Divorce can initiate circumstances that may cause you to feel like your life is off-balance. You may wonder if you'll ever feel like yourself again.  It's a personal journey that eventually may provide a greater understanding of yourself & others. 

It may help to know the specific Stages of Divorce you may experience along the way.   When you complete these stages, you should be moving towards becoming a healthier and happier person.  Isn't that the point of getting divorced?

Us, you and me

During the process of divorce, each person goes through a series of emotional stages while reestablishing their renewed identity without the other.  It can be extremely challenging before, during and after the process until eventually each person is single (legally and emotionally).

How you experience each stage of divorce is specific to your situation and personality.  Based on these varied circumstances, the time it takes to process your emotional pain from your divorce will also vary a great deal from person-to-person.  While you may confide in others for emotional guidance, advice and support, you own your pain, grief and anger. You are the only one who can expel these emotions.

In order to accept your divorce and it's corresponding elements, it's important to know and understand the stages you will experience before, during and after.  Unfortunately, many of us stay in the beginning stages of divorce well after the divorce has been settled. 

Stages of Divorce 

Stage 1

Denial & Shock - You may have heard or said the words that divorce is the only option, but in your heart and mind you still can't accept it.  It's a brand new concept and the overwhelming changes haven't sunk in yet.

Stage 2

Anger, Blame and Sadness - These emotions are the emotions that start to sever your attachment to your spouse.  They begin with anger and blame.  They develop into sadness and mourning.  As noted above, we all experience them differently, but they are strong emotions that begin before you emotionally end your marriage and continue throughout your divorce.  These emotions occur for multiple reasons specific to each spouse and married couple.

Stage 3

Multipolar - This is a stage where you can't seem to get your bearings.  You bounce from one emotion to another and start looking for ways to stabilize your life.  While some are only slightly affected by this stage, many of us experience a great deal of conflicting emotions that are further disrupted by drastic changes in housing, family, physical relations and financial hardships.  It is a dangerous time that can include poor decision making, bad habits and atypical behavior.

Stage 4

Regression - Ending your marriage takes a great deal of your identity.  It isn't unusual to rebound away from a committed relationship toward a "less mature self" and misperception of responsibility or goals.  You may also gravitate toward the behaviors and choices your former spouse disliked.  This stage can be a false sense of "anew".  You may still be experiencing denial that this is a permanent change or conversely wish you would have not remained in a bad relationship as long as you did.

Stage 5

Hope - This stage surfaces when the world seems to reject you and your new single life. You may feel apologetic or develop feelings towards your former spouse that make you want to get back together. You reflect on the loss and problems the divorce is responsible for inducing.  You develop ideas and ways to reconcile despite the toxicity of the relationship.  Some couples go through many break-ups that reach this point only to reconcile without addressing the problems.  This can cause the couple to repeat a viscous cycle of "near ending" separations that are painful and degenerative of a healthy marriage.

Stage 6

Let go - All the anger and sadness, the mixed emotions, changes in lifestyle, home & money have come to a head.  You have severed your feelings for your spouse & marriage.  Now, like a handfull of balloons, you have to let it all go.  One by one or all at once is dependent on you.  As much as it seems like the hard part is behind you, letting go can be the hardest thing to do. 

It's not uncommon to hoard all this pain and anguish.  You keep it in front of you like a barrier to any such thing or person that could possibly cause you to experience such hardship again.  However, in doing so, it blocks you from experiencing true happiness and personal growth.  It makes you bitter and depressed to hold onto your experience from your divorce.  Letting go is an essential stage for all divorcees and sometimes the hardest to get passed.

Stage 7

Acceptance - Your life has changed.  You've let go of the major feelings that prevented you from experiencing a "better life".  You've accepted what you've lost, acknowledged new opportunities and initiated a plan to achieve the "new normal" in your life.  You continue to develop lasting relationships and have fewer negative thoughts of your former spouse, your divorce or your past.  When negative feelings arise, you have an action plan in place to help you acknowledge and attend to the problem that initiated such feelings.  You no longer see your life through the window of the past. 

You are ready to let go of "letting go" in an effort to add more of what you need to be happy and truly move forward.  You continue to realize positive changes in your life and are dedicated to building upon these changes to achieve personal happiness.

You may not be affected by every stage, but it's important to be aware of the grief cycle that many people experience when affected by a divorce.  Hopefully, it can help you understand why you feel as you do and know that you're not alone.

How long is too long?

While it's common to not complete the Stages of Divorce until after the divorce is final, it's important to recognize if you get stuck in a specific stage and are unable to continue the emotional journey.

When this happens, it's recommended you seek a professional counselor or therapist who may be able to help you identify and cope with the problems that prevent you from moving forward.  Find a counselor here.



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