Ending Your Marriage And The Stages Of Grief: Divorce And The Grieving Process

By Patricia Oelze|Updated April 30, 2022
CheckedMedically Reviewed By Karen Devlin, LPC

Most people don’t envision getting divorced. But when you realize that divorce is the healthiest option, how do you cope? Believe it or not, going through a divorce is similar to losing a loved one who died. And like the stages of grief that you experience when someone dies, there are also the same stages of grief, to varying degrees, in divorce: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. The length of time that it takes to go through these stages is different for everyone. In fact, you may go through some stages more than once, and likely won’t experience them entirely in order.

Ending Your Marriage Can Be Difficult - Don't Go Through It Alone
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Denial

When it first happens, whether it is you seeking the divorce or your partner, people often experience denial. Even if it is you who is initiating the divorce, there is a reason you chose to do this, and you may be in denial about that reason and unsure if you’re making the right choice as a result.

Then again, if the divorce is not your idea, you may be thinking that you can change your partner's mind or that you can get them to work it out. This kind of denial is common, and just about everyone goes through it. We all want to think that everything will be okay. However, if your partner is set on getting a divorce, there is nothing you can do but accept it. It may take several months to a year or longer to get through this step. But you will get through it.

Anger

Anger is a common stage of grief. Thinking "why is this happening to me?" is a natural thought no matter why you are divorcing and no matter who is initiating the divorce. We may go through the anger stage for a long time and may move on to the other stages but come back to the anger stage repeatedly—especially if your ex has moved on and seems to be happy again. Seeing them happy while you are having a difficult time may very well spark a new round of anger.

The anger stage is one of the ones that may hang on longer and come back more often than the others. You may blame everything on your divorce and your ex. You may need to talk to a counselor or therapist who can help you through this but understand that this is a normal part of the process.

Bargaining

The bargaining stage is an attempt to fix the damage that was done by the divorce. You may convince yourself that you will never find anyone who makes you feel the way they did. This might make you want to try again and forget about the divorce. You may endeavor to get your spouse back or convince them that you can work it out. This is just 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 present you will likely not be able to pull it off.

Depression

Sadness and loneliness may hang around for months or even years. We all know that sadness is likely coming when we go through a divorce, no matter how prepared or ready we think we are. In reality, you simply cannot prepare for this, not entirely. Some people will go through this stage and then back to the denial and anger stage again just to return to the depression stage again. Divorce is difficult. This may feel like amajor loss in your life, and you will likely need time to work through it, even if you are the one who initiated the divorce.

Like anger, this stage tends to repeat itself and may affect you more than the others. You may need to talk to a therapist or counselor to get through it. Sometimes therapy can not only be beneficial to get through this step, but can also help you in future relationships. Maybe you had already been living with depression and chose to get married to someone who was not right for you out of the need to have someone who loves you, even if they do not love you, or perhaps you did love one another but were not right for each other. If you are still feeling depressed, and it is affecting your daily life for months afterward, you may benefit from seeing a therapist. It may also help to join a divorce support group.

Acceptance

Just because you accept your divorce does not mean that it makes you happy all of a sudden. You are not going toimmediately be cured of all your grief when you accept the divorce. Acceptance means that you have finally realized that what has happened is real and that you need to move past it. This may be the point when you realize that you need to talk to a therapist or counselor or join a support group. Talking to others can really help. Knowing that you are not alone is important and feeling that you are just going through a normal process that many others are also going through is helpful and validating.

This is the point when you can typically 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 will be able to start making plans for the future and may finally be looking forward to something. You may still be sad or angry, but you can move on finally.

Sometimes in a divorce, the friends you had when you were married end up being toxic. They may be trying to encourage you to go back to your ex because they enjoyed hanging out with both of you. It may be time for some new friends if your old friends cannot let go of your ex, or if it’s not possible to see these friends without also seeing your ex.

Ending Your Marriage Can Be Difficult - Don't Go Through It Alone

Talk To Someone

If you have gone through the acceptance stage but still feel extremely sad and need to talk to someone, there are mental health professionals out there who can help, like those available through ReGain. You do not need to leave the house to do online counseling. It is the easiest and sometimes least expensive way to get greater control and understanding of your emotions. Just talking to someone unbiased and experienced with this sort of thing can be a big help.

Continue reading to find reviews of counselors from people experiencing similar issues.

“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.”

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