The Emotional Stages of Divorce

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Written by Debra Schoenberg

If you’re going through a divorce, you may be feeling a rollercoaster of emotions. The decision to end a relationship can be traumatic and depressing not only because you have to deal with the legal and financial aspects of the process itself, but also the fact that life as you know it has completely changed. Some stages are common for people to go through and some may find that they are comparable to the stages that someone goes through when a loved one passes away. The emotional stages of divorce include:


In the early stages of the divorce process, it is common for spouses to feel guilt and denial. In some ways, people use denial as a coping mechanism. In this stage people may pretend everything is okay rather than face the overwhelming emotions, however, it’s important to realize that this is more than just a phase. The spouse who filed for divorce may start to feel guilty for initiating the process while the other partner may feel like the situation is being blown out of proportion. Refusing to face reality is only going to extend your stay in the denial phase and prolong the feeling of negative emotions.


After you come to terms that the divorce process is starting, you may experience anger. Anger is a normal emotion in a stressful situation and now can be the time to release some of those emotions you suppressed in the denial phase. In this stage you’re looking for someone to blame, and may feel a lot of negative emotions towards your spouse and anyone who may be on their side. Expressing anger to your soon to be ex-spouse may only lead to prolonged, emotional proceedings that will ultimately leave you emotionally drained.


Bargaining is a last attempt at coming to terms with the decision of divorcing. At this stage, people might think they still have hope that you can save their marriage, and are willing to do anything it takes to hold onto your spouse, even if it means changing who they are. This is the stage where you come to learn that you are not capable of controlling the emotions, thoughts or behaviors of other people, and the spouse who initiated the divorce may start examining whether or not they made the right decision.


Once the bargaining stage has passed, the realization that the relationship is over starts to sink in and feelings of sadness and loneliness can be consuming. No matter what the reason for divorce is, it’s common to feel depressed about the loss of your relationship, but try not to face it alone. This is the time to call your friends and family for support to help you cope with what you are feeling. If the thought of that makes you uncomfortable, you can also try talking to a therapist where you are free to vent all of your emotions without judgment.


There may still be feelings of sadness and regret, but this is when you finally start to feel hope that there is light at the end of the tunnel and moving on with your life might be for the best. Acceptance allows you to regain a sense of power and control and enables people to prepare for the new chapter in their life. For many people, acceptance may come within a couple of months or a few years, and they’ll be able to move forward and embrace their strengths and realize that there is such a thing as life after divorce.

There is no right or wrong way to cope with the wave of emotions that may hit when you are coping with a divorce, but understanding all the stages you may go through will be beneficial when it comes to your decision making process. It may be challenging at first, but being aware and understanding the obstacles is an important step toward ensuring that you make the best choices you can. The attorneys at SFLG understand the emotional pressure that each stage brings and have experience helping clients throughout the divorce process. If you find yourself going through this situation, finding the right lawyer for you can make all the difference.

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