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Seven Stages of Divorce – Denial, Shock and more

Seven Stages of Divorce – Denial, Shock and more

Updated on May 27, 2022 | Published on February 13, 2020
Reviewed by Julianne Cantarella, MSW, LSW, Certified Relationship Coach
7 Stages of Divorce – Denial, Shock and More

In contemporary society, like marriage, divorces are also becoming fairly common. In the US, about 40 to 50 percent of couples seek divorce.

While one is taught about many things about life, such as how to make friends, find love, marriage, by family and friends. This helps one to make choices and navigate through each phase of life.

One thing that no one talks about is how to cope with separation from spouse or Divorce. Like marriage, Divorce is a fact.

When one parts away from one’s partner, they go through emotional stages of grief divorce. No one tells the couple that the divorce process can be stressful and draining.

Indeed, not all these separations are smooth and leave partners emotionally searching for answers. Legal separation of the couple can be and is complicated and harrowing.

A person undergoing separation has to undergo various emotions during the stages of Divorce, which no one prepares. Couples have to accept, settle for, and dis-entangle before moving ahead and moving on when they decide to Divorce.

Before we discuss stages of Divorce, it may be noted that how any couple takes the breakdown of marriage depends on many things, such as age, gender, family support, social circle, economic status, children, and their custody.

The level of emotions involved in maintaining the relationship. It may also mean that marriage counseling too failed.   

Seven Stages of Divorce Infographic

Seven Stages of Divorce – Denial, Shock and more
Seven Stages of Divorce – Denial, Shock and more

Seven Different ‘Stages of Grief Divorce’

Summary – When a couple decides to seek separation, the couple has to announce the decision to their near ones, look for divorce lawyers, make adjustments, and open up for newer changes. This process of seeking legal separation is nothing short of an emotional roller coaster.  

Couples react to Divorce differently, and depending on the overall lifestyle and state of mental health; they will be subjected to the effects of Divorce.

Divorce can impact the life of a person vehemently, leading to the development of negative emotions. Separation leads to a string of problems, which include – serious marital discord, financial and social issues, single parenting, severe losses, or all of them at once. 

Emotional response to Divorce, as a result, is variable. Developing a positive attitude and making oneself ready for the different stages of Divorce helps to cope with this phase of life in a much better way.

So, here, we are listing the stages of Divorce, to help someone to tide over the process.

The Different ‘Stages of Divorce’

The process of Divorce can be divided into seven different stages. Each stage will require its own coping mechanism. The impact of each step might spill into the next stage.

Going through each phase of Divorce leads to negative thinking, mentality, and understanding of the situation uniquely among the people. 

Stage 1 of Divorce – Denial

The first stage of Divorce is Denial. Couples on the verge of formal separation find it difficult and challenging to believe that the marital bond has broken. They refuse to accept and understand that the marriage does not exist anymore and will soon come to an end.

They try to act and behave in a manner that makes them believe, denial will improve the situation. At this stage, people are convinced or like to think that Divorce is not the solution for their troubled marriage.

Denial is the tool that people use to stay away from the existing reality. People are not ready for Divorce at this phase.

Stage 2 of Divorce – Anger

This is a stage when you blame a person or circumstances for all your suffering. And couples often blame their partners.

So for “lack of happening social life,” “all kinds of controls,” “denial of freedom,” and the ever-growing list of complaints, you would need a mental “punching bag.” There is anger because the decision to divorce might not be mutual. It may have been imposed on you.

If the denial is an attempt to cope with the crisis, anger is a way to mask the effect of fall out.

For some, this anger can be short-lived; for others, they might need to make an extra conscious effort to come out of this blame game. 

Stage 3 of Divorce – Shock

The legal separation is an intense decision that can lead to nothing more than shock. The wife or husband or both experience tremendous stress between the thought that their marriage is over and optimism that makes them believe it can still be restored.

The feeling is almost impossible, and most people find it challenging to deal with the shock.

The shock is much more because people find it overwhelming to think that they will lead their life alone now. The thought of survival after the divorce clouds the mind’s ability to think positively.

However, these thoughts are temporary and can be dealt with positively if people take the help of the right means. The shock is a critical stage of Divorce. 

Stage 4 of Divorce – Emotional Roller Coaster

Depression is one of the significant outcomes of Divorce. Depression can take over a person’s emotional and physical health in a severe manner.

The continuous swing between positive and negative emotions can tear people apart. At this stage, a lot of people experience a change in their lifestyle.

They are continually thinking about the reasons which initiated the Divorce and, at the same time, trying to make themselves believe that this was the right decision.

These continuous stages of grief lead to a lot of problems in a couple’s life who are going through a divorce. It can lead to destructive and dejected thoughts.

Many people take the entire blame on themselves, and that leads to even more pressure in their minds. It is undoubtedly a rollercoaster at this stage of Divorce.

Stage 5 of Divorce – Bargaining

In the fifth emotional stage of Divorce, people still believe that their marriage can survive, and the idea of Divorce is not the ultimate solution.

A strong will to change oneself for the sake of the wedlock comes over. People might discuss and try to convince their spouse over the idea of transforming themselves to help their marriage sustain. People tend to lose control over their rational thinking, desires, and actions.

As a result, people are moody, pessimistic, and gloomy at this stage. The sense of bargaining with their spouse to not break the marital bond is overwhelming.

They feel a sense of responsibility for themselves to save the marriage. The thought of bargaining stays for the long term with the one who did not want a divorce when compared to the other person who chose to undergo Divorce.

Stage 6 of Divorce – Letting go

This is the stage when people start to realize, slowly but steadily, that the marriage is over and there’s nothing to save.

They lose the feeling of positivity and start to make themselves believe that there is nothing that can be done to change that. People come close to reality.

A sense of self-consciousness comes over. A person finds out their faults, which lead to the situation. A sense of liberation is what people experience at this stage of the Divorce.

People will start to think about the future that lies after the separation, and a lot of them start working for the betterment of their life.

Stage 7 of Divorce – Acceptance

The final stage of the divorcing process is acceptance. The obsession of saving the marriage is now long gone, and people are not thinking about the relationship anymore.

They accept the reality whole-heartedly to try to move on and lead a better life. They accept the mental and physical separation they undergo.

At this stage, people are much more open to develop new interests and experience new ideas, which will help them move on from the topic and divert their minds from the past relationship.

The pain and stress of Divorce to fade away, but the time it takes to overcome it will vary from person to person. It depends on a lot of things happening in their life after Divorce.

So, here are seven different stages of Divorce which a person experiences.

Divorce can be a stressful, draining, and regrettable incident that may occur in someone’s life due to the several underlying situations which lead to it. One cannot take the blame for everything. 

Why Do Couples Grieve After Divorce?

Even though Divorce is a result of a mutual understanding between two individuals, then why do they enter depression or grief? There are three reasons which lead to it –  

Still in love or can’t let go

The prevalent and first reason for grief during the stages of a divorce or after it is because the couple is still in love. The sense of attachment tends to linger for a long time in many cases.

It leads to a sense of melancholy and depression. People feel alone and left out; the absence of their loved one is overwhelming many times. 

Dependant on their spouse

For a long time, a person’s spouse was the one on whom they would rely and count on. Most people become a lot dependent in different ways – emotional, physical, financial, etc.

The sudden absence of the man or wife tends to affect the lifestyle of a spouse seriously. The thought of leaving out a person who was always supportive, can fill a person with grief and sorrow big time.

Major changes in lifestyle

Regardless of whether the relationship was stable from the beginning or not, Divorce means that a person will have to compromise on the lifestyle they had in mind or were leading until recently.

Adjusting to the new means of lifestyle can be difficult for a lot of people and especially for those who were much more dependent on the other person in various aspects of life.

These are the three main reasons which lead to stages of grief and disappointment among spouses during the process or after Divorce.

It may be long term, but some people can also get over it soon if they can move on positively.

Closing Thoughts

Divorce is an existing reality in our society, of crumbling trust, bond, and much more. It is challenging to pin why things failed and could not survive.

Whether the divorce is a wanted or unwanted step, one must learn to live with reality if separation knocks on your door.

The stages of Divorce are difficult and albeit stressful. But it is good if both man and wife learn to move on and think positively during this particular period in their life.

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