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Understanding the Emotional Stages of Divorce

Emotional Stages of Divorce

Divorce, like any other traumatic event, can require sufficient grieving before an individual can arrive at feeling resolved and healed.  Although people can experience grief and loss differently, studies show that many individuals report undergoing the following emotional stages when surviving a divorce:

Denial

Denial can be a natural emotional response to death, divorce or any kind of devastating loss. Many divorced individuals report having experienced feelings of disbelief upon realizing the marriage was ending and reported trouble accepting it.   If you find yourself in denial, at first, it might be useful to acknowledge that this can be a common reaction to any loss.

Embarrassment

Humiliation is not often cited as a phase of grief, but many divorced persons report embarrassment as having been one of the challenges of coping with their divorces.  Married couples often take their vows in front of most of, if not all, of their family and friends.  Having to admit to a great many witnesses to your marriage that the union is, in fact, ending can bring upon feelings of shame and extreme embarrassment.

Anger and resentment

Anger can be a natural follow-up to feelings of denial and shame.  Studies show that anger is often reported as part of the grieving process for a divorce.  An example of how often anger can occur is particularly explicable in situations where infidelity or betrayal is cited as one of the reasons for the termination of the marriage.

Bargaining

Many divorced individuals reported trying to “hang on” to their marriage before finally surrendering to its ending.  Attempting to solve or negotiate to preserve the marriage can be common while enduring the grieving process. Studies indicate that multiple couples attend Couples Counseling after separating, often as a last attempt to salvage the marriage.

Depression

When coping with any loss, depression and sadness are often noted as a necessary step in the grieving process. It can be challenging to sufficiently grieve a divorce or any break-up, for that matter, without acknowledgement of the disappointment you feel.  Even if you are resolved, on an intellectual level, to separate from your partner—it can still mean you feel a great sadness about moving on. Optimism for the future and a solid decision to split can still be riddled with feelings of depression and loss, at the same time.

Acceptance 

Acceptance is often reported as somewhat of the “finish line” to the grief process.  Acceptance of your divorce is often reported as having moving beyond depression and sadness and on, exclusively to feelings of solid positivity and resolve.  This is part of the recovery stage.

  VERIFIED EXPERT
Denise Limongello, LMSW, is a passionate and dedicated therapist who obtained her graduate degree from Columbia University, School of Social Work. She is also a graduate of Miss Porter’s School and Tulane University. Denise began her clinical career at The Renfrew Center of New York and has since then worked across all levels of care including Inpatient, Partial Hospitalization, Intensive Outpatient, and Outpatient, Private Practice settings.

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