Untying the Knot? You Need To Unravel the Emotional Stages of Divorce

    woman-struggling-with-emotional-stages-of-divorce6 Min Read


    Divorce is a word that carries the weight of shattered dreams and unfulfilled hope.

    As much as we’d rather believe all married couples live happily ever after, it just doesn’t happen for many. For those going through them, the emotional stages of divorce can be incredibly difficult and confusing, leaving you feeling vulnerable and exhausted.

    And just as no two marriages are alike, the emotional stages of divorce vary from person to person as well. There are common threads weave through the experiences of those facing divorce, however.


    These are just a few of the landmark feelings experienced during the emotional stages of divorce.

    Because the turmoil of divorce can be overwhelming, understanding the most commonly experienced emotional stages is crucial for effectively navigating through divorce.

    Typical Emotional Stages Experienced In Divorce

    Despite the many commonalities of emotions experienced during divorce, the degree to which each stage is experienced depends on how ready a person is to move on.


    Some go into a divorce, hoping it’s all a bad dream. They may still be in love with their partner and hold on to the hope that at some point, they’ll hear,

    Never mind, this was all a huge mistake. Let’s try again.”

    Others may approach divorce as an opportunity for a fresh start. They may have been looking forward to the autonomy of being single and think divorce is a means to a new life.

    Regardless of the feelings going into it, everyone will experience a range of emotions as a divorce progresses.

    Generally, the emotions during a divorce progress in the following stages:

    • Shock. At the beginning, individuals are often in shock.

    I can’t believe this is happening! I didn’t know he was this unhappy!”

    • Fear. The thought of such an upheaval in your life and change to what you imagined as your future to can be terrifying.

    “OMG! What am I going to do? I can’t live without him!”

    • Denial. Shock and denial can occur simultaneously. Some have a blasé, this-won’t-actually-happen attitude. This may be fueled by the desire to keep things normal for children and not alarm them. Acting normally and as though nothing’s happening can also be part of an effort to ignore reality. Denial is a coping mechanism.

    • Anger and Blame. As reality sinks in, feelings of anger and resentment may emerge. Blaming one another for the failure of the marriage is typical during this stage.

    She’s such a bitch, this is all her fault!”


    Why are you doing this to us? Do you know what you’re doing to the children?”

    • Bargaining. During this stage, individuals may try to salvage the marriage by making promises to change or improve aspects of themselves. They might also attempt to negotiate with their ex-spouse, hoping to find a resolution that allows them to stay together.

    • Sadness and Depression. As the divorce becomes more real, the emotional weight can cause profound sadness and depression. The loss of a marriage, family dynamic, changes in living arrangements, and lifestyle can cause these emotions to be intense.

    • Acceptance. Eventually, individuals begin to accept the reality of divorce. This stage involves coming to terms with the end of the marriage and acknowledging that the future will be different.

    • Rebuilding. In this stage, individuals focus on building a new life. They may invest in personal growth, explore new interests, establish a new network of friends and family, and start dating.

    It’s important to note that not everyone experiences these stages linearly or sequentially. People might move back and forth between stages, experience them in different orders, or skip some stages altogether.

    Additionally, the intensity and duration of each stage can vary widely from person to person

    Which Emotional Stage Of Divorce Is The Most Difficult?

    The most difficult emotional stage of divorce depends on the person, as each individual’s experience is unique. However, for many people, the sadness and depression stage can be particularly challenging.


    This stage often occurs after the initial shock, anger, and denial have subsided, and the reality of the divorce sinks in.

    During the sadness and depression stage, individuals may grapple with feelings of,

    • Loss

    • Loneliness

    • Failure

    They may mourn not only the end of their marriage, but also the dreams and plans they had for their future with their partner.

    Coping with,

    • New living arrangements

    • Financial adjustments

    • Relationships with children

    also contribute to feelings of overwhelming sadness.

    In addition, depression and sadness often lead to a lack of motivation and an inability to find joy in activities they once loved. A person may even withdraw from social interactions. Eventually a person may isolate themselves, which will compound the loneliness and loss of their partner.

    The emotional pain can be intense, and some might feel they’ll never fully recover from the grief. Support from friends, family, or a counselor can be crucial during this stage in order to prevent getting stuck here.

    Coping With The Emotional Stages Of Divorce

    Dealing with the emotional stages of divorce is a deeply personal journey. There’s generally no clear right or wrong way to go about things.

    But determining the best way to cope with the many complicated and surprising feelings that occur as you go through the stages of divorce can be overwhelming.


    The following tried and true strategies may help you cope with the emotional rollercoaster of feelings during this time.

    • Acknowledge your feelings. Recognizing and accepting your emotions is essential rather than trying to suppress or deny them. Allowing yourself to experience the full range of feelings, including sadness, anger, fear, and confusion, will help you manage them better.
      It’s important to understand that all of these emotions are a natural part of the healing process.

    • Seek support. Reach out to friends and family or a support group to talk about your feelings. A network of people who can listen without judgment can provide comfort and validation.

    • Practice self-care. Taking care of yourself is crucial. This means engaging in activities that promote physical and emotional health, such as exercise, healthy eating, sufficient sleep, and can include relaxation techniques like meditation or yoga.

    • Reset expectations. Healing from a divorce is a gradual process, and having good and bad days is normal. Be patient with yourself and give yourself time to heal and grow.

    • Limit contact with your ex. Reducing contact with your ex-spouse can help minimize unnecessary emotional triggers.

    • Focus on the future. Instead of dwelling on the past, try to look ahead and envision the positive possibilities of a new chapter in your life. Set goals and take small steps towards rebuilding your life and creating an optimistic future for yourself.

    • Stay social. While taking time for yourself is essential, isolation can exacerbate feelings of sadness and loneliness. Stay socially connected with friends and family to maintain emotional support, including in person, not solely online.

    • Practice forgiveness. Forgiving your ex and yourself can be a decisive step towards healing. It doesn’t mean condoning hurtful actions but rather freeing yourself from the weight of resentment and anger.

    • Be kind to yourself. Divorce can lead to feelings of self-doubt and low self-esteem. Remind yourself that you’re not defined by divorce and be compassionate to yourself during this time.

    • Consider professional help. Don’t hesitate to seek the guidance of a therapist or counselor. A mental health professional can offer valuable coping strategies, provide a safe space to process your emotions, and support and guide you as you navigate the emotional stages of your divorce.

    Dr. Kurt works with couples and individuals weekly who are dealing with divorce. His advice is,

    I tell people I'm counseling through a divorce that it's both a rollercoaster ride and a marathon. While a rollercoaster is a great way to describe the emotional ups and downs, in reality there aren't a lot of ups. Just varying degrees of downs with some let ups in between. The ups typically don't come until after the divorce is final, but even then it can be a while before most people feel normal again. So, understanding the emotional stages that come with divorce and learning how to manage your way through them is crucial for your sanity and to eventually get past them. Most of us know a bitter divorced person who's still stuck in them. Please don't become another one."

    Remember, everyone’s journey through divorce’s emotional stages will differ, which means how you cope will also be. But over time, with effort, patience, and support, you can emerge stronger and more resilient.

    What To Take Away

    Divorce is a highly emotional process regardless of whether you wanted or didn’t want it. And no one avoids the difficulty of processing it.


    As you’re moving through the stages, keep the following in mind:

    • There’s no right or wrong way to experience the emotions associated with divorce. Nor is there a right or wrong order to experience them.

    • Be careful of the advice you receive from others who’ve gone through a divorce. Everyone's experience is different. The fact that your experience is different from theirs doesn’t make you strange, heartless, or anything other than you.

    • You must cope with your feelings as you move through the stages. Coping comes in many forms. Use what works for best you.

    • Counseling can help you cope with the feelings associated with divorce and facilitate the healing process.

    Divorce is never easy. It’s a sad end to a journey that started with love, hope, and promises.

    No matter how you feel about your soon-to-be ex, they were a prominent part of your life.

    Leaving them behind and experiencing the above emotional stages of divorce as a result is normal. Know you’re not alone. Many others before you have gone through the same emotions, got past them, and are living happy lives on the other side.


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