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Depression in the Midst of a Divorce

  • anonymous Asks ...

    I separated from my wife 2 months ago and she is insisting on a divorce. I do not want it but I was unfaithful and she has grounds so there you go. My whole world is tossed upside down like a mixed salad right now and I feel really depressed. I just don’t want to do anything. I can barely even face people at work. I have been feeling like this for about a month. I don’t know why the first month was OK but it seems to be getting worse. Should I go see a doctor about depression and antidepressants or is this normal to be feeling like this when going through a divorce that you don’t want?

  • Rev. Christopher Smith Says ...
    Rev. Christopher Smith

    When we approach marriage, most people think of "and they lived happily forever after", however, the reality is often different than that. For some, this ends up in separation and/or divorce. Regardless of whether you were the one who acted in a way that primarily led to the separation/divorce, the other person was the one whose actions primarily led to the separation/divorce or if this was something you were both involved in, a separation and/or divorce is still a loss. Separations and divorces are a loss of what was a significant relationship, a loss of hopes that you had had for the future, a loss of part of you that had been identified as within the marriage, and in other ways as well. For some, depending on their spirituality, these senses of loss may be amplified depending on the spiritual significance that had been associated with marriage.

    When one experiences loss, including these senses of loss, it is normal to have an experience that is a type of grief. Within a grief response, it is normal to experience a depressed mood. This mood not only includes feelings of sadness and worthlessness, but also confused thoughts where things don't seem to fit together anymore as well as loss of interest in things that used to be pleasurable and other symptoms. All of this is normal. When these symptoms a prolonged (continuing over a period of serval months) or when they are severely impacting on your daily life (e.g. not getting at least a minimum amount of sleep, putting your job at risk) or when they put you or someone else at risk, then you should seek professional help. This help could be in the form of medications (through your regular physician or through a psychiatrist, a doctor that has a specialized understanding of these types of medications) and/or therapy/counseling (through a counselor/therapist who is licensed or otherwise credibly credentialed). The advice about when and how to seek advice is the same when you are experiencing other responses to separation or divorce such as anger or denial.

    Finally, each person responds to loss in their own way. There is not a right order or timing of your responses. Having said that, a common early response to a separation is disbelief. Another common early response is to try and bargain (with others or even just within yourself) to have the loss removed and thus a restoration of the relationship. If one or both of these are your early responses, then the onset of depression can naturally happen later. This transition can happen just with the passage of time or may happen in response to something (such as the serving of divorce papers) that make the reality of the situation come to the forefront. No matter how you have been involved in what has led to the loss, you have a right to experience your sense of loss. However, if you feel guilty about something that has led to the separation/divorce then you will also want to work on your sense of guilt and forgiveness of yourself.

    While you did not hope to have your marriage end in separation and/or divorce, it is possible to find peace and wholeness again. For many, this is something that you will do on your own. For some, this is something that you will obtain by asking a mental health professional to walk with you.

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