The Stages of Grief in a Divorce. How to Cope with It?

A divorce is undoubtedly one of the most devastating events in a family’s life, taking its toll on all the members. Sometimes, it is extremely difficult for one of the spouses to accept the fact that their marriage is over.

Mental health experts claim that a person typically goes through 5 stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. However, you will never find two individuals who come over grief in the same way. One may come to acceptance immediately, while the other may be stuck in one of the initial stages.

In this article, we will provide information about the phases of divorce grief and tips on how to overcome it as fast as possible. Finding out the stages of divorce grief is important for you to understand your feelings better and seek ways of coping with them when you are overwhelmed.


The Five Stages of Divorce Grief


When ending a marriage, spouses have a myriad of emotions, which come in waves and appear according to a certain pattern. Psychologists often call this period “stages of grief in divorce.”

Overall, the concept of dealing with traumatic events was first proposed by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, a Swiss-American psychiatrist. She claimed that the first step is denial and the last one is final acceptance of the situation. So, what are the five stages of divorce grief? Let’s consider this grief cycle in divorce in more detail.


  • Denial


This stage is the very first reaction an individual has regarding the event. In the case of divorce, one of the spouses simply cannot deal with the fact that their marriage is over and refuses to face the truth. During this period, they may feel like the partner will regret their decision and come back as soon as possible.

It is also common for people going through divorce denial to be in a state of shock and disbelief. The worst part about this stage is that a person is overwhelmed with negative emotions, which may have an influence on all spheres of life. It is believed that denial lasts longer if compared to other phases.

If you or your close one undergoes this stage, the best thing you can do to improve the situation is to seek support or provide it to those in need. It is vital to help a person go back to reality and embrace the truth.


  • Anger

As soon as a person manages to face reality, they feel overwhelming anger. It is considered the most difficult stage because an individual will be trying to find someone or something to put the blame on. Going through the anger phase, a person is irritated and loses their temper really fast.

If we speak about a divorce, anger state of one of the spouses makes them feel resentment not only towards their ex-partner but even their kids, parents, colleagues, and friends. Such behavior often leads to a serious crack in the relationship with the world.

Even if you try to suppress these emotions deep inside you in order not to ruin the bond with your loved ones, you risk dealing with negative consequences on your mental and physical health. Therefore, it is important to find a more or less ecological way to spill this anger out. For example, you can practice sports, go for long walks, or seek therapy.


  • Bargaining


When the anger and despair go away, and a person realizes that there is no one to blame, they continue looking for ways to deny the reality. The most frequent question the spouses have during this phase is, “What if?”.

Drowning in the bargaining stage of divorce, a person may think that their good behavior or certain actions could change the situation and help them reconcile with their partner. Alternatively, a person may be guilt-tripping themselves, asking questions like, “What if I wasn’t that angry and pushy all the time?”

It is important to understand that constantly guilt-tipping yourself and living in illusions is pointless and will never help you recover and start a new life.


  • Depression


After going through all these difficult stages, a person eventually falls into depression. The danger of this phase lies in the fact that it starts unexpectedly – one morning, you may wake up and realize that you see no sense in even leaving your bed.

However, note that depression manifests itself in different ways. Some people do not have any power to do even the simplest chores, while others remain completely functional no matter how bad they feel.

One way or another, it is important to remember that depression is a serious health concern that requires due attention. To recover faster and live your life to the fullest, do not neglect to visit the doctor who will prescribe the treatment and give advice on a lifestyle shift.


  • Acceptance


Accepting a divorce, a person starts seeing the bright side of life. They may even feel grateful to their ex-partner for all the happy moments and experiences they brought. During this phase, an individual finally has a clear mind and enough energy to change things for the better.

Of course, it doesn’t necessarily mean that after reaching this phase, you are not devastated about the fact that your marriage is over. During the acceptance stage, you learn how to overcome this pain. But the best part is that you will also understand that you are open to new opportunities and acquaintances.


How Long Does Divorce Grief Last?


It is estimated that, on average, a grieving process for divorce, just like for any other traumatic event, lasts for 2 years. However, these estimations are rather rough since all people have specific situations and cope with grief in different ways. How long does divorce depression last? In general, the length of grief depends on the following factors:

  • Age
  • Family situation
  • Individual’s beliefs
  • Support from family and friends


The most acute period of grief lasts for a couple of months; after that, a person may feel a slight relief. Moreover, it may become worse during holidays or special dates. Mental health experts claim that an individual may experience a peak of grief in 6 months after the traumatic event took place, which, however, may decrease very fast.

Unfortunately, the cases when individuals went through grief for more than 2 years are not rare. In this case, psychologists tend to distinguish between normal and complicated grief. The problem is that normal grief may eventually turn into delayed grief after divorce, known as prolonged grief disorder. It is important for a person and their support network to acknowledge these complications and take measures.


Tips to Cope with Divorce


Even though it is normal to feel sadness after divorce, it is paramount to put effort into relieving this state. Eventually, if not treated, divorce stress symptoms may have a devastating effect on the health and general well-being of a person. Here are some effective tips for coping with divorce stress effectively:


  • Focus on Self-Care

When we are in grief, we are as vulnerable as never before. And we obviously need to take care of ourselves better than ever. If you get used to caring about others, you need to learn how to give yourself the attention you deserve.

Begin with simple things like eating balanced meals regularly, getting enough sleep, doing some physical activities, and finding hobbies that bring you joy.

Build a great habit of doing at least one thing that improves your mood every week. It can be anything – from going to a new coffee shop to getting on a small trip. By taking good care of yourself, you will nurture self-love and mend your soul.


  • Determine the Future You Want & Set Small Goals


It’s pretty hard to determine your plans and goals when you go through one of the most traumatic events of your life. However, you can now set small goals and dedicate your free time to self-reflection.

What were your aspirations when you were a kid? What did you dream of before marriage? What does it mean for you to be happy? Finding answers to these questions will help you shape the life you have always wanted.

Moreover, short-term planning is an excellent way to understand your bigger objectives. It’s a good idea to buy a planner book where you can write down some small to-do lists. After all, having a morning coffee is a plan, too.


  • Don’t Date Again Until You’re Ready


Of course, a desire to meet somebody new is a great signal that you are getting better, but it’s advisable not to rush things out. Instead, focus on your dreams, plans, and well-being until you feel less vulnerable and hurt.

Paradoxically, in order to be happy in new relationships, first of all, you need to learn how to be alone. This way, you can understand yourself better and learn not to settle for less.

Why dating someone after divorce may be a bad idea? The problem is that meeting someone new brings feelings that are not always positive. Riding an emotional rollercoaster is what you definitely do not need at this point in your life.


  • Cultivate a Strong Support System


A divorce is a challenging life event, which may lead to isolation and feelings of loneliness. But the truth is that shutting off from the world is the worst thing you could do to your healing.

Our inner strength comes from our family and friends. It’s great when you have people who always support you, listen to you, and give good advice. Moreover, if some of your close friends or family members have been in the same situation, their experience and coping strategies can be really valuable.

So, whenever you feel sad and lonely, reach out to your loved ones. Even if you cannot meet often, a sincere and warm phone conversation can brighten even the gloomiest day.


  • Look at the Bright Side of Life


Battling with sadness and depression is hard, but if you focus on this fight, eventually, you will be able to see that every cloud has a silver lining. To bring more positivity into your life, create some small rituals that will make your day nicer.

Also, it is vital to communicate with people who radiate good energy and have a positive attitude towards life. With these simple steps, you can definitely change your mindset.


  • Do not Be Afraid to Seek Help


All people are different, and everyone has their limits. If you feel you cannot cope with your emotions on your own, the best thing you can do is seek professional help.

Unfortunately, getting mental health treatment is often stigmatized in our society. However, if you feel pressured by such opinions, you must understand that nothing is more important than your happiness and well-being.


  • Avoid Conflicts with Your Ex


Indeed, sometimes, it is impossible to forgive a person for what they have done. On the other hand, there are some situations when you need to deal with your ex-spouse, especially if you have children.

The best thing you can do for your healthy interaction is not to show that you hold a grudge against them and reduce the possibility of fights as much as possible.

A path to divorce healing is never easy, but with enough dedication and a positive outlook, you will succeed and regain your happiness.

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