Over 30 years ago, I attended my first class on how to manage stress. This is when I was first introduced to the Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale. The most stressful event that can occur in a person’s life is the death of a spouse. Divorce is a close second. A blog post I shared last March (2015) contained a letter that addressed the question of should I divorce. The author, Eileen Ansel Wolpe, concluded that divorce is a death.
“You cannot see what lies beyond the frame around the door that is the exit. It is not possible. It is a death. And just like life’s death, you are not permitted to see beyond the threshold.”
Over the past two years, I have continued to move forward in my new life beyond the threshold. I have talked with people who passed through the door and into the underworld of Family Law. I have discovered a common thread in all divorces. Only one person in the partnership cared about and put effort into the marriage. I first experienced this phenomena with a support group for divorce and separation. The psychologist facilitating the group shared that her manager inquired if she is concerned that both parties will attend a session? Her experience is that the person who cared about the marriage is the one who seeks help from a support group.
Every couple of months, I seem to end up back at the Holmes Rahe Stress Scale for various reasons. If one’s score adds up to 11-150, you have only a low to moderate chance of becoming ill in the near future. If the score is 151-299, you have a moderate to high chance of becoming ill in the near future. If one’s score is 300-600, you have a high or very high risk of becoming ill in the near future. I find it interesting that in the 300-600 range, the “chances” changes to “risk”. This level of stress is not a good place to be. It is advised for those in moderate of high level of risk attempt to avoid future life crises. This advice is about as useful as those wise sages who give empty words of encouragement.
Having lived in the high risk zone for the past 7 1/2 years, I know beyond a doubt that I have no reserves. But somehow I wake up each day, take Maggie for a walk before work, spend my day at work stuffing my emotions (my supervisor believes one should leave their emotions at home), and come home at the end of the day to a quite house. Repeat the next day knowing it gets better with time.
The emotional toll exacted by a divorce can only be understood by those who have experienced the death of a marriage. For the outsider to say they know how you feel only servers to make themselves feel better with their empty platitudes. Life will continue to have its stressful events whether we are able to avoid them or not. Rebuilding one’s emotional reserve takes time. The only thing one can do is to look at each day as a new day and keep moving forward.