Most People Recover After Divorce – For Some It Is More Complicated

Most men and women are initially devastated when their marriages end. This is natural and expected when you life is turned upside down.  Some can experience a period of brief reactive depression or sadness.  Others prone to clinical depression prior to divorce, can have a recurrence of  depressiveepisodes and need treatment .

The good news is that the vast majority of men and women are naturally resilient and over time, usually two to three years, they will recover from a breakup, separation or divorce just as most  people recover from the loss of a loved one.

A small percentage of widows, widowers, and lovers who lost their partners, as well as parents whose children died,  continue to exhibit serious signs of grieving even after  many years.  The Center for Complicated Grief (CG) at Columbia University Center coined the term “compliated grief” to describe this handful of people who continue to grieve as if their loss occurred yesterday.  These individuals show the symptoms of major depression but don’t respond to standard treatments for depression, medication and/or talk therapy.  The Center defines  Complicated grief (CG) as the condition that occurs when the instinctive adaptive response to bereavement becomes stalled”.  The grieving person is marooned in the past with each day as painful as the day his loved one died.   The Center uses the term “complicated” in the medical sense.  Grief is complicated just as the healing process of a wound is complicated when an infection occur.  CG occurs when the natural grieving process is stalled, and the ability to mourn the death is lost. The Center has developed a research-supported, procedure for guiding people with CG symptoms through a combination of home exercises and in session treatments to facilitate the mourning process to  return them to their lives.

I believe that some men and women who never recover after divorce may be suffering from CG.  If that is the case then they may be helped by  adapting CG treatments to their specific losses.  Joshua Erhlich in his book, Divorce & Loss: Helping Adults and Children, describes the central task of recovering from divorce one centered on mourning.  He adds that  the “movement from denial and acting out to acceptance” is what cures.  Those who are not willing or not able to mourn remain depressed and focused on their losses.  With the treatments developed at the Center for CG, those who are living half lives after divorce, may have a chance to recover.  Of course, much research needs to be done to support this hypothesis but for those who are still suffering, it is worth a serious try.

Please call me if you wish to know more about treatment for Complicated Grief.


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