The Value of Grief: Part Three (1)

When you are hurt, like cutting yourself with a knife, the body bleeds. When your skin is cut, bleeding occurs because there is no defense initiated as of yet. Platelets and clotting factors need some time to seal the initial wound. The grief over a divorce works the same way; like being left or hearing that she does not want to be with you anymore. You cry in despair or feel the emptiness that rejection brings. The body feels the pain of the injury and you do as well. It can be unbearable. But then the brain secretes endorphins and the pain system learns to habituate to the acute pain so a person can function. This is what happens in grief as well. The acute pain cannot be in your conscious mind 24/7; it ebbs and flows, especially if you are triggered by something.

A physical wound remains tender, even after the clotting has stopped the bleeding and the acute pain has subsided. It is very easy to reinjure the wound if it is poked or if you move in the wrong way. In fact, if you go back too quickly to life as normal, it is likely that it will break open and start to bleed again, and you are back to square one. In your grieving over the divorce, it is easy to reinjure or open up your wound. You can be triggered by something your ex says or does. You can be triggered by seeing a happy family playing in the park, only to remind you of what you have lost. Or, you can open the wound by dating prematurely and experiencing rejection, once again.

In order to help a wound heal, you add a dressing, like an antibiotic and keep it clean. This is lovingly attending the brokenness of the wound. In your divorce, the dressing consists of people who really love you. It also includes taking loving care of yourself, keeping up with your exercise routine, eating well and trying to get a good night’s sleep.

Dr. Banschick is a child and adolescent psychiatrist. He has been quoted in The New York Times, The Huffington Post and The CBS Early Show. He is currently finishing the second of three books in The Intelligent Divorce series, which are devoted to teaching parents how to raise well adjusted kids during a divorce. You can reach him at or at

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