|by Harlan Jacobsen (Copyright 1996)|
BECOMING SINGLE CAN KILL YOU AND THE PROCESS IS EXTREMELY HAZARDOUS TO YOUR HEALTH.
The most stress you will have in your entire life will be during the coming apart divorce process, legal, financial, and emotional. The associated stress puts your body under extreme strain and often permanent damage is done, and the process can literally kill you.
YOUR CHANCES OF COMING DOWN WITH A MAJOR ILLNESS THE FIRST YEAR AFTER DIVORCE ARE 12 X AS GREAT AS NORMAL, ACCORDING TO DR. BENSON OF HARVARD
Your immune system that normally wards off illnesses is diminished in direct proportion to the amount of stress you are subject to. Any disease that comes down the pike that your body would normally ward off has a far better chance of taking hold. This happens in addition to the usual emotionally-induced illnesses that doctors say make up 80% of their patients.
You are going through an extreme emotionally trying period and emotionally induced illnesses such as headaches, high blood pressure, back aches, colitis, peptic ulcer, asthma, allergies, rheumatoid arthritis, and a long list of ailments you never believed were tied in with your emotional health, will run rampant.
A WIDOW’S CHANCE OF DYING THE FIRST YEAR AFTER HER LOSS IS DOUBLED, ACCORDING TO DR. BENSON
The loss of a major long term relationship whether by death, desertion or divorce is the most stressful thing that can happen to you. In addition, the loss of a spouse piles on many additional things that are in themselves extremely stressful. Examples are financial loss or change, change of living habits, change of social relationships and interactions with your support system of people in your life.
Losing your job is a major stress producer and if you were a housewife, you just lost your job on top of everything else. Changing locations (moving) is stressful and though this can often be avoided at this time, many add this to a long line of stressors. Husbands almost always have a change of location. These stressors all occur at one time and together can be overwhelming to your system.
RECENT RESEARCH INDICATES MOST CANCER PATIENTS HAD THE LOSS OF A MAJOR RELATIONSHIP (OR OTHER EXTREME STRESS) UP TO 18 MONTHS BEFORE THE FIRST DIAGNOSIS OF CANCER
The fact you are under extreme stress does not necessarily mean you are going to come down with cancer or some other illness; it means your chances are much greater when your immune system does not operate properly due to stress over a long period of time. You may have overcome cancer many times in the past. With your immune system diminished this time, you may not. The longer your body stays under stress, the greater the odds some bodily damage will be done and this damage may not show up for as long as two years later.
When the stress goes on and on, something breaks down. That something will vary from person to person. What may produce a heart attack for a person who has that as a weak point may manifest itself in another person as a thyroid condition under similar stress for a similar period.
IN 50% OF COUPLES GOING THROUGH A DIVORCE, ONE OR THE OTHER (OR BOTH) HAVE AN ACCIDENT OF SOME TYPE FROM THREE MONTHS BEFORE TO THREE MONTHS AFTER DIVORCE
Our surveys indicate that some have had 3 or 4 accidents during this period, while they had little or no previous accident record. Your odds of having an accident are greatly increased almost in direct proportion to how stressful and traumatic your divorce was.
JUST BECOMING SINGLE TAKES SEVEN YEARS OFF YOUR LIFE EXPECTANCY
Statistical studies indicate you will die sooner than your counterpart that stays married. The POW’s coming back from Vietnam, it has been estimated, have a life expectancy of something like 15 years less than normal because of their being under extreme stress for a long period of time.
Your loss of a relationship and your adjustment to single life puts you under extreme stress and how long that stress lasts depends on your actions in adjusting and recovering from your divorce, and how long it takes you to adjust happily to your new lifestyle. Staying under stress for a long period of time can not only ruin your health, it can age you prematurely.
IF THIS ALL SCARES THE HELL OUT OF YOU, THAT’S GOOD!
Maybe you will sit up and take notice and do something about it. Divorce does not have to be traumatic or stay traumatic. With the proper knowledge and understanding of the entire process, the sting and harm can be taken out of divorce. It does not need to take two years of emotional and physical stress to work through recovering from your divorce, it does not have to be so stressful and there is no need to flounder around when there are road maps and guides to help you find the freeway route to a new, happy, less stressful life.
RIGHT NOW, NOTHING IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN WORKING THRU THE EMOTIONAL TRAUMA OF YOUR DIVORCE. NOW.
Man-woman relationships, your job, your finances, your health, your children, your happiness, are all not as important because all of these things are dependent on your working through the pain of your divorce.
ONE MINUTE WE ARE TELLING YOU HOW GREAT YOUR DIVORCE IS -- THE NEXT MOMENT WE ARE TELLING YOU YOUR DIVORCE IS KILLING YOU...
And do you know, we are right both times. What happens to you and your new life now can be the greatest ever because of your divorce if you handle it right . . . or it can age you before your time, cut years off your life and yes, it can even kill you in short order. But . . . it doesn’t have to.
HOW YOU WORK THROUGH THE EMOTIONAL ADJUSTMENT AND HOW LONG IT TAKES MAKES THE DIFFERENCE
Everybody is looking for instant effortless everything, and we or no one else (we would be the first to send you there if someone could) can give you an instant painless way to get through this major life change.
The doctor who writes you a tranquillizer prescription (everything is "peachy Keen" pill, usually) is doing you a great disservice but is the only thing he knows. How else can he get you out of his office so he can get on with his next patient? He only knows 15- second cures, write a prescription for a magic bullet. We can assure you that no doctor has a divorce pill that works.
A good doctor may even take time to tell you, "You are going through a lot of stress and you need to take care of yourself."
REMEMBER -- DR. BENSON OF HARVARD SAYS YOUR CHANCES OF GETTING A MAJOR ILLNESS ARE 12 X AS GREAT AS NORMAL THE YEAR AFTER DIVORCE.
Why? Because of stress caused by major life changes. Anytime you have a change in your regular routine of life—that is stress. Having a lot of great new things happen in a short period of time can also be stressful. For example, let’s say you won a free trip to Hawaii for two. Mr. or Ms. Super is now dating you regularly and you plan to get married in the next thirty days and move to a big super new house in another city, where you are being transferred to a new super job. You are going to go through a lot of stress.
IT REALLY DOESN’T MATTER IF THE CHANGES ARE GREAT NEWS OR BAD NEWS— CHANGE IS STRESSFUL
You will probably have more personal change in the three months prior to and the nine months after your divorce than you have ever had or WILL EVER HAVE again, no matter how long you live.
SOME CHANGE BECAUSE OF YOUR DIVORCE WILL SEEM GREAT AND OTHERS REALLY DIFFICULT TO COPE WITH.
Yet both will add to your total stress. The trick is to adjust to the becoming single changes as quickly as possible, both the good and the bad. Short term stress itself doesn’t do you much harm. It is staying under stress for a long period of time that can really do you in, and that is what we are addressing here.
1. DIVORCE and the accompanying change (stress) will likely be the most major life changes you will ever have happen all at once in your entire life. This is your rainy day.
2. The support system of people that usually rally around you to support you normally in your periods of great change and pain suddenly desert you when divorce is mentioned.
3. You will have a period when life seems out of control, a feeling of helplessness and hopelessness.
IT IS IMPORTANT THAT YOU GET YOUR LIFE BACK UNDER CONTROL IMMEDIATELY
Staying under stress is like staying in a war zone battlefront where your life is constantly in danger, artillery and bombs falling around you. It is doing the same thing to your body; it is using up your stress reserve.
Dr. Hans Selye— the country’s leading authority on stress—says in effect that we all have only so much stress reserve. When we use it up, we succumb to anything that comes along, we age rapidly and die.
NEXT ISSUE: Identifying your stress levels