Divorce and the Stages of Grief

Divorce brings with it a powerful sense of loss.  This loss throws people into a grieving process.  (Also see the Top Ten Losses People Grieve when Divorcing.)  Here is a seven stage model for understanding the grief most people experience when going through divorce.


Many people react to the impending end of their marriage with numbed disbelief, often denying the reality of the loss in order to avoid the pain. Shock provides emotional protection from being overwhelmed. This may last for weeks.  


As the shock wears off, it is replaced with the suffering of unbelievable pain. Although excruciating and almost unbearable, it is important to experience the pain fully, and not hide it, avoid it or escape from it with alcohol or drugs.

You may have guilty feelings or remorse over things you did or didn’t do in the marriage. Life feels chaotic and scary during this phase.


Frustration gives way to anger, and you may lash out and lay blame for the divorce on someone. This is a time for the release of bottled up emotion. Please be careful how your anger is vented, as permanent damage to your relationships may result.  remember, if you have children together… your life is permanently tied to their other parent.

You may rail against fate, questioning “Why me?” You may also try to bargain in vain with the powers-that-be for a way out of your despair (i.e. “I will never _______ again if you just bring him back”).


Just when your friends may think you should be getting on with your life, a long period of sad reflection will likely overtake you. This is a normal stage of grief, so do not be “talked out of it” by well-meaning outsiders. Encouragement from others is not helpful during this stage of grieving.

During this time, you finally realize the true magnitude of your loss, and it depresses you. You may isolate yourself on purpose, reflect on things you did with your lost one, and focus on memories of the past. You may sense feelings of emptiness or despair.


As you start to adjust to life without your spouse, your life becomes a little calmer and more organized. Your physical symptoms lessen, and your “depression” begins to lift slightly.


As you become more functional, your mind starts working again, and you will find yourself seeking realistic solutions to problems posed by life after the divorce. You will start to work on practical and financial problems and reconstructing yourself and your life without him or her.


During this, the last of the seven stages in this grief model, you learn to accept and deal with the reality of your situation. Acceptance does not necessarily mean instant happiness. Given the pain and turmoil you have experienced, you can never return to the carefree, untroubled YOU that existed before this loss. But you will find a way forward.

Choose your path carefully.

The loss is great and the pain is real.  But pleas note that the divorce process chosen and the way that the two people treat each other during the process will have a significant effect on whether additional dammage will be experienced.  For your sake and the sake of your children, choose a process that is cooperative or collaborative rather than adversatial in nature. 

Dorman Mediation offers a one-hour free consultation to help you understand your options as you seek a healthy way to navigate the divorce and restructure your family.


(Adapted from www.recover-from-grief.com)


  1. […] (To better understand grief process please read Divorce and the Stages of Grief) […]

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