The Emotional Stages of Divorce

Filed Under (Divorce and Legal Separation) on 10-25-2012

Divorcess process, Colorado divorce, Divorce forms

For most people, emotions during divorce follow a typical pattern. The timing of each phase differs, but everyone goes through all of them.

One: The Crisis. This is the critical time when the relationship is coming apart, either one of you leaves and decides it’s over, or you both leave. This recognition may be felt and experienced by one spouse far before the other.

Two: The Reaction. This is when you’re reacting to the initial crisis, and your life feels just “crazy.”  This phase usually extends for several months, or maybe even a year or two. In this stage, you are grieving – the end of the relationship, the end of your hopes and dreams for the relationship, even the end of your contact with your loved one. Grief, at this stage, can show up as a feeling of loneliness, difficulty concentrating, or a sense of being weak and helpless.

Within the reaction, you may go through the five emotional stages of grief, as documented by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross.  These are:

•    Emotional shock. Thoughts typical of this stage are, “this can’t be happening to me,” and “this isn’t real.” We are numb.

•    Anger. You may lash out inappropriately. You may talk about how terrible it was to be married to him or her. Still, at this stage, you may be ambivalent about your anger, hoping for a reconciliation.

•    Bargain and compromise. In this phase, you may be willing to accommodate almost anything to have the relationship continue. You may agree to become a “teddy bears,” although most of us cannot be teddy bear for very long without emerging angrier than before.

•    Blahs and depression: At this stage, life feels flat.  You may wonder, “is this all there is?” This is an important stage during which you build a new identity, and eventually find life more meaningful and purposeful.

•    Acceptance: This last stage brings acceptance of the loss of a love relationship. You are finally free of the pain of grief.

Three: The Recovery. Here, you feel a sense of peace. Now you can get on with your life.

Adapted from the “Friendly Divorce Guidebook for Colorado” by M. Arden Hauer, MA, JD