The 7 Stages of Divorce: What to Expect & How to Master

There’s no other way to say it: divorce sucks. And when most people think of the “grieving process” for divorce they think about just getting “over it”. But it’s much more scientific and deliberate than that. The psychological and emotional stages of divorce help prep and give focus to all the feelings you’re experiencing. If you’re in the middle of a divorce, prepare yourself with this list of 7 stages of divorce so you can manage the process much easier.


The 7 Stages Of Divorce: What To Expect &Amp; How To Master

Denial

One of the initial stages of divorce is denial. You’re probably going to be shocked and not believe you’re getting a divorce. Even if you’ve been struggling to decide for over a year, or you’re even the one serving the papers, it’s normal to feel stunned by the reality of it all. Sometimes it hits when it’s time to hire a lawyer or have a discussion about child custody. But it’s inevitable that the shock will come, and it’s usually the first in the stages of divorce for the initiator and the reactor.

Many individuals will often protect themselves from the pain of it all by living in denial. Even if you’ve been considering it for an extended period of time, you may just not be 100% emotionally ready. But don’t fret. Most people go through this.

Once it’s been decided that divorce is on the horizon, it’s a great idea to bring close friends and family members – even if it’s just one or two – into the loop for that extra support and comfort. It’s also a great time to search for a therapist or a divorce group. Any support is a great support during this time.

The 7 Stages Of Divorce: What To Expect &Amp; How To Master

Fear

Once denial has had its moment initially, step two in the seven stages of divorce starts to rear its ugly head: fear. The anxiety of it all, the fear of the unknown is normal, and no one is immune. The best way to be prepared? Know it’s coming and that it’s normal.

The fear stems from really just not knowing exactly how the divorce is going to play out. You might be worrying about who will live where, or if your ex-spouse will fight for most custody, and of course, finances. There’s plenty to worry about, but remember – it’s all normal.

READ MORE: Dating Life After the Divorce: Why it’s Easier to Find a Partner Than You Might Think

The best way to deal with fear? Well, ironically, really just not dealing with it. Focusing on the “right now” and what you’re able to control currently is really the best course of action. Take everything one day at a time, and leave all the worrying for when decisions need to be made.

The 7 Stages Of Divorce: What To Expect &Amp; How To Master

Anger

It doesn’t matter who actually filed for divorce. Many will experience a form of anger at some point through the divorce process. And like the rest of the stages of divorce, it’s totally normal. Our brains are naturally wired to assign blame, whether it’s reasonable or not. But that doesn’t make it the best approach.

Instead of letting anger get in the way of a more collaborative process through a divorce, let the anger motivate you to get the process done as quickly and cleanly as possible. And while you’re at it, add some healthier ways to channel the anger. Lifting weights or running, journaling, or even music are great ways to really release all those negative feelings.

Bargaining

This is one of the hardest stages of divorce: bargaining. Even when angry and in denial, the fear can lead someone to make a complete U-turn and wonder if reconciliation is possible. After all, a divorce isn’t something that should be taken lightly.

It’s totally normal to be doing some self-reflecting and deciding what part both parties played in the downfall. You may be examining whether or not the relationship is salvageable, especially after both parties have had time to digest the situation.

READ MORE: 5 Ways to Have a Healthy Coparenting Relationship after Divorce

That said, it’s important to stay true to yourself and avoid bargaining. Trying to save a marriage at this point in the stages of divorce rarely works and giving into your partner’s demands, or making sacrifices, isn’t worth losing yourself. Take a moment and remind yourself why this process was started in the first place.

Guilt

When the thought of bargaining has passed, it’s quite common for guilt to take its place. Feeling like the mess is entirely your fault, and taking on the majority of the blame is not healthy. It’s very important to remember that the blame in a divorce is typically equally split. Both partners need to realize that and move on.

Start focusing on self-care and increasing your self-esteem, whether with supportive friends and family or a therapist. As you work your way through these stages of divorce it’s also important to take inventory of your feelings.

The 7 Stages Of Divorce: What To Expect &Amp; How To Master

Depression

At some point, a wave of depression may rear its ugly head. The sadness of what is lost, the grieving of the future that won’t happen, and the overwhelming feeling of being alone may leave a divorcee feeling unmotivated and very depressed. The sadness and grief of the marriage will weigh down, but it affects people differently.

Seeking help is not something to be ashamed of, but it’s honorable and will help you manage this stage easier. It’s important to lean on those around you but it’s also important to be honest with your feelings and reach out to a therapist when needed. Taking care of yourself as well as your emotions is key, and focus on the fact that this stage will pass in the same way as the other stages of divorce.

READ MORE: 7 Tips for Dating During Divorce
The 7 Stages Of Divorce: What To Expect &Amp; How To Master

Acceptance

It’s hard to believe, but eventually, the reality of the situation is clear. Being without your ex is better for you, and you will actually start looking forward to your new future. Life will be happy and fulfilling again. Sure, life will be different, but different doesn’t mean bad, and you will accept the situation.

From time to time it’s common for some of these emotions to return, even after going through all the stages of divorce and reaching acceptance. Both parties will still have plenty to emotionally overcome, but each day will get easier and easier as you continue to move on.


Yes, divorce sucks. The emotional hurdles to face are tough, but there is an end. Knowing how to master the 7 stages of divorce will not only prepare you for what is to come but accept that all the stages of divorce are normal, and recovery and healing are actually possible.

WANT TO READ MORE?
Check out Daily Mom’s article on Divorce Rings: New Ways to Find Closure and Move On.

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The 7 Stages Of Divorce: What To Expect &Amp; How To Master

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Lauren Austin
Lauren Austinhttp://www.financialfundaments.com
She's a full-time Financial Coach, professional designer, and part-time home DIYer. As a business owner of Financial Fundaments, and an awesome mom to 3 young kids, she has a full plate but loves every minute of it. Lauren became a Daily Mom to satisfy her need for writing while helping other moms take control of their financial health.

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