If you're like most people, you know about the five stages of grief. Many people associate these stages strictly with the death of a loved one, but there are many ways people grieve and express that grief. In a way, divorce is a death. It's the death of a relationship. It's the death of the vision you had for your life. Let's call it divorce grief.
As such, it's hardly any surprise if you find yourself in the classic five stages of grief as you process the radical change. Understanding these stages is key to getting through them.
Denial, or Everything is Fine
The marriage is in trouble. One or both partners recognize this. However, they will not act on this information. They will instead pretend that everything is fine, or even hope that the problems will go away on their own.
Denial can manifest in other ways as well. If the request for a divorce is a surprise, they might not accept that the marriage is over. A divorce is a big change, and the loss of normalcy can be especially devastating.
As denial can impact court proceedings, it's important to surround yourself with friends, family, and the right family law attorney during this stage.
Anger, or Everything is Their Fault
After denial comes anger, and in a divorce, this can be especially messy.
In this stage, everything is fair game. Couples will begin to perform an autopsy of the relationship to see where it went wrong, and weaponize their findings against one another. It's not always rational or correct, and it can be destructive.
While often targeted at the other person, anger can also be self-aimed. If children are involved, the parent requesting the divorce may experience bouts of anger and guilt that they are dividing the family. They might also be angry with themselves for not trying harder or for giving up.
Anger is powerful, but in cases like this, it's usually acute. A reaction to the sudden shift your life is taking.
Bargaining, or Maybe I Overreacted
Once anger has calmed, couples may find themselves further examining what went wrong in their relationship. If the incidents that drove them to consider divorce were really as bad as they made them out to be. Could things be done differently? Is reconciliation possible?
During this stage, partners might find themselves making promises that are well-intentioned, but unrealistic. It's the first time they truly consider what life is going to be like once they are no longer together.
Depression, or What Have I Done?
Even if you know divorce is right for you, that doesn't magically make it easy to get through. Human emotions are complex and often contradictory. No matter how you look at it, a major part of your life is over. Even feelings of relief can be bittersweet, or tinged with sadness.
There is also a lot of pressure, both internal and external, to remain composed during the act of divorce itself. The stress of needing to maintain poise can likewise be difficult to negotiate. Helplessness, loss, and the sensation of being overwhelmed are all very common.
Make sure you have a robust support system in place to help you navigate the myriad of conflicting feelings you're likely to experience as your divorce is finalized.
Acceptance, or I Did the Right Thing
It can take a while to get there, but eventually, the light at the end of the tunnel will take the place of the tunnel itself. The life you start to build post-divorce will become familiar rather than foreign. You will get used to being without your former partner. You will think more clearly and know what you want to accomplish for yourself in all the areas that matter the most—personal, professional, and financial.
As with grief, these steps aren't always experienced in order, and progress is not always linear. It's extremely common to volley between phases. Don't expect your emotional state to be neat, orderly, or logical. Rely on your support system, including your divorce attorney. You'll get to the other side.
If you are considering divorce, call the Bruce Galloway Law Offices. We will help you as you begin to discover your new normal.