When you are going through a divorce, you may feel like your life is falling apart. It can feel like you’re in a fog, and everything is happening too quickly. It is hard to cope with divorce when you are feeling all the emotions at once. Grief is a natural response to loss, and it takes time to work through it. Keep reading to learn the seven stages of divorce grief and how you can cope during this difficult time.
What Is a Divorce Grieving Process?
When you go through the divorce process, a normal reaction is grief. However, the way we cope with grief can differ from person to person. Everyone experiences and processes their emotions in unique ways.
Nobody deals with grief the same way, and it’s impossible to just “get over” a huge loss. Most individuals must traverse through some phases of grief before they can reach a state of peace. Whether you go through five stages or twelve steps doesn’t matter; what matters is taking the time to process your emotions until acceptance comes.
Seeing a Mental Health Professional
The divorce grieving process can be overwhelming. You may feel stuck in a perpetual cycle of grief and despair, never progressing toward healing. It is normal to reach out for help during this difficult time. Mental health professionals can help you work through grief more effectively than if you tried to do it alone.
And if you’re at the point of clinical depression, you may need professional help to move through your deep sadness and back into the light. A support group for divorce can also help you find your way. Support groups involve discussing your feelings with others going through similar circumstances and can help you feel less alone.
And if you have close friends who will listen to you, you’ll feel more well-being than spending your time alone.
Seven Divorce Grief Stages
There isn’t a definitive divorce grieving process for everyone. There are, however, some common divorce grief stages that many people go through:
Shock and Denial Stage
- “I’m sure that he wouldn’t hurt me like this. He will come to his senses soon.”
- “I can do this. No pain at all. No problems here.”
The divorce process starts with the shock of your spouse ending things with you. Or maybe it starts with realizing what you’ve done by ending your marriage. The breakup does not feel real yet, and denial that anything is wrong is prevalent in your mind.
You may even tell yourself this is much easier than you thought it would be. No one wants to experience grief, so you tell everyone you’re all good. However, your new reality will become apparent soon.
You are just starting your journey to find new life again.
Pain and Guilt Stage
- “How could she be so inconsiderate? What did I do wrong to deserve this treatment? Did she ever care about me at all?”
- “How could I have cheated on him? He was the love of my life, and now he is gone forever.”
Once the denial wears off, you may start to feel guilty. The healing process continues with the pain and guilt stage. While you may obsess over what you’ve done wrong or could have done better, you will likely feel guilty even if you did nothing wrong in the relationship.
You can see what might have happened differently in your head if you had done things differently. It’s common during the grief process to question yourself and how you could have prevented problems.
You may also feel immense pain for what you lost: love, intimacy, security, a shared life — all gone with divorce. But then you move into other stages of divorce grief.
Anger and Bargaining Stage
- “I am so mad at him for leaving me like this! I just moved to a new city for him! Who does he think he is! He must be a narcissist!”
- “If she’ll forgive me and give our relationship another go, I will never glance at another woman. She will see that I can love her like she wants!”
Once the initial shock wears off, it is not uncommon to feel rage after a divorce. This is the anger stage. You find yourself with anger, even if you expected the divorce or initiated the proceedings yourself!
Your stages of grief are completely normal and unique to you. However, it is essential to channel them in a healthy way. Think extra physical activity or spending time with friends and close family.
Telling others about how you feel can also help you work out your anger in a healthy fashion. During this critical time of anger, you must get enough sleep and eat well. And don’t make rash decisions you will regret later.
You may also enter the bargaining grief stages, where you try to make desperate promises with yourself or your former spouse to regain what you lost. This is understandable and is part of the natural process of divorce grief. Again, don’t make rash decisions you will later regret.
- “I will never find love again. I might as well just die.”
- “My life won’t have any meaning without him. No one else is like him.”
When divorce occurs, the depression stage can set in when you realize that things are not going back to how they were before. You may feel like the world has ended and lack the motivation or energy to do anything. During this divorce grief stage, remember that this, too, shall pass.
Divorce represents death on many levels, and if you’re also still experiencing overwhelming emotions of anger and guilt, the depression stage can send you into a tailspin.
Having self-compassion means not isolating yourself. It may not feel worth the effort, but take care of yourself as you would care for a child you love. Make sure to eat nutritious meals and get enough sleep.
Practice more self-care by reaching out to friends and family or joining divorce support groups to connect with others who know what you’re going through.
The Upward Turn Stage
- “Even though my last relationship was painful, I envision a future where another connection might be possible.”
This is the glimmer of hope stage. You may still feel other feelings, such as sadness, anger, or other emotions, or feel stuck. However, you’re beginning to accept the idea of moving forward even though you’re not quite ready yet.
You now know that eventually, you can still have a happy life and find love again. You are worth being loved, and you will get through this grief process.
Reconstruction and Working Through Stage
- “It’s important for me to examine that relationship and gain insight from everything that happened.”
Even though you couldn’t make your marriage work, there are lessons you can learn from what happened. Perhaps you now realize that your two children mean more to you. You were so focused on couples therapy and your midlife crisis that you weren’t seeing them. Now, you appreciate the little day-to-day time with your kids and thank your higher power for bringing them into your life.
You may also look back on the marriage and see how your spouse brought out the worst in you. You may also wonder how you could have brought out the best in her, instead of focusing on her shortcomings. However, you no longer feel overwhelming anger or sadness about the past.
You are learning to let go and move on with your life.
You start to focus on rebuilding yourself, your career, and your relationships with friends and family. You begin to feel excited about what possibilities may be available for you. With this newfound self-confidence comes a sense of hope for the future – something not present during earlier divorce grief stages!
Acceptance and Hope Stage
- “I survived divorce! I am so much stronger now.”
- “It’s over. I’m ready to focus on myself and my future without him.”
Finally, the divorce healing process comes full circle when you enter the acceptance stage. This does not mean that you feel great about what happened. You still have sad feelings sometimes, but they no longer run through your every waking moment.
The acceptance stage is a crucial part of the divorce healing process, which allows you to gain closure and peace of mind.
It takes time to process and cope with divorce. So give yourself the time and space you need to work through the divorce in a healthy way. You’ll come out stronger on the other side.
Take your time, be gentle with yourself, reach out for help when needed, and allow yourself to heal. You will be okay!
Our Experienced Divorce Attorneys Can Walk With You
We know that divorce can be emotionally and financially challenging, so we strive to make the process as stress-free as possible. Contact us today for more information or to set up an initial consultation!