Divorce is a traumatic experience, even more so if you are not the one who initiated the procedure.
Nobody enters into a marriage thinking that it will end in divorce. It is normal that when the divorce is finally over and official, a grieving period will follow.
Much like the grief we feel when a loved one dies, the stages of grief post-divorce can be broken down into distinct phases of grief.
The general pattern for steps of grieving
It is important to recognize that the steps of grieving are not linear.
You cannot expect to be neatly finished with one and proceed straight on to the next.
This is why we might refer to the stages of grief as more like cycles of grief, with no tidy beginning nor identifiable end to each cycle.
Additionally, you can expect to have days where you feel like you are truly getting some traction in moving forward in your stages of grief, only to wake up one morning finding yourself moving two steps backwards.
Again, this is completely normal. It may be triggered by a song, an article or book you are reading, running into some common friends, or on significant dates such as your anniversary or a birthday.
This is why it is important to take good care of yourself when moving through the stages of grief after divorce, and to tell yourself that whatever you are feeling, and wherever you are in your grief cycle, everything is ok.
You will survive this.
For that, it is important for you to know and understand what you will be going through and this article can help you do that by throwing some light at the different stages of grief during and after divorce.
Stage One: Denial
You probably experienced this stage when you were going through the divorce.
Therapists encourage us to feel this pain, to not try and pretend all is well. The only way through this pain is to go through it. If you can surround yourself with loving friends and family, it will be helpful to you now.
Stage Three: Fear
Fear is a common emotion to experience during your stages of grief.
Fear of what the future holds, fear of what being single means in today’s landscape, fear of how you will provide for yourself and any children you might have, fear that you will be viewed differently as a divorced woman.
This is a time where you will be asking yourself a lot of questions.
Stage Four: Anger
As you begin to process the fact that you are going to be, or are divorced, you may begin to experience feelings of anger.
All the hurt and pain you experienced during your marriage may be at the forefront, and you may find yourself saying horrible things about your ex-spouse.
They are the reason the marriage failed, your financial situation is dire, and the kids are driving you crazy. So it was good riddance.
Also watch: 7 Most Common Reasons for Divorce
Let yourself experience all these feelings of anger, it is part of the steps of your grieving process and rather cathartic.
Stage Five: Bargaining
Oh boy. This is a crazy-thinking stage.
You may start reconsidering just how bad your marriage really was.
Maybe it was actually fine. You are tempted to try and repair your relationship at any cost.
Did your partner leave you for another person? You might start thinking, ok, maybe we could have an open marriage.
You start missing your partner and think that even if they were terrible, at least it was better than nothing.
As you move through this phase of grief, know that it is a normal step, getting you to understand that it is really over.
Stage Six: Depression
As you cycle out of the bargaining stage, and come to terms with the divorce, your new, single reality hits you and depression can set in.
Many people remain in this stage of grief for a long while. It is a normal reaction. Your marriage has ended and you don’t know what is around the corner.
You are sad for the good part of your history with your spouse.
In the depression stage of grief after divorce, you may find yourself completely unmotivated, not taking care of yourself, your personal hygiene, your soul and spirit.
You may binge eat sugary foods, be unable to take a shower, and cry a lot. If you find yourself unable to get out of this stage of grief, please seek help.
There are many qualified therapists who can help you deal with depression and guide you to the next stage in the grieving process.
You understand and have integrated your new reality as a divorced person.
You feel a connection with the millions of other divorced people who have walked these steps of grieving before you.
You begin to see a light at the end of the tunnel, and may even be a little bit excited by this new chapter in your life.
You accept that things look different now, and you are ready to embrace this new identity.
Knowing and accepting that you will deny the trauma, have to deal with the pain, have to manage your anger, and deal with being depressed can help you move forward. It is one of the best ways to cope with this and enter into the next stage of your life as a new person.
If you feel disconnected or frustrated about the state of your marriage but want to avoid separation and/or divorce, the marriage.com course meant for married couples is an excellent resource to help you overcome the most challenging aspects of being married.
Sylvia Smith loves to share insights on how couples can revitalize their love lives in and out of the bedroom. As a writer at Marriage.com, she is a big believer in living consciously and encourages couples to adopt this principle in their lives too. Sylvia believes that every couple can transform their relationship into a happier, healthier one by taking purposeful and wholehearted action.