The end of a marriage is yet another rollercoaster ride of emotions as you deal with the grief and loss of shared vision you once had with your spouse. Although everyone deals with emotions differently, adjusting to life while going through the five emotional stages of divorce is remarkably similar to the grieving emotional stages.
Five Emotional Stages of Divorce:
- Denial: This is the stage where you might struggle to accept the fact that you are in the divorce process. This stage is typically expressed by the one who didn’t initiate divorce. At first glance, denial may seem like a crazy reaction to loss. Yet, many of us struggle to take in the full reality of a situation that produces such profound change, loss, and uncertainty.
- Anger – Anger is a commonly expressed emotion during a divorce. According to psychologist Dr. Charles Sielberger, “Anger is an emotional state that varies in intensity from mild irritation to intense fury and rage. ”Divorce may bring about a rollercoaster of emotions and lead to people feeling as though they have less control over the intensity of their emotions. Many people in this phase feel as though the divorce is unfair, may have been prevented, or should not be so contentious. Other times our anger is simply a reaction to overwhelming pain and sorrow.
- Bargaining – This is the emotional stage where you may feel hopeful that your marriage will still work out. In this time you may second-guess if a divorce is necessary, imagining alternative scenarios, and asking a good deal of the “what if” questions. When we love someone, it is never easy to let this love fade. Love creates a strong bond that can create momentary bursts of hope for healing. Generally speaking, hope is a good thing, yet in this phase it can be incredibly confusing and frustrating as hope can make us second guess our decision and doubt our ability to know what is best.
- Depression – This is a stage in which many individuals may begin to feel hopeless and helpless. The intensity of the loss may decrease our energy and make it difficult for us to engage in healthy behaviors that lift our mood. Grief produces a real sense of sadness and profound loss that can seem unending and debilitating.
- Acceptance – In this stage, the intensity of the loss is over and people feel more settled with the changes that have occurred in their lives. When thinking about the loss, people may still feel moments of sadness, anger, and regret. Yet, they will also feel more settled in their “new normal” and feel more in control of their emotions. This stage can often lead to the reemergence of hope and excitement for the future. For many experiencing grief, they may wonder if they will ever reach this stage. Once here, many feel such relief that they have come through a very dark time in their lives.
Stages of grief during divorce can produce some incredibly strong emotions; it’s genuinely a rollercoaster ride of emotions. While most things in life are fairly predictable and straightforward, emotions around grief are not linear nor smooth.
While the stages of grief are outlined above, there truly is no beginning, middle, or end. Many may feel denial and acceptance at the same time or feel as though they passed through the anger stage only to revisit it again in the future. While each stage may feel uniquely difficult in its own way, the emotional stage often seen as the most painful is the feeling of depression.
According to the American Psychiatric Association, depression is a common and serious medical illness that negatively affects how you feel, how you think, and how you act. It can lead to various emotional and physical problems that can decrease a person’s ability to function at work and home.
Related: Tips for Co-Parenting After Divorce
While there are many strategies in overcoming depression after divorce, below are four tips that might be helpful during this phase.
Four Tips to Overcome Depression After Divorce
- Eating Healthy – Cutting down on processed foods, choosing healthy fats, and choosing a diet filled with fiber can be helpful.
- Exercising – Staying hydrated, stretching, and even considering a goal to go on a walk/run for 15 minutes per day. Being outdoors and getting your blood flowing can be so helpful when you feel stuck in depression mode.
- Getting Enough Rest – Getting the total amount of 8-hour sleep, sticking to a sleep schedule, and setting a no screen time before bedtime can help get better rest.
- Seeking Support – Divorce is emotional. Having a support structure is essential during these times. Seeking professional help and talking about some of the toxic emotions can be extremely helpful to many.
While experiencing intense, overwhelming and persistent negative emotions is not a surprising reaction to divorce, recognizing this does not make it any easier.
What can make it easier is having the helpful support and guidance from someone who cares and knows how to help. At Biltmore Psychology and Counseling, we are passionate about helping individuals who are divorced find a way through with the best tool and strategies to cope. We understand that this is a journey best done with support and we are here to help pave the way. Learn more about divorce counseling and how it can help you.
Controlling Anger Before It Controls you (2005). American Psychological Association. Retrieved from https://www.apa.org/topics/anger/control
Felix, T. (2020). What Is Depression? American Psychiatric Association. Retrieved from https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/depression/what-is-depression