Does Divorce Qualify as a Traumatic Event?

Divorce has become what many consider to be a commonplace event. After all, about one in two marriages end up in divorce. Also, it appears that because divorce is such a frequent occurrence, many couples are simply opting out of marriage. Are some of these couples avoiding divorce because it is considered to be traumatizing? Can a commonplace occurrence such as divorce even be considered to be traumatic event?

As with any traumatic event, trauma is in the eye of the beholder. One person might experience divorce as devastating while another transitions through it as a normal happenstance in today’s world. But I’ll venture to guess that if you polled the divorced population, you would find many who would report their experience as an agonizing ordeal. Some of the factors that contribute to an individual distinguishing divorce as traumatic include:

  • the severity of circumstances and level of conflict around the divorce: emotionally, financially and legally;
  • the individual’s personal history around divorce, which may or may not even be recalled;
  • the larger meaning the divorce represents for the individual, which may or may not be evident;
  • the coping skills, values, beliefs, spiritual views held by the individual, some of which may never have been identified; and
  • the reactions and support from family, friends, and helping professionals.

Divorce can be perceived by many as overwhelming and those who are enduring this transition as traumatic are at risk to:

  • struggle in maintaining close relationships;
  • grapple with choosing appropriate friends or new partners
  • experience sexual problems;
  • have periods of hostility;
  • repetitively argue with family members or colleagues;
  • become socially withdrawn; or
  • feel constantly threatened.

The services of a skilled Divorce Coach may determine for an individual if her/his divorce will be a trauma or a transition. If you know of anyone who is experiencing a divorce, encourage them to meet with a qualified Divorce Coach to assess how they are integrating the experience and if necessary, receive the support to debrief and mitigate the traumatic effects that are inherent in high-conflict divorce.

One thought on “Does Divorce Qualify as a Traumatic Event?

  1. I have seen the devastation caused by divorce over my years in practice. The court system does not foster a collaborative effort, in fact, court promotes a win/lose situation and families are destroyed. When working in Collaboration, families have the option to obtain guidance from skilled professionals, who can assist them to resolve their divorce with dignity, respect and peace. In Collaboration, children have a voice with a Child Specialist and each parent has a Divorce Coach to assist them in communicating, a major roadblock in the breakdown of many marriages. The children have the opportunity to maintain healthy relationships with both parents, extended family, and come through the process with a healthier view of divorce.

    If you talk with adults of divorce, you will hear horror stories and stories of peaceful separations. The adults whose parents chose peace are better equipped to handle conflict and their own relationships. Those whose parents chose to fight are still crushed from the experience and have on-going troubles in their personal lives.

    If you are contemplating a separation or divorce, I agree with Ellie that having an experienced Divorce Coach, who will assist you in this transition, is priceless.

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