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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What Are The Grieving Stages Of Divorce?
The grieving stages of divorce are often akin to the five stages of grief that take place after the death of a loved one: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. A person might experience them in a nonlinear way. Many people find that they revisit one or more of the five steps of the grieving process during the healing process that takes place post-divorce, and that they go back and forth from one to the other. For example, someone might experience the bargaining stage and then return to anger for a little bit, or they might jump from denial to bargaining and feel the anger later on.
How Long Does It Take To Emotionally Recover From ADivorce?
How long it takes to recover from a divorce will vary substantially from person to person. Some research says that it takes about 17 months to recover post-divorce, while other research estimates that it takes about two years. Some experts estimate the amount of time it takes to recover from a divorce based on how long you were married. It may seem like emotional recovery takes a lot of time based on these numbers, and that can certainly be true, but remember that the full ride isn't necessarily going to be painful. If it takes you two or three years to start feeling a sense of complete or near-complete emotional recovery, for example, it doesn't mean that all of your days will be painful for two or three years straight.
What Are The 7 Stages Of Grief After ADeath?
The seven stages of grief after a death or any other grief-causing event are the same as the five stages of grief listed above with two additional steps. The seven stages of grief are shock, denial, bargaining, guilt, anger, depression, and acceptance or hopefulness. As you can see, guilt and shock are the two steps that aren't listed in the five stages of grief that are most often recognized in conversations about grief or mourning. While the five stages of grief (denial, bargaining, anger, depression, and acceptance) are most commonly highlighted, guilt and shock are also extremely common feelings to encounter during the grieving process, making them equally worthy or recognition. We all process guilt differently, so know that anything you're feeling right now is okay, even if it's highly uncomfortable and doesn't necessarily feel okay.
How Do I Recover From Divorce Emotionally?
There's no clear-cut path to recovering from divorce emotionally, but rest assured that healing is possible. Even if you find it difficult, surround yourself with friends and family as much as possible. You can also attend support groups, group therapy, or individual counseling. It's helpful for many to find something enjoyable to pursue during this time, which might be spending time outside, working on art, or taking a new class. While many of us are introverted and enjoy spending time alone, socializing is crucial. Social activity is particularly necessary during the healing process, so make sure that some of your activities involve other people, even if that just means playing a game or talking on the phone.
When you're ready, focus on your new life. Think of this time as a beginning rather than an ending. Focus on the things you can control, and reflect on your hopes and dreams. You might even make a changesuch as a career shift or going back to school. Life can actually be better than ever after divorce. Even if it's as small as trying out a new hair color, think about something you've always wanted to do or something you've always wanted to have and find a way to give it to yourself. If you feel stuck or lost, try speaking with a mental health professional who can help you move forward.
What Are The 12 Steps Of Grieving?
Not to be confused with the stages of grief, the 12 steps of grieving include nervousness or anxiety, happiness, perceived threat, fear, anger, guilt, depression or despair, irritability or hostility, acceptance, denial, disillusionment, and finally, moving on.
Do I Regret My Divorce?
Only you will know if you regret your divorce. Some people regret getting a divorce, whereas others don't and are glad that they made the decision to get a divorce. It's important to be introspective when you find yourself feeling regret. In some cases, when you perceive regret or wish that you could turn back time, you may be experiencing a normal, yet painfuldivorce grieving process rather than true regret.
Things often get worse before they get better when it comes to life after divorce. Remember that even if you didn't have a good relationship and wouldn't want to get back together under any circumstances, you can still experience deep sadness and grief, and it doesn't mean that you want the person back. Feelings of regret are painful, but they're normal. Remember that there's room in your life for your hopes and dreams. If you're experiencing depressive symptoms or a disconnect from your hopes and dreams for life, it's essential to reach out for support so that you can feel good again.
Does The Pain Of Divorce Ever Go Away?
The pain of divorce most certainly goes away, although it can be hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel when you were in the grieving process. Many people find that therapy or counseling is absolutely vital during the grieving process. If you have family or friends who are experiencing grief, reach out to them. Having social support is an important part of our emotional and physical well-being, and one thing about the pain of divorce is that it can contribute to depression, which makes it hard for a lot of people to take the step to contact their friends.
If your family and friends ask how they can help you, answer honestly. Let them know if there's a phone call they can help you make or if you don't really want to talk about the divorce right now and would rather have a day where you just spend time together and have fun. As important as emotional processing is, it can also be advantageous to get your mind off of things. Take it day by day and know that the pain will subside eventually and that your life after divorce can be fulfilling and full of light.
Why Is Divorce So Painful?
Many experts say that divorce is one of the most emotionally painful things an individual can encounter. The reason for this is an attachment to your ex-spouse. 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 absolutely 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. Divorce counseling can be extremely helpful for those hoping to separate peacefully in addition to the assistance of a divorce mediator, who's there to work with the more tangible aspects of separation.
What Does Grief Do To Your Body?
Mental and physical health go together more than many people would guess. Grief can contribute to heart problems, blood clots, an increase in blood pressure, as well as cause difficulty sleeping. It can also affect your appetite, cause G.I. issues, and lead to fatigue. During the grieving process, it is vital that you prioritize yourself and your well-being. Make sure that you surround yourself with a support system, which could be comprised of family and friends, a counselor, members of a support group, or others in your life, and don't be afraid to ask for help when you need it. Family and friends as well as peers in support groups can be helpful,but they aren't a replacement for a licensed mental health professional. A therapist, for example, can help you navigate the healing process and your life after divorce. Look for a counselor or therapist by searching the web, calling your insurance company, or by going through an online therapy site like ReGain.