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The Emotional Stages of Divorce

Going through a divorce is rated as one of the most stressful life events. Although people may respond differently to divorce, there is a set of common, emotional stages that most individuals progress through during the divorce process. It is clear to those of us who have litigated many divorces and provided divorce mediation for many more, that the stages of divorce are similar to those experienced when mourning the death of a loved one. In fact, ending a marriage is akin to experiencing a death. Just as you would morn the loss of a family member, you will find that you will mourn the loss of your marriage. You may not expect this, but it is natural.

The end of your marriage results in the loss of many of your hopes and dreams such as growing old with your mate, sharing the growth and development of your children, and traveling together when you retire. Once the marriage ends, holiday celebrations will change, your financial situation will change, and you'll spend less time with your children if you have shared custody. All of the wishes that you had for your marriage end when the marriage ends. It's a very painful and traumatic life event.

In divorce mediation, it is important to recognize the emotional stages of divorce. At Montclair Divorce Mediation we are able to help couples better understand what they are feeling and how to manage their emotions and expectations throughout the divorce mediation process. It is not uncommon to repeat stages, get stuck at a stage for a prolonged period of time, or even have the stages overlap. It's normal to feel helpless and to feel fear and anger towards your prior mate. During those periods when the storm clouds are overhead and you feel there's no end to your suffering, remember to remain hopeful. The good news is that eventually you will heal, and be able to create a new life for yourself.

This is usually the first response to the news that your marriage is ending. At this point, you are not ready to accept the fact that your marriage is over. You may think that if you don't respond to your spouse's actions, ignore his or her transgressions and simply refuse to recognize and respond to the situation, it will go back to the old ways and better times.

During this stage, you'll feel panic, rage, and dread. You'll feel very anxious about your future and fear ending up alone. You'll also be worried about your immediate and long-term financial security. The rage you experience is likely from the result of feeling abandoned by your partner. You will have a hard time understanding why he or she decided unilaterally to end your anticipated future together. There may be times when the feeling of sadness combined with intense anger overwhelms you as you contemplate the broken promises and then, what's going to happen to me.

This is the period in which you will experience dramatic swings from utter despair to heightened hope about saving your marriage. You're up one minute and down the next. Depression is a real danger at this stage and you may find that your emotions are very close to the surface, especially sadness and anger. There is a tendency at this stage where you may find yourself verbally attacking others or having crying sessions without fully realizing your actions. You will try to understand why and how the marriage could possibly end. The thoughts of “if only I could figure out what to do now and could have done” then race through your mind throughout the sleepless nights. It is very important during this stage that you may need to seek professional therapy to help you make sense of what's occurring.

You're still hopeful that the marriage will work. You're willing to do almost anything to keep the marriage together and you believe that your spouse will come back. You will spend a great deal of time and energy thinking about how to keep the marriage alive and make it better. You're certain that if you do the right things perhaps alter your appearance or promise to change in some other way you can still save your marriage. Women at this stage may try dieting, getting makeovers, dressing differently or even more drastic measures to try and woo their husbands back. Men may try to become the romantic and send flowers, greeting cards and expressing remorse and sympathetic pleas hoping for another chance. However, it is important for you to realize and learn that you have no control over your partner's actions and feelings.  

During this stage, you accept the fact that your marriage is over and that there is nothing more that you can do to change the situation. You begin to look forward to building a new life for yourself. You commence trying new hobbies, taking better care of yourself and realize that there is life after divorce and you're excited about creating it. Any self destructive habits formed during the earlier stages are curtailed or stopped. You begin to view the marriage differently and see how some of your actions led to the breakdown of the marriage and how you're both responsible for the marital discord that arose between the two of you. This is real progress happening. You will begin to feel a sense of liberation and hope for the future.

Keep this list of the emotional stages of divorce somewhere where you can access it easily so you know where you are and where you are going.

Montclair Divorce Mediation, Montclair, NJ is dedicated to the divorce mediation process. We can help divorcing couples avoid the most difficult part of divorce - litigation. The divorce mediation process will not negate the stages of divorce, but in all successful cases, it does make the entire divorce process far less painful emotionally and financially.

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