Banish the Guilt

October 2nd, 2016

Regrets? You’re not alone

bigstock-guilt-123830990By Barbara Badolato, LCSW

The process of ending a marriage can bring up a range of feelings, including anger, frustration and even grief. One emotion that often catches us by surprise is guilt, and it’s the most unproductive and insidious of them all.

In addition to all of the regrets regarding the marriage itself, many of us feel remorse for the divorce’s impact on the children. We can feel guilty about some or all of these circumstances:

·      Breaking up the family

·      Causing the kids to change residences

·      Having less money to spend on vacations and other fun activities

·      Destroying the image of the “perfect family”

·      Hurting your spouse

·      Creating anxiety in the children

·      Withdrawing from friends and family as you cope through this difficult process

Although guilt is a perfectly normal reaction to ending a marriage, it’s one that many can get stuck on, and there’s frankly nowhere to go with it. Mistakes were made on both sides, but focusing on the past will only impede your ability to move on.

What’s needed is a shift in perspective.

Instead of focusing on what you and your children no longer have, try thinking about what you’ve gained:

·      Personal happiness

·      Peace in your home

·      A closer relationship with your children

·      A chance to redefine yourself and your life

·      Time to flex your independence muscles

·      The opportunity to demonstrate what a healthy relationship looks like

It’s normal to feel guilt. It’s a common emotion for many going through divorce and those guilt feelings should pass as you work through the divorce process. Sometimes, however, extreme or prolonged guilt can cause emotional problems such as anxiety or depression.  If you are experiencing feelings of hopelessness or if the activities of daily life are becoming too difficult to accomplish, I urge you to seek the help of a mental health professional.

You should not go through this difficult time alone.  You might find it helpful to join a support group or seek the help of a qualified therapist to help process the difficult feelings you might be struggling with.

Remember: Your marriage ended for a reason, likely for several reasons. With the right kind of help and with the passage of time, you and your children can thrive, and you all can be happy again.