Experiencing the Stages of Divorce: A Comprehensive Guide

Divorce can be a devastating and life-altering event in one's life, giving financial, emotional, and spiritual strain. You know well that divorce can impact the children, too. The 7 stages of divorce have strong similarities to the five stages of grief. Individuals experience the stages of grief following the loss (such as the death of a close one). The stages of grief are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Like phases of divorce, the stages of grief are a framework for understanding the emotional journey of individuals.

Hence, understanding the marriage dissolution and divorce stages can help you make knowledgeable decisions regarding your conflicting emotional journey and the legal aspect of separation. So, if you are facing the legal complexities regarding protecting your legal rights and interests during this emotional roller coaster ride, our family lawyers at The Complete Divorce.com can provide legal guidance while being your emotional ally.

Understanding the 7 Emotional Stages of Grief in a Divorce:

Stage 1: Denial

Denial - Stages of Divorce

You can think of denial as a protective sheet individuals put up when they first learn about divorce. As the name (denial) suggests, you deny and refuse many things happening. Spouses completely ignore warning signs of

separation, thinking that the other spouse is going through personal turmoil and the situation will be fine soon.

Actually, the individuals at the first stage of divorce feel totally bewildered and overwhelmed. Their mind struggles to accept the reality of it when the denial takes hold. They think about separation on a deepcognitive level, making it difficult for them to believe that relation will end.

In the denial phase, the people dealing with divorce manifest these specific symptoms.

● Shock

● Numbness

● Confusion

● Avoidance

● (Emotional) Shut Down

You start the marriage with a commitment of mutual love and respect, but it can be painful as you learn about separation. Denial is the natural response because you find it hard to accept the relationship is coming to an end.

Individuals get into frustration and isolation when they deny to collaborate on any future plan due to intense feelings and emotions. Thus, your relationship with your spouse worsens.

Stage 2: Fear

Fear - Stages of Divorce grief

Individuals dealing with a lot of anxieties and uncertainties in the separation process may develop an emotion called fear. In the second stage, the divorcing partners may manifest intense fears and worries related to changes that will happen. Questions like this may come into their minds: where will I live, and how will the assets be divided? What shall be the financial impact of divorce? How will friends and family treat me after divorce? The separating spouses can have these fears.

The separating spouses can have these fears.

• Fear of unknown

• Fear of financial insecurity

• Parental concerns phobia

• Terror of emotional isolation

• Fear of loss of identity

Fear is the natural part of this journey, but Identifying and curing it is crucial. If you are dealing with fear due to the separation process, you can seek support from your family and friends.

Likewise, you can treat fear through mental health professionals, psychiatrists, and support groups. They can really provide insightful ideas and practicable actions as coping mechanisms to address the fear ballooning due to the divorce process.

Stage 3: Anger

Anger - Stages of Divorce grief - Stages of Grief Divorce

After the denial and fear, the anger rises as a strong emotion during the martial separation. Feelings of betrayal, loss, failure, injustice, guilt, shame, grief, and isolation can be the product of divorce. Hence, all these feelings mixed up to bring the anger forward in both the spouses to express the pain associated with the end of a wedding.

Many individuals become angry at how things are occurring. While others who failed to stop the dissolution of marriage also agitate. It's very common for spouses to experience anger when undergoing a divorce. Because if you express anger, it can prove dangerous to the case, and if you suppress anger for the long term, it can also be lethal. Both situations appear like a double-edged sword.

Anger during the breakup phase can be towards an ex-partner, family members, oneself, or the situation. Just put the calm in this stage because any anger or violent behavior of yours can create legal problems in terms of child custody and other matters.

Anger management is crucial in all stages of life, but more so in stage 2 of divorce. Because ascending anger can have some serious repercussions concerning the legal proceedings of the process.

Stage 4: Bargaining


At number 4 comes the bargaining phase, and it is the negotiating stage. In this phase, a person may think about ways to save the relationship. During the negotiation phase, individuals can negotiate terms considering the last chance and hope to reconnect with the partner and fix the broken relations.

You question yourself and sometimes overthink the situations, too. You could approach your spouse or question the partner to save the marriage. This way, you can get rid of many other problems, such as blame, fear, anxiety, and shame.

The individuals may question themselves in this phase. Following are the (what-if) questions that can pop up into their mind.

● What if I had tried harder to save the relations?

● What if I change my approach?

● How can I make the situation better and in my favor?

● What if I never cheat again on my spouse?

While bargaining, many individuals also meet rejections when they summon the courage to heal their relationships. This situation could also cause isolation and other intense feelings.

Therefore, it is highly mandatory to approach this stage with realism, factuality, objectivity, and acceptance. And it will help you know that you cannot control everything, which can heal you from the trauma.

While the support from friends and family during this phase can be a breakthrough. They may advise you on some important problems concerning separation. For instance, what are your interests, and how will equitable divorce be helpful to you?

Stage 5: Depression


In the depression stage, individuals during divorce may feel helpless and hapless. You may have shared great experiences, time, and years with your spouse. But, when you realize that no way has left to save the relationship with your spouse and your tomorrow will be different than what you have planned, the monster of depression comes. Individuals may feel despair, sadness, emptiness, and numbness.

Nerve-breaking depression for a spouse having children can be a little bit more difficult. In this case, you need to talk to their school educators and tell them the entire scenario. This way, you can normalize a situation a bit. Along with it, also get therapy counseling for them.

Further, the situation of depression can also lead to a loss of interest or pleasure in the activities that you used to enjoy once as partners. Depression in the event of marriage dissolution is normal and heals with time. But you cannot ignore your emotional and physical well-being. Therefore, you can take temporary medications to cope with depression. Or, you can reach out for support from trusted friends and family members to deal with the depression.

However, for unending and extreme levels of depression, consulting with a mental health clinician or therapist is crucial. Following are the common signs of gloomy depression

● Hopelessness

● Negative self-beliefs and thoughts

● Loss of interest in social activities

● Change in sleep and appetite patterns

● Increased dependence on alcohol and drugs

Stage 6: Acceptance


The acceptance stage restores and heals the individuals who have gone through the denial, fear, anger, bargaining, and depression stage. In this letting go stage, the separating partner accepts that he or she can live as a single parent or person in the event of separation.

So, let's delve more into the contextual meaning of acceptance. Acceptance may not mean that you have completely accepted the end of a relationship, but it implies that you want to adapt and embrace the realities of the event.

To cut it short, at the letting go stage, many people get clarity, and they start living once again. This stage does not come at once. You start accepting different aspects of separation slowly. You feel relaxed and can set new hobbies, read a book, see some old friends and movies, etc. All this gives a sense of pleasure and empowerment.

Following are the signs of acceptance and letting go stage:

● Feeling of self-compassion

● Learning to adapt

● Becoming mindful and tolerant

● letting go of resentment

Stage 7: Rebuilding and Moving On


The 7th stage of an emotional divorce process is rebuilding and moving on. Rebuilding is the self-reflection stage, and you start looking for new opportunities to rediscover your identity, interests, and goals.

In short, you develop the sense of moving forward with life. However, it does not mean that you completely get rid of all emotional scars in the rebuilding stage. But it means that you start building some new relations and try to find happiness independently.

Following are the main characteristics that individuals may exhibit during the 7th separation stage.

• Renewing identity

• Cultivating self-care

• Building new relations

• Gaining independence

• Learning from the past emotional experience


Divorce can be a challenging rollercoaster ride mentally and emotionally. There are 7 different stages of divorce such as denial, fear, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance, and rebuilding. Understanding these 7 phases of separation helps individuals in managing anger, physical and emotional health, and some serious litigation matters that can be linked to divorce.

Also, you cannot predict how long each stage will last for individuals. Recovery from divorce is a personal and emotional factor and depends upon the pace of the legal process, too.

However, the 7 stages of separation usually last for 1.5 to 2 years. The rise and fall of explosive emotions during the journey can make you feel stuck in life.

Hence, it is recommended to lean on support from your friends, family, mental health professionals, and spiritual healers. For the legal process and protection of your rights, talking to the family attorney is a must factor to win legally and emotionally.

Frequently Asked Questions for Stages of Divorce

Q: What Are the Different Phases of Divorce?

There are a total 7 phases or stages of divorce, and they are:

1. Denial

2. Fear

3. Anger

4. Bargaining

5. Depression

6. Acceptance

7. Rebuilding and Moving on

However, not every individual dealing with divorce will go through each stage sequentially. The individuals may go back and forth between different stages during the separation.

How Long Do the Stages of Divorce Last?

There is no fixed timeline or period that how long each phase of divorce lasts. The separation process is different for every individual. However, mostly, the grieving process of divorcing partners usually ends within 1.5 to 2 years.

How Do You Overcome Divorce?

There can be no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. You know that divorce is a personal and individual experience. Therefore, the coping mechanism to overcome it can be different. To overcome separation catastrophe, you can take these steps:

● Seek legal advice from Family lawyers

● Avoid isolation

● Engage in self-care

● Embrace the changes

● Get help from medical health professionals

● Seek support from family or friend

● Focus on the future and a new beginning

● Practice stress reduction

Where Should I Seek Support during Divorce?

You can consider the following options to maintain your emotional and physical well-being during the 5 stages of separation.

● Family

● Close friends

● Spiritual Counselors

● Mediation Coaches

● Psychotherapeutic Professionals

● Relationship/Marriage Support Groups (Divorce Club or Local Online Support Group)