04 nov 2015

The mourning of a divorce

This rather lengthy post provides an overview

The death of a love affair

The death of a love affair is about the loss of love and therefore not about working too hard, cheating, breaking up, etc.

We may not often think about it, but when a relationship ends, we also go through a grieving process.

Some men go to prostitutes. Distraction through paid sex is more common than we think. Many widowers go into prostitution.

Attitudes towards mourning have changed a lot in recent decades. Freud hypothesised that it is good to go through all emotions, to let go of the deceased and to distance oneself in order to continue living one's life. (Mourning and Melancholia 1917).

Many other theories followed, which basically always assumed that mourning proceeds according to a certain pattern and in stages. Probably the most widely used model is that of Kubler-Ross, who distinguishes five stages: Denial, anger, bargaining, grief and acceptance.

The disadvantage of these models is that they can confuse grief. Is one not well if one does not go through these stages according to the textbook? There are even stories of counsellors imposing time limits on their clients for a particular stage. These are probably exaggerations, but they show that some agencies and training institutions stick to traditional models.

In recent years, new theories have been developed, e.g. Manu Keirse wrote the book Fingerprint of Grief, according to which the fingerprint stands for recognisable but individually different.

Stroebe and Schut developed the dual process model. The model implies that mourners oscillate between two themes: Recovery and loss.


For me, practice is more important than theory. What should and can I do with this information? Of course I am not a psychologist and do not claim to be one, but it is important to have this knowledge.

I therefore have two (plasticised) models in my work bag.

  • The dual process model, which I use to explain and normalise the grieving process when necessary, often helps clients realise that what they are experiencing is completely 'normal'.
  • I also use a traditional grief model with the most common stages in family practice: denial, confusion, apathy and rebirth. And no, I certainly do not want to force the client to be in a particular phase, but for me it is important to know what a person is experiencing at that moment. After all, I work for both parties and if one of them is still completely confused about the impending divorce and the other can already see quite well into the future, I have to take that into account. Ultimately, my job is to ensure that former partners enter into good and lasting agreements for the future, not based on guilt or anger.


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