6 Emotional Stages Of Divorce And How To Sail Through It

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While exchanging wedding wows, you intend to be with your partner forever. But sometimes, a drastic turn in events may occur, and you may realize it is best to be separate from your partner. However, while you plan to go through a divorce, you must be aware of the different stages of divorce.

Going through separation and the process of getting a divorce could be difficult and overwhelming. You may be bogged down with feelings of grief, anger, panic, frustration, and depression. It is normal to have such thoughts; however, you must remind yourself that you will eventually emerge from this unhealthy relationship in a positive way.

Keep reading as we discuss the emotional stages of divorce and some important tips to deal with them.

Six Emotional Stages Of Divorce

These are also called six stages of grief, which you may experience after you lose a person to death, or other situations, such as divorce. The duration of each stage during the divorce proceedings may vary from one person to another based on how your relationship was, how long you were married, and the reason that led to divorce.

1. Denial

Denial or refusal is the first stage of emotion you may experience a few weeks before the divorce. In this stage, you may find it difficult to accept that you are about to be divorced. This feeling is usually a triggered defense mechanism to the shock you experience on realizing that your marriage will be over.

As you refuse to accept what’s happening, you may try to hide your feelings and refuse to express your emotions even through words. You know things are not going as planned, and your spouse’s behavior has changed. Your love and other feelings slowly fade away, leaving heaviness in your heart. That heaviness is resentment as you see your dreams crushed, and have no plan on what you are going to do after the divorce. You may feel anxious and guilty, too.

Denial is also the stage when you come closer to reality. It can be considered a powerful stage as it helps you cope with the situation. Eventually, you come out of the zone of refusal and accept what has happened or is going to happen.

2. Anger

The second emotional stage of divorce is anger, which could result in masking feelings. Anger hides your feelings of sadness and pain. You may wonder ‘How can they do this to me?’, ‘Why is it me who is always hurt?,’ ‘Life has never been fair to me.’

You tend to blame your family or friends and channel your anger in a different direction. Anger is a natural response, and it is okay to go through this stage. Let the feelings of grief come out as anger, which can help you stay grounded to reality, and, in due course, will give you the strength to overcome the pain of divorce.

At this stage, try and understand that these feelings are temporary. You can deal with your anger by crying it out, talking to somebody and expressing what you feel, writing down your thoughts, and indulging in a physical activity, like walking, running, or yoga.

3. Conflicting emotions

‘I feel good, but after some time, I cry.’

This is the emotional roller coaster stage. You may be annoyed or frustrated with the experience, but at the next moment, you become relieved or filled with hope. You may break down and then help yourself rise. Sometimes, you blame yourself for the split, and the next moment, push the blame to your partner. In short, you experience a chaotic jumble of emotions.

It is fine to feel confused like that. It occurs as you try to gauge between what you have assumed to happen in life and what is actually happening. During this stage, you may also worry about legal and financial issues related to divorce. You may have to make decisions regarding expenses, living, and parenting if you have children.

Move on and talk to trustworthy people, seek help from professionals, but don’t hold on to your emotions or isolate yourself.

4. Bargaining

You may try to negotiate with your partner or the situation, yearning to make things work in your marriage. There could be feelings of helplessness, and you could become vulnerable. The stage is called bargaining, and it gives you false hope. You may think, ‘What if I apologize?’ ‘I would do what my partner wants me to,’ or ‘I would not complain.’

You try to change yourself and compromise just to save your marriage. But remember that the threads you are using to bind the ties are too thin. Pushing things too hard with bargaining may even brunt your self-respect. Therefore, the best thing to do now is to leave the past and try to get on.

5. Depression

It is also called the silent stage of grief. After worrying, getting angry, and trying whatever you could, you finally understand that your marriage has come to an end. You would be tired of running away from people, all the emotional chaos, and now surrender to reality. But as you do so, you slowly sink into a state of morbid self-depreciation and gloom, and ultimately depression.

Depression is a difficult phase. You may feel your life is over, and there is no solution. It is an imperative stage, but remember that it is not a forever feeling. At this stage, you need to release yourself from the burden of your marital relationship.

Reach out to people; it could be family or friends. If not, you can talk to a therapist and seek help. Meditate, write, and focus on yourself, and you can gradually step out of a depressive state of mind.

6. Acceptance

The feelings and thoughts of divorce are temporary since you will reach a point when you start accepting the fact that your marriage is over. There is a solemn acceptance of the situation, and you learn to focus on the path ahead. You will understand that it’s just the end of one chapter, and it is time to begin a fresh one.

Why Is It Difficult To Get Through The Emotional Stages Of Divorce?

The answer is simple, and it is that no one who gets married ever plans on getting divorced. Most people envision married life and think of their future with children, buying a new house and other important milestones. When marrying your partner, you probably never thought that the relationship would break one day. You make your plans with your spouse in mind. You love them and build trust over the course of time.

When such a relationship comes to an end, all your dreams and plans shatter. It becomes difficult to process the thoughts of separation, broken promises, and love fading away. And that’s why getting through the emotional stages of divorce is burdensome. Nonetheless, it’s a phase that you will cross over for a new beginning.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Who suffers the most in a divorce?

While men’s suffering, be it emotionally and psychologically, as a consequence of divorce is transient, it is women’s economic burden, and suffering resulting from a divorce is long-lasting (1).

2. Why do people divorce?

There are multiple reasons for divorce, ranging from cheating, financial instability, and the burden of responsibilities to incompatibility.

3. What are the hardest years of marriage?

For most couples, the seventh and eighth years of a marriage can be tough because that is when spouses become rebellious and self-interest comes to the fore. This is the stage when arguments may trigger hasty lopsided decisions (2).

Sometimes, misunderstandings happen in a relationship, and divorce seems the only option left. Divorce can bring many emotions, which you may find difficult to deal with. Therefore, it is believed that there are six stages of divorce. Once you understand that you need a divorce, you can move on to the acceptance phase. You will understand that there is no joy in living a life of struggles. After accepting the truth, move on in your life with more zeal, indulge in new things such as going for a dance or pampering yourself, build confidence, and love your life.

Key Pointers

  • A divorce can cause tremendous emotional changes in stages, namely denial, anger, emotional conflicts, and depression.
  • Depression is the most difficult phase of divorce, and you may often feel that your life is not meaningful and often require medical help.
  • Acceptance is the way to relieve the stress since you acknowledge that now you need to start living for yourself rather than grieving the past.


MomJunction's articles are written after analyzing the research works of expert authors and institutions. Our references consist of resources established by authorities in their respective fields. You can learn more about the authenticity of the information we present in our editorial policy.
  1. Thomas Leopold; (2018); Gender Differences in the Consequences of Divorce: A Study of Multiple Outcomes.
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Shikha Thakur

Shikha is a writer-turned-associate editor at MomJunction. Having done a certification in Relationship Coaching, her core interest lies in writing articles that guide couples through their courtship to marriage and parenthood. She also specializes in baby names. Being a postgraduate in Human Resources from Jawaharlal Nehru Technological University, she likes understanding people and their relationships. This reflects in her relationship... more