In 1991, I found myself in the throes of a legal separation and divorce proceedings. I rode an emotional roller coaster. My insides screamed, “Stop this thing. I want to get off.”
My friend told me, “You need to find your way through the stages of grief in divorce. With help, you can do it.”
How do you find your way through the stages of grief in divorce? I found it helps to understand what’s going on. The stages aren’t easy or quick. You can go back and forth through several or all of them.
By the time you finish this article, you’ll be able to identify the stages of grief in divorce, mark where you are, and feel more confident that you’ll get through them and the emotional roller coaster will stop.
The first stage of grief in divorce is denial.
You can’t believe this is happening to you. It’s all you can do to bathe or shower, shampoo your hair, and get dressed. Perhaps you eat too little, too much, or not at all.
“I’m doing great,” Mickie said. “I’m the one who wanted the divorce.”
Soon, people like Mickie and maybe you, too, will walk around in shellshock.
Perhaps you’re in this first stage of grief in divorce and didn’t want to split up. Be gentle with yourself as you walk around numb. Understand that denial protects you from the pain of reality.
When you’re ready to face the pain of divorce, you’ll do it.
The second stage is anger.
During the anger phase, you can be angry at your former spouse, your parents or in-laws for their dysfunctional marriage or poor family law advice, and God who allowed the nightmare to happen.
Don’t be surprised if you’re angry at all people of the same gender as your ex. I thought all men were the same as my ex and didn’t want to marry again.
Gracious! I was even angry with myself for not seeing the warning signs when we dated and for staying so long in the marriage.
Your anger may spill out for some or all of the reasons mine did. You may also feel angry about the laws that make a marriage license easy and cheap to get but a divorce difficult and expensive.
On an anger scale of 1–10 with 1 the lowest and 10 the highest, where are you?
Journaling, arts and crafts, and exercise help you handle the anger. Consider aerobics, swimming, or a daily walk.
The third stage of grief in divorce is bargaining.
In the bargaining phase, you realize the emotional roller coaster of divorce overwhelms you. You try to convince yourself the marriage wasn’t so bad. You miss your spouse/partner and need his help with the children or finances.
If you made a mistake, you’ll realize it and return to your spouse/significant other. You may return more than once and conclude you didn’t make a mistake. Then you’ll move forward with the divorce.
Evelyn realized how much she loved her husband. Convinced they could work things out, she returned to him. And they did.
On the other hand, Geraldine went back to her husband with expectations they would live happily ever after. However, his physical, emotional, verbal, and financial abuse worsened. So did his infidelity. She separated from him again and divorced him.
Suppose you didn’t file for divorce. You may go after your spouse/partner with calls, cards, flowers, and gifts. No matter what it costs, you want the person back. As Evelyn found, some marriages are worth fighting for. Seek God’s wisdom for your situation.
Recommended Movies in the Bargaining Stage
For a look at this phase in action, watch the movies, First Wives Club and Diary of a Mad Black Woman.Both are available online in DVD:
First Wives Club on Amazon at http://bit.ly/firstwivesclubdvd
On Barnes and Noble at http://bit.ly/bandnfirstwives
Diary of a Mad Black Woman on Amazon at http://bit.ly/diarydvd
On Barnes and Noble at http://bit.ly/bandndiary
The fourth stage is depression.
Whether you wanted the divorce or not, sadness often turns to depression at some point. You wanted the divorce but regret the years you stayed in that marriage.Whether you wanted the divorce or not, sadness often turns to depression at some point. @YvonneOrtega, #divorce Click To Tweet
With a domestic violence relationship, you get depressed from the effects of it on you and the children plus a possible diagnosis of PTSD for all of you.
Your spouse or partner’s betrayal will depress every cell in your body.
For both spouses or partners, the shattered dreams and crash in self-esteem leave you depressed. Your natural tendency will be to withdraw from family, friends, and coworkers. Shame and guilt will cause you to isolate and drop former hobbies and interests.
Rather than withdraw, seek a mentor, a professional counselor who specializes in divorce recovery, or at the least, a trustworthy friend who will keep your conversations confidential. This friend will listen to you, let you talk and cry, and not give unsolicited advice.
I went to a divorce recovery group, experienced the empathy of others, and didn’t feel alone.
Try it. If you’re an introvert, invite an extrovert to go with you the first couple of times.
You can find a local or online group. Go to more than one group until you find the one that meets your needs. And remember that divorce means you ride the emotional roller coaster, but you don’t have to stay depressed.
The fifth stage of grief in divorce is acceptance.
Life gets better, and you accept your new life as a single again adult.
Joy has filled my heart and soul. I’m an international award-winning speaker, an author, a Licensed Professional Counselor, a Certified Speaking and Writing Coach, and a trainer. All of this came after the divorce.
For those of you who worked through each stage, you, too, can smile and laugh again.Now is the time to develop or strengthen your talents, interests, and spiritual gifts.
You won’t have a perfect life, but it will be better than before.
New circumstances can trigger your emotions and send you back through some of the stages. You’ll manage them better because you did work through each one before.
The sixth stage is accountability.
During this phase, you accept responsibility for your part in the divorce.
Out of a combination of ignorance and false hope, I missed the warning signs and headed for trouble. Without boundaries, I made an idol out of my husband. Things got worse and ended in divorce.
One woman went to Las Vegas on Valentine’s Day to marry a man she hardly knew. Afterward, she admitted she made a mistake.
In a group I facilitated, a man said, “I’ve been married and divorced six times now. I was the husband in the six marriages. Obviously, I’m doing something wrong.”
Conclusion and Next Steps:
To wrap up, the six stages of grief in divorce are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance, and accountability.
For related divorce articles by Yvonne:
Yvonne Ortega walks with a small footprint but leaves a giant imprint in people’s lives. This power-packed package is a professional speaker and the author of the Moving from Broken to Beautiful® Series through cancer, divorce, forgiveness, and loss. Learn more at www.YvonneOrtega.com
Yvonne’s background as a licensed professional counselor brings a unique perspective into the heart of women. She’s a speaking coach and the owner of Moving from Broken to Beautiful®, LLC. She belongs to the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association, the Christian Authors Network, the National Speakers Association, and Toastmasters International.
She celebrates life at the beach, where she walks, builds sand castles, blows bubbles, and dances.
Copyright © by Yvonne Ortega July 18, 2019. Updated on July 27, 2019.