In 2018, there were over 782,000 divorces in the US. If you are considering divorce or your spouse has asked you for a divorce, you may be feeling many different emotions. Did you know that there are 5 emotional stages of divorce?
Like you would grieve a loved one, you may also grieve your marriage. To learn more about the five stages of divorce, read on.
Denial is the first stage of most grieving process. In a divorce, you might try to ignore that it’s happening, try to convince your spouse to change their mind, or refuse to accept their attempts to try to discuss the divorce.
Denial is especially pronounced if you are not the spouse who initiated the divorce. If you are the one who is asking for the divorce, you may have already worked through the denial phase before you approached your spouse about a divorce.
Denial is your mind and body’s way of protecting you until you are emotionally ready to deal with the divorce. It is used as a coping mechanism to avoid facing the reality of your situation, but eventually, you’ll need to move on from this stage.
2. Negative Emotions
The negative emotions stage can also be referred to as the anger stage. Once the refusal to recognize what’s happening wears off, anger typically surfaces.
This is normal and expected and an often necessary stage in grieving the end of your marriage. However, anger can consume you if you let it and cloud your decision-making ability. Don’t make rash decisions while angry and certainly don’t lash out in anger against your soon-to-be ex-spouse or your children.
Responding with anger, particularly in front of your children, could come back to impact you negatively during the divorce process in court or the child custody process if you and your ex-spouse can’t agree.
Talking through your feelings of anger with someone you trust or even a therapist is a smart decision.
In the acceptance stage, your angry emotions finally end. You come to accept the situation and make peace with what is happening. In this phase, you may be willing to work with your spouse to come to an amicable agreement on the division of your assets and property, child custody, and any spousal support.
Moving into the acceptance stage doesn’t mean that you don’t have occasional feelings of denial or anger; rather, it means that these feelings no longer consume you and are often fleeting. You are able to successfully put these feelings behind you to do what you need to do to end the marriage.
Acceptance also means you start thinking about the future and how to move forward without your spouse. In the acceptance phase, you can envision life after divorce and don’t feel so lost.
The trusted person you may have talked to during the anger stage of divorce can often help you achieve acceptance and envision your future life. Once you move into the acceptance stage, it may be time to think about hiring an experienced divorce lawyer.
If your spouse did something to end your marriage, such as cheating, or was the one to ask for the divorce, you might find it hard to forgive them. It’s important to understand that forgiving does not mean forgetting.
Finally forgiving spouse may be what you need to start thinking about a future relationship. During the anger stage of divorce, you might think that you’ll never be able to forgive your spouse, but it is possible.
To forgive your spouse, you need to:
- Examine your emotions from your experiences with your spouse and acknowledge them
- Forgive for you, not the other person
- Give yourself time to feel hurt and upset (be realistic—one day to feel upset may not be enough)
- Focus on what you can control, such as the future
- Try to understand why your spouse acted the way they did
- Avoid holding a grudge and forgive unconditionally
- Try to let yourself love again
Number two is one of the most important things to remember about forgiveness. You aren’t forgiving your spouse for their benefit. Instead, you are doing it for yourself. Holding on to hurt, anger, and animosity takes its toll on your mental health.
5. Letting Go
Once you have worked your way through the above stages of divorce, let yourself get angry, accepted your circumstances, and forgiven your spouse (and yourself), it’s time to let go of the marriage and your spouse.
Part of letting go is allowing yourself to love again and move on with your life, whether that means moving to a new city, finding a new relationship, or even learning to love yourself.
The only way to truly be free is to let go of your past and embrace your future. Think of it as a time to reinvent yourself and do something you’ve always wanted to do but couldn’t. Let go and move forward and enjoy your new life.
Understanding the 5 Emotional Stages of Divorce
There’s no timeline for getting through the five emotional stages of divorce. Some people may move through them rather quickly while others get stuck in some stages for an extended period of time. Just like everyone grieves the death of a loved one differently, people grieve the end of their marriages differently too.
If you are going through a divorce, we can help. Contact us today to book your consultation with one of our associates. We can help you navigate the divorce process as well as child custody and support, alimony, and division of property and other assets.