Getting Through The Stages Of Divorce And How To Cope In Each

By: Mary Elizabeth Dean

Updated February 08, 2021

Medically Reviewed By: Karen Devlin, LPC

Life in and after divorce can feel like a rollercoaster. There are several emotional processes that one must go through before one reaches the finish line. In each of these stages of divorce, one must have the tools and coping mechanisms needed to get through successfully and as quickly as possible. Getting over a divorce is similar to stages of grief. Divorce has its challenges, too, though.

No matter how ill-equipped you may feel, you can deal with these emotions and get through this. Losing a relationship with someone you thought would be around forever is not going to be easy. If you were the one who wanted the divorce, you might have strong feelings of guilt. If your partner was the one who said goodbye, you might be experiencing anger or denial. Even if you both wanted to split, there is an emotional process that one must go through for optimal healing.

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You may be wondering - how long does it take to get over a divorce? The road that you have ahead of you may sometimes seem long or impossible, but the experience you will have is finite. There will be an end to it. All you must do is make the process one day at a time.

What Are The Stages Of Divorce?

There are several emotional stages of divorce that you will need to get through to feel acceptance. These stages are:

  • Denial
  • Anger
  • Bargaining
  • Depression
  • Acceptance

It is important to remember that this isn't a one-way path. For example, a person might be in denial one day, move to bargain, bounce back to anger, and then hit a period of depression. Regardless of where you start, acceptance is the final location.

We will go over the details of each of these stages and how to get through them in this article. These coping mechanisms are great for divorce advice for women and divorce advice for men.

Denial

This stage of divorce can occur before anyone has pulled the trigger. It could entail ignoring your true feelings and convincing yourself that your relationship is fine. You might make excuses for your partner or feel that there is something that you can do to make amends with your partner.

No matter how bad the situation is, you will convince yourself that there is a way to make things better. Even if you know deep down that this is not the case, you will have trouble accepting that things are really 'that bad.' You may put on a brave face and pretend.

Even after divorce proceedings have started and ended, people in the denial stage may refuse to admit they are divorced, continue to wear their ring, and carry on as if life is the same as before. By doing so, they can avoid the pain for a while.

If you hope to get through this stage, you must be painfully honest with yourself. It may be extremely difficult for you to do this, especially if you still love your partner.

You will need to accept that love isn't always enough to keep a couple together to get through this. Other factors, such as trust, reliability, and support, are all important factors. If you are missing one or all of these, the relationship isn't viable.

Each time you have a contradicting thought to your divorce, remind yourself of these facts. You may not gain instantaneous relief from this, but you will eventually be able to accept you are making the right decision so you can move forward in the process. Ultimately, if someone wants a divorce, the best thing to do is let the chips fall where they may. There is no use in extra effort for a relationship that is already dead in the water.

Anger

The next stage of divorce after denial is anger. You could be angry with yourself or angry with your partner. First things first, we must let go of the myth that anger is a bad emotion. There are no emotions that should be ignored or denied. If you are angry, you are angry. It is that simple. Now, this doesn't mean it's okay to act out in destructive ways. One of the best things you can do is sit with how you are feeling.

This stage is not as clear-cut as you might think. Some people might assume that you would only be angry at your partner if you choose to get a divorce. This is not always the case. You may also be angry with yourself for letting the relationship get so bad that it has come to this. Additionally, depending on your beliefs, divorce may make you feel shameful and alone. This could cause you to be angry at the world.

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While you are processing through your anger, remember that you are deciding to have a happier future. While the feelings you have now may be overwhelming, you are working toward something greater than what you have now. With time, your angry emotions will fade, and the clarity you gain will help push you into the next stage. You must let yourself feel without limits to move on.

This can be particularly difficult for many kinds of people. The feelings of anger could be confusing whether you are mad at yourself or your ex. If you chose this, you might not understand why a decision that was supposed to make you happy ended up making you feel so full of contempt. If your partner is angry, you may not understand why it took this for them to show they care about your marriage. The most important thing you can do is stick to your decision. Don't back down in an attempt to get some relief. You are likely only to hold yourself back if you do so.

Bargaining

Bargaining is an attempt to make all the bad emotions go away. You might resort to temporarily fixing things with your ex as a result.

You will have thoughts that your ex is the best lover you ever had. You might regret your decision for divorce and want to take it all back. You will experience extreme feelings of missing your former partner, and you might consider just about anything to get them back. Knowing that this is a stage of divorce will be extremely important in staying on the right track.

The only reason you feel this way is a mechanism you are activating to pump the brakes on these emotions. Divorce isn't easy for many people, and the way you feel about it can be very intense. Rather than go through the motions for an unidentified amount of time, it can seem easier to fall back into the relationship you left in the first place. Remember the reasons you made your decision and stay the course. Write a list and pin it to the fridge if you must; don't go back.

You are the master of your own life. The decisions you make now will determine the level of joy you will feel in the future. If you resort to returning to a bad relationship to escape the process of leaving your ex, you will not get relief. You may feel better for a short period, but the issues at the root of your relationship aren't likely to go away. You are most likely to fall back into the same situation somewhere down the line. You are much better off powering through this and moving on after divorce as best you can.

No matter how difficult it might feel, you can get through this. Give yourself credit for the strength and drive that you have. Humans are remarkably resilient creatures. If you choose to give yourself a chance, you might surprise yourself at how well you fare. If you have made it this far, you are almost to the finish line. Don't give up now; your future depends on it. Stay focused on what you deserve and the life you want. Draw on these dreams for strength often.

Depression

You will probably spend most of this stage in front of the TV or bed. You will have intensely sad emotions surrounding your social and love life.

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This is a completely normal way to feel. This is one of the stages of divorce that hit the hardest, though. You may not know how to move on or how to live this new life without your partner. We often build a life together with our spouses. We imagine a love eternal, like a fairytale. When our life doesn't go as planned, we are thrown into a loop. We might be hard on ourselves for making the wrong decision when it comes to a partner. We may also feel unlovable and unworthy to be in a relationship.

Don't believe the lies that your depression will tell you. This is all a process that you will get through one way or another. The feelings that you have now will fade. You will find a lover that values you and wants to see you happy and successful. When you are wrapped in the arms of the person that is meant to love you, all of this will be a distant memory. The general theme here is to stay the course. You are meant for bigger and better things. Always remember that.

Acceptance

This is the best stage of all. When you accept what has happened to you, joy will return to your life. Acceptance doesn't mean 'I like what happened.' It means I know where I am, and I'm at peace with the situation.

All of the stages of divorce will culminate in this final stage. You will understand why you made the decision you did, and you will feel at peace. You won't fret the small details. The relationship will be over, and you will feel like you can finally move on to a new chapter. This is where your new life begins.

When To Seek Help

If you feel like you are stuck in one of these stages for too long or need extra support, therapy can help.

The counselors and therapists at ReGain are accredited professionals that offer the assistance you need. Their online platform offers the convenience of being accessible right from your living room. You will have the chance to get matched with the perfect therapist for you, and they will be available to help you at any time you desire. There will be no need to worry about busy schedules or inconveniences due to this platform's easy nature.

When you reach out and get extra support, the whole process will be easier. If you feel like you need a helping hand, don't hesitate to reach out. Moving on from divorce is hard enough as it is. Don't go through it alone.


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