Being confronted with the fact that a divorce proceeding has been initiated can certainly be disconcerting and upsetting. As a former nurse and having primarily practiced divorce and family law for over twenty years, I would like to share some of my insights. While some parties may be knowledgeable that this action is taking place, other parties may be absolutely caught “off guard”, being unaware that anything was or is amiss. The fact that one party, either Husband or Wife, is placed on notice that a divorce proceeding has been initiated evokes many feelings and emotions. Many persons may need some assistance as they attempt to cope with the emotional roller-coaster they may be experiencing. If either party is having any or all of the following signs and/or symptoms, it may certainly be beneficial to seek some assistance from a family physician, psychologist, and/or counselor.
- Inability to sleep soundly and to get a good night’s sleep. If a person is not able to get to sleep and/or is not able to get six to eight hours of sleep per night, that person may begin to exhibit symptoms of sleep deprivation. A person who is sleep deprived will not be able to function well, may be irritable and easily distracted, and may be prone to errors and/or accidents.
- Inability to stop crying and being emotionally labile. If a party is feeling weepy or teary, is crying very easily, or is experiencing rapid changes in mood(s), i.e. going from being happy to being very sad to being very angry to being irritated and tense, it may well be time to seek some assitstance.
- Inability to make decisions–even minor ones. When one is overwhelmed emotionally, it becomes difficult to make decisions. What should I wear today? What should I do today? What shall I tell the children? Can I go to work? Can I face the persons with whom I work? Can I just stay home? Do I have to do anything today? It may seem as though it is impossible to make any decisions, and there may be fear that any decision made could be the “wrong” decision.
- Inability to eat and/or eating in excess. Some persons may experience a loss of appetite or even nausea or vomiting due to the emotional trauma they are undergoing. Other persons may seek solace in food and overeat during the proceeding. Either can cause health problems and changes in one’s appearance and self-image.
- Inability to function at work and/or at home. If a party is unable to perform or complete the expected tasks at the workplace, it is surely time to seek assistance. Likewise, if a party, often the woman, is unable to manage the household and/or to prepare meals, take care of the laundry, attend to housekeeping tasks, these are signals that assistance is needed.
- Inability to concentrate and/or to remain focused on the task at hand. Persons experiencing these symptoms may not be able to complete assignments or projects as they are not able to remain focused. They may be trying to complete two to four different tasks and be unable to finish any of them.
- Lack of attention to personal hygiene and appearance. Friends or family members of persons undergoing a divorce proceeding may notice that either party is becoming lax regarding cleanliness of person and/or clothing. Women may stop wearing makeup and/or taking care of their hair. Men may stop shaving and generally appear poorly groomed. It would be a kindness for family members and/or friends to talk with the party involved and to encourage them to seek assistance.
It must be recognized that seeking help is not a sign of “weakness” but a sign of “strength”! Getting assistance in a timely manner can be very beneficial for the party experiencing any or all of the above signs/symptoms and is also bound to be beneficial for other family members who may be experiencing a “trickle down” effect from having one’s parent or loved one suffering from the negative emotions of being in a divorce proceeding.
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Anne Shale is of counsel to Dayton, Ohio, law firm, Holzfaster, Cecil, McKnight & Mues. She is a former registered nurse and concentrates her practice in Family Law and Divorce cases.