Ending Your Marriage And The Stages Of Grief: Divorce And The Grieving Process
”Next to losing a loved one to death, divorce is probably the most difficult grieving process a person can experience. The stages of grief are similar and will demand a certain amount of time for someone to work through. Talking to a professional as you go through this grieving process can help.” - Aaron Dutil, LPC
The end of a marriage can be very emotional—you’re losing this relationship that likely had been a large part of your life for some time. Going through a divorce can be enormously painful, and it can be a huge loss. In the aftermath of a divorce, some people may experience intense grief as they mourn the end of the relationship, their former spouse, and the life they shared. There is no single, “one size fits all” approach to grief, and everyone experiences grief in different ways and on different timelines. But there are popular models for understanding grief that may still offer useful insight into some common emotions that may arise when grieving a loss. Here, we’ll explore the grieving process after a divorce using the popular five-stage model. According to this model, the five stages are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.
The Stages Of Grief
While everyone grieves in different ways, it may still be valuable to explore the stages of grief as they relate to divorce. Not everyone will experience every stage, or experience them in this order, but it may still be useful in understanding the mix of emotions that may arise. Included below are the five stages of grief according to the Kübler-Ross model:
At some point, perhaps especially when the divorce first happens, you may be in denial. Even if it is you who is initiating the divorce, you may be in denial about that reason for deciding to end things. For example, if your partner had an affair, you may be going through the denial that it even happened. You may find that you are trying to convince yourself that it was all just a misunderstanding and that maybe you should not go through with the divorce. The denial can be a way of trying to protect yourself, as you don’t want to accept that this big, painful situation is really happening. Then again, if the divorce is not your idea, you may be feeling like your partner won’t actually go through with this. This kind of denial can make sense; accepting this loss can be very hard to face.
Anger is another common stage of grief. Thinking "how can they do this to me?" or "why is this happening to me?" can be a natural thought no matter why you are divorcing and no matter who is initiating the divorce. Some people may experience the anger stage for a long time and may go on to the other stages but come back to the anger stage again and again. This might be especially true if your significant other has moved on quickly and seems to be happy again. Seeing them happy while you are struggling might set off another round of anger.
The bargaining stage is an attempt to fix the damage that was done by the divorce. You may think that if you ignore your differences and pretend everything is okay that you can keep your marriage going and live happily ever after. You may convince yourself that you will never find anyone who makes you feel the way they did. This may make you want to try again and forget about the divorce. You may try to get your spouse back or convince them that you can work it out. This may be your mind trying to come to terms with this major decision. Your spouse may also go through this stage, and if you go through it at the same time, you may even try to work things out for a while. However, if the reason you were getting a divorce is still there, it may not work in the long-term.
Depression is another common stage of grief that may arise after a divorce. Maybe you do not feel like getting out of bed for days at a time, and maybe you feel intense sadness and loneliness hanging around. Some people may go through this stage and then go back to the denial and anger stage again just to come back to the depression stage again. Divorce can be incredibly hard. This is a major loss in your life, and it can make sense to feel intense sadness around it, regardless of the reason for the relationship ending.
Just because you accept your divorce does not mean it makes you feel happy all of a sudden. Acceptance means that you have realized what has happened is real and that you can to move past it. This may be the point when you finally can see the light at the end of the tunnel. You may not be at the end of that tunnel, but you can see the end, and you know that you are going to make it. That is when you can breathe a sigh of relief and start thinking about the future. You may be able to adjust to this new reality and start making new plans, and you may feel hopeful for what the future has in store.
Talk To Someone
Processing the end of a marriage can be extremely painful, but you don’t have to go through this all on your own. Professional help is available, and qualified experts can help you process your grief and find ways to move forward.
At some points during the grieving process, such as during the depression stage, the idea of leaving the house and traveling to an in-person appointment may feel daunting. In these cases, online therapy may feel easier and more convenient. With online therapy through Regain, you can meet with a licensed therapist wherever you have internet, including the comfort of your own home.
And, a growing body of evidence has demonstrated the effectiveness of online therapy for a range of concerns, including the effects of divorce. For instance, one such study conducted a randomized controlled trial of an online divorce program, and it concluded that its “findings suggest that online intervention platforms may be effective in reducing adverse mental health related effects of divorce”.
“Dr. Anstadt is amazing. I appreciate him always reaching out to make sure things are going smoothly in between our sessions. He follows up and genuinely cares about my situation. I would recommend Dr. Anstadt to anyone who is seeking insight on coparenting and new relationships after divorce. Thank you for everything!”
“Lisheyna is amazing person with really beautiful insights. I was struggling with my separation and she helped me to regain new insights which helped to become friends with my ex-wife again and also understand her perspective. I am grateful to Lisheyna for her support and would highly recommend her to anyone seeking any kind of personal or relationship counseling.”
The end of a marriage can be a huge loss, and it can make sense to experience grief after divorce. While everyone grieves in different ways, it may be useful to recognize some of the common stages of grief that may arise: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. For support throughout this process, online therapy can help.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What are the grieving stages of divorce?
Everyone experiences grief differently, but according to one popular model of grief, the five stages are: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. A person might experience these in a nonlinear way, they may have different timelines, and they may experience some stages multiple times, and others not at all.
Why is divorce so painful?
Many experts say that divorce is one of the most emotionally painful things an individual can encounter. One reason it can be so painful is because of the attachment you had to your ex-spouse. In many cases, your lives were intertwined, likely for quite some time, and there were aspects of your life and your future that you worked together to determine. Even if you despise your ex and don't want anything to do with them, there's still an adjustment to make, and many adjustments in life, especially ones so significant, aren't easy. In addition to being painful, divorce can be overwhelming and stressful. There's a lot of decision-making to do, some of which is personal, and some of which is a merged responsibility between you and your ex-spouse.
- Previous Article
- Next Article