Working Through The Stages Of A Divorce

Moving On Following A Divorce

Recovering from a divorce is similar to the grieving process one experiences when a loved one dies. There are five stages in the process: shock and denial, anger, ambivalence, depression, and recovery. Many people expect to work through these stages one after the other, but that isn't usually how it happens.

You can expect to move in and out of each phase over time and sometimes experience more than one phase at the same time. It is a difficult process and time-consuming. Family counselors advise it may take as long as two years to fully recover.

Understanding the process and the types of feelings you might experience will help you allow yourself to fully grieve. It's important to allow yourself the time you need to recover from the traumatic experience of ending a marriage so that you can move on to the next phase of your life.

Shock And Denial

When you finally make the decision to divorce a spouse, or you finally believe your spouse is serious about filing for divorce, you may experience shock and denial. The enormity of what is happening may seem like more than you can bear. Considering the changes that will happen in your life may create feelings of anxiety and panic. A typical way to cope with the extreme emotions is to deny the reality of what is happening and to cling to familiar routines. There is comfort in the familiar and a sense of security. Denial allows you to protect yourself from the knowledge that life will change dramatically and the feelings of fear associated with that knowledge. What is important to remember is that denial is an effective coping mechanism as long as it does not last too long or create other problems in your life.


Feelings of anger characterize the next stage. You may feel angry at yourself, your spouse, your parents, your job, and perhaps everyone else around you. It can become pervasive, but it is a necessary part of the process. Unless anger is acted out in a destructive way, it can be useful. Allow yourself the time you need to move through your anger. It will help you begin to let go and put emotional distance between you and your spouse. Eventually you will begin to think of yourself as one, rather than part of a couple. Until you do this it will be difficult to focus on your own needs and begin to build a new life for yourself.


The third stage of ambivalence is what can make people break up and get back together. Ambivalence tends to be present during most of the grieving process for people who are suffering the end of a marriage. The divorce process takes people on an emotional roller coaster ride - depressed, excited for a new life, angry, disappointed, and back again. Do not be surprised if you feel out of control and experience a great deal of uncertainty.


Depression is extremely difficult to experience but it is the part of the grieving process that will help you move beyond the past into your new life. Depression may be accompanied by a variety of emotions that seem unrelated to the divorce or the marriage. If you allow yourself to look at yourself, experience loneliness and confront your role in the relationship and the end of the relationship you will be ready to let go and move on. You will quit blaming your spouse, lose the feelings of anger and ambivalence, your self-esteem will begin to grow and you will be ready for the final stage of recovery.


Once you reach the recovery stage you are feeling better about yourself. Your self-esteem may still be shaky, but you are ready to build your new life. The first step is to rebuild your social network. You may maintain friends you shared with your spouse, but often those relationships were based on the shared interests of the married couples. It's time to find new people whose company you enjoy and who have similar needs in terms of time and activities.

Keep in mind that recovery is part of the process and takes some time. Allow yourself this time on your own to explore new interests and to develop a social network before you enter another committed love relationship.

Eventually you will begin to feel like a single person and actually be comfortable as a single person. If you have paid attention and worked hard, you may arrive at a place where you are comfortable with being single. This is a time when you can get to know yourself and build a new identity as a single person which will guide you in making healthier, more loving choices for yourself in the future.

Why It Helps To Speak To A Divorce Attorney

Consulting with a lawyer can truly help to advance the grieving process. Many times, parties have open questions and, without answers, leave them pondering the "what ifs."

The assistance of an experienced attorney who can help answer questions and alleviate many worries can really mitigate the stress.