Divorce-Related Depression; You are not alone

Coldplay singer Chris Martin opened up in an interview published in The Sunday Times on March 20th about his 2014 spilt with Gwyneth Paltrow. He described his divorce from Paltrow as a “weird one,” their split having been referred to as a “conscious uncoupling” rather than a “divorce,” where they remain close and continue to take vacations together with their two children. But even as smooth as their split has seemed, Martin admits that it led to a year-long depression, and he continues to struggle daily.

Divorce can be a majorly traumatic life event, raising emotions akin to those felt upon the death of a loved one. So, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that divorce can commonly lead to depressive feelings.  It is important to understand that the depression following a divorce is “situational depression,” which is the type of depression that often occurs in the aftermath of any traumatic life event. While a person with situational depression may experience symptoms almost identical to clinical depression, there are certain key differences; the most notable difference being that situational depression is short-term.

The severity of situational depression caused by divorce can vary widely. The good news is that more mild cases can be overcome on your own by things like regular exercise, good sleep and diet habits, participating in hobbies and leisure activities, and talking to friends or family members about your problems. To overcome more severe cases of situational depression, you may need to seek the help of a psychotherapist. Interestingly, a Canadian study found that men are twice as likely to suffer from depression following a divorce, thought to be linked to the fact that men tend to have fewer social supports than women.

As a divorce attorney I see the unfortunate effects of divorce day-in and day-out. While I often find myself wishing that I could do more for my clients, to help them navigate their divorce in ways other than through the legal process, I know that I am not qualified to do so. However, in writing this blog, I hope that my clients and anyone else struggling through a divorce can understand and find some comfort in knowing that they are not alone. Depression is a real side effect of divorce, but you have the power to take the steps to help yourself. Understand this: it will get better.

In Chris Martin’s search for help through his situational divorce depression, he claims to have found inspiration in Rumi’s poem “The Guest House.” He said it took a year to really understand the meaning of this poem, that unhappiness can actually be a good thing, and in that year this poem changed everything for him. So my readers I leave you with this, a translation of Rumi’s “The Guest House”, with the hope that you may find comfort and inspiration in it as well:

The Guest House

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing, and invite them in.

Be grateful for whatever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

— Jeladuddin Rumi (translation by Coleman Barks)

Please contact us if you are considering a divorce from your spouse, a legal separation, or have questions regarding child custody and visitation. Nancy J. Bickford is the only Certified Family Law Specialist (CFLS) in San Diego County who is also a licensed Certified Public Accountant (CPA) with a Master of Business Administration (MBA). Don’t settle for less when determining your rights. Call 858-793-8884 in Del Mar, Carmel Valley, North County or San Diego.


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