Writer, Abigail Trafford once said that divorce is “a savage emotional” journey. Trafford is but one of the scores of people who have studied the “divorce recovery process” over the past two decades. Noted researchers like Judith Wallerstein and Mavis Hetherington as well as leading divorce mediators like John Haynes all agree that the period of “divorce recovery” is about 24 months. This means that, if allowed to move through the expected steps from separation through a sense of “being okay” and free of the psychologically intense and depressing forces of divorce, most people will take about two years to complete that process. However that caries with it a big “if.”
If people are allowed to proceed through the process of divorce and not gouge additional psychic wounds in each other in the process, most people will be through the journey in two years. (That, by the way, doesn’t mean that they will be miserable for two years. Most divorce experts say that the acutely painful passage occurs in the first six months.) However, here’s my biggest beef with conventional divorce litigation. It has been my experience (time and time again – seen throughout the 25 years I’ve been doing this work – first as a lawyer and now as a mediator and counselor) that the conventional divorce process does inflict avoidable damage on both people. The shame of it is that these poor folks have to devote psychic energy to licking the wounds that are gouged by the divorce process. This leaves them with fewer internal resources to manage the natural progression of divorce recovery. It will prolong the period of intense distress beyond the normal six months and stretch the entire divorce recovery process out to beyond the natural 24 months.
Divorce hurts. It is the most stressful experience that many will ever undergo in their lives. The process of stabilizing a new sense of self; managing the intense emotions and solving a myriad of practical challenges are daunting. My advice: Find professionals who will help you make good decisions and support you in the tasks of this life transition who will not contribute to prolonging the pain.