psychological tension has physical consequences and, specifically, it provokes a disturbance of the vegetative and endocrine functions and this could lead to actual organic lesions. Illness or unease, in fact, can be psychosomatic expressions of the conflict resulting from the loss of the emotional attachment to the partner and from the enduring psychological dependency from the relationship. Psychosomatic reactions also express the emotional distress produced by obsessive memories, desire of revenge, nostalgia or illusory fantasies of reconciliation. The body becomes the means through which people channel the pain as well as the psychological tension of rebuilding one’s own identity separate from the one of the ex partner.

Given the complexity of the situation of divorce, counselling can offer valid support when going through such negative emotions and to express them in a healthy way. Counselling can guide divorcees through the family transaction and help them deal with the different stages of their grief; mutual respect, cooperation, effective communication, acceptance of the new lifestyle and resolution of conflicts can be achieved more easily and quickly thanks to counseling and the damage of divorce can be minimised.

If children are involved, professional help can guide divorcees in learning a different way of parenting as well: new responsibilities, a different educational style, preoccupation for sharing the role, discipline and rules, communication with children and communication with the co-parent.

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Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) The British Psychological Society