stages of grief following divorce

Stages of Grief following Divorce: Tips to Cope with Divorce

If you’ve recently gone through a divorce, you might not feel like yourself anymore. The stages of grief following divorce can be described as a roller coaster ride through an emotional theme park. It’s going to be a wild trip of heartache and healing!

The stages of grief following divorce are often described through the lens of the Kübler-Ross model, which was initially introduced by psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross in the context of dealing with terminal illness.

Keep in mind that you may experience these stages in different orders, intensities, or even skip some stages altogether. Additionally, not everyone will go through all these stages, and the grieving process is unique for each individual.

1. Denial

In the initial stages of struggling with a divorce, individuals often find themselves submerged in a whirlwind of shock and disbelief. There’s a natural inclination to downplay or outright ignore the stark reality of the situation, almost as if shielding oneself from the emotional turbulence that accompanies the dissolution of a marriage.

The feeling is akin to standing on the edge of a steep cliff, unable to fully accept that the familiar landscape of a shared life is gone. An unescapable feeling permeates the psyche, one that insists this cannot be happening or, at the very least, it’s a fleeting or temporary disturbance.

This “It’s Just a Bad Dream” stage is when you’re bewildered by the surreal nature of the circumstances. You cling to the hope that the upheaval is but a passing storm rather than a profound and permanent transformation.

2. Anger

As the initial cloak of denial gradually dissipates, individuals navigating the aftermath of a divorce often find themselves confronting a surge of potent emotions; prominently among them is anger. This intense emotion can manifest in various directions—towards the ex-spouse for perceived wrongs, inwardly at oneself for perceived failures, or broadly directed at the challenging situation at large.

It becomes crucial for individuals to seek healthy outlets for the expression and management of this inevitable anger. Whether through open communication, therapy, or engaging in constructive activities, finding productive channels for this emotional force plays a pivotal role in fostering personal healing post-divorce.

3. Bargaining

During the bargaining stage of dealing with a divorce, individuals often find themselves attempting to negotiate or strike deals in hopes of reversing or preventing the separation. This phase is marked by a willingness to make promises, vowing to alter specific behaviors or conditions in a sincere effort to patch up with their estranged partner.

Bargaining is frequently accompanied by a profound sense of desperation, as individuals wrestle with a strong desire to turn back time and undo the circumstances that led to the dissolution of the relationship.

It becomes a poignant chapter in the emotional journey, where the longing for reconciliation propels individuals into a complex dance of compromise and hopeful gestures.

4. Depression

Once the dust of denial and bargaining settles, the stark reality of the divorce ushers in a profound wave of sadness and mourning. This stage is marked by an emotive heaviness, where feelings of hopelessness, helplessness, and despair may take center stage.

The weight of acknowledging the end of a significant chapter in life can be overwhelming, and it’s crucial to recognize the importance of seeking support and professional help during this period.  If you feel like you’re drowning in tears, remember there’s always light at the end of the tunnel.

Whether through the comforting presence of friends and family or the guidance of a trained professional, reaching out becomes a vital lifeline for understanding the complex cluster of emotions and paving the road to wellness.

5. Acceptance

The acceptance stage in the aftermath of a divorce is a critical juncture where individuals begin to make peace with the reality of their changed circumstances. Contrary to popular belief, acceptance doesn’t imply instantaneous happiness or a sense of satisfaction.

Instead, it signifies a journey towards finding a way to move forward and adapt to the new scenery of life. It’s a gradual process, marked by a mixture of contradicting sentiments, where individuals may still encounter moments of sadness or nostalgia.

Embracing acceptance involves conceding the permanence of the divorce and actively working towards building a future that accommodates the new normal. It is a big step towards developing resilience and a sense of empowerment along the way.

Are the Stages of Grief following Divorce the same for Everyone?

No, the stages of grief, as outlined in models like the Kübler-Ross model, are not universal or experienced in a linear fashion by everyone. Factors such as personality, coping mechanisms, the nature of the relationship, and one’s unique circumstances play a role in shaping how someone undergoes the grieving process.

Cultural and societal influences can also affect the way people express and process grief. It’s essential to recognize and respect the individualism of each person’s experience and allow them the space and support they need to cope with the emotional challenges of divorce.

It’s important to note that some people may revisit certain stages multiple times before reaching a sense of acceptance. Furthermore, individuals may experience other emotions such as guilt, confusion, or relief during the divorce process.

Is there a specific Timeline for grief following divorce?

The duration of divorce grief varies widely from person to person and depends on various aspects of their state of affairs. There is no fixed timeline for the grieving process, and it’s vital to understand that healing is a decidedly exclusive journey.

Some individuals may start to feel a sense of acceptance and resolution relatively quickly, while for others, the process might take much longer. Grieving is not a linear path, and people often experience moments of progress followed by setbacks.

Factors such as the level of emotional support, the presence of children, and the ability to establish new routines can also influence the duration of the grieving process. In general, it’s crucial to allow oneself the time and space needed for recovery.

Seeking support from friends, family, or professionals, and engaging in self-care practices can be instrumental in navigating the emotional challenges associated with divorce grief. If the grief becomes overwhelming or prolonged, seeking the assistance of a mental health professional is advisable.

Remember that everyone’s journey is unique, and there is no “one-size-fits-all” timeline for recovering from the emotional impact of a divorce.

A Dozen Ways to Cope with Grief following Divorce

Coping with divorce is like trekking through a convoluted jungle gym. Even though, there’s no one-size-fits-all manual, here are some survival tips to make this phase of life easier:

1. Feel All the Feels

Give yourself the green light to feel and express everything bubbling inside you. Think of it like getting a VIP pass to the amusement park of your feelings – the Sadness Coaster, the Anger Teacups, and the Confusion Carousel – you need to get on all those rides for the ultimate experience.

Bottling up emotions for the sake of conforming to societal expectations or norms about how one “should” feel is no way to live. Give yourself permission to grieve without judgment. Divorce is a multifaceted experience, so it’s natural to have conflicting or mixed emotions.

2. Call in the Calvary

Rally your emotional troops! Friends, family, and maybe even a support group – go ahead and form an Avengers squad for your heart. It’s okay to lean on your loved ones when nothing makes sense and life seems to be falling apart.

Assembling a strong and dependable support system in tough times is necessary because there’s strength in numbers. The supportive team around you shall provide diverse perspectives, collective wisdom, and the reassurance that you are not facing the challenges of divorce alone.

3. Therapy

Just as a gym membership is an investment in physical health, therapy serves as an investment in emotional well-being. It involves self-reflection and personal insight to address specific emotional challenges with the guidance of a trained professional.

Therapy serves as a safe and supportive environment, akin to a gym equipped with trainers who provide guidance. Similar to physical fitness, consistency in attending therapy sessions yields positive results over time. It is a form of self-care and maintenance for emotional and mental well-being.

4. Chow Down on Comfort

Certain foods are nostalgic and provide a sense of comfort during difficult or stressful moments. Eating such foods is seen as a way to seek solace and soothe one’s emotions. Ice cream, pizza, cake, tacos, or whatever your comfort food of choice is – indulge without guilt and allow yourself to find joy in simple pleasures.

Consider this a delicious cheat day for your soul, so you can enjoy that hunk of a junk you’re always craving. Consuming these familiar and satisfying foods helps lift your spirits, so it’s a form of self-love. It is a reminder that moments of indulgence can be nourishing and enjoyable.

5. Dance to Your Own Beat

Life is similar to a dance, a series of movements and steps that make up our daily experiences and routines. Post-divorce, you need to create new dance routines by instilling new habits, activities, and perspectives. Break away from the monotony by trying different things, exploring new interests, and stepping out of your comfort zone.

Diversify your daily experiences for personal growth by finding a rhythm that’s all your own. Discover an authentic way of living that aligns with your values, preferences, and aspirations. Let this new chapter of life be an invitation to be true to yourself and an opportunity for personal reinvention.

6. Realism is the New Black

A realistic viewpoint is fashionable and practical, much like the color black in clothing. It’s not about being pessimistic, but pragmatic. Expect a few plot twists in this telenovela of your life. Realism is a timeless approach, especially when dealing with situations like a divorce.

In life, it is essential to embrace a balanced perspective, which entails acknowledging both the pros and cons of a situation. Keeping up with realistic expectations leads to grounded and manageable outcomes, thereby eliminating disappointment.

7. Self-Care Extravaganza

Self-care isn’t just a buzzword; it’s your VIP pass to the Spa of Happiness. Treat yourself like royalty, because why not? You deserve it! Self-care is not a luxury, but a prioritization of personal well-being and an intentional step to nurture and nourish oneself amidst life’s demands and challenges.

Read, go shopping, cook, paint, get a massage, or do it all just for you. Be mindful and intentional about dedicating time and effort to activities that bring joy, relaxation, and a sense of fulfillment. Engaging in a variety of self-care activities will help you replenish your energy, reduce stress, and enhance overall resilience.

8. Hello, New Beginnings

The best you can do right now is to embrace the unknown with open arms. Life after divorce should be seen as starting a new season of your favorite TV show – fresh characters, unexpected plot twists, and hopefully a happy ending.

Look forward to what lies ahead, acknowledging that change brings opportunities for growth, learning, and positive transformations. Explore, adapt, and seize the possibilities that come with change, whether they be in relationships, career, personal development, or other areas of life.

9. Texts and Talks (All About Boundaries)

When it comes to communication, setting boundaries is crucial whether it’s written (texts) or verbal (talks or conversations). You’ve got to be the superhero of your own story to protect your emotional fortress.

Establishing boundaries involves expressing what is acceptable or not, ensuring mutual understanding and respect. It’s a reminder to be considerate of each other’s feelings, opinions, and personal space so that both parties can share information without fear of intrusion or discomfort.

10. Banking on You

Review your financial game plan and give it a makeover – new budget, new goals, and maybe a few less impulse purchases. It is high time to start relying in yourself; invest time, effort, and energy in personal and professional growth, recognizing the long-term returns of self-improvement.

Take control of your destiny – manifest the power to shape your future, make decisions, and take responsibility of your actions. Recognize your worth, take risks, trust your capabilities, and initiate proactive steps towards a more empowered and fulfilling life.

11. Legal Eagles to the Rescue

If you find yourself in a tough spot post-divorce, know that lawyers can be your legal superheroes. They swoop in, capes flying, to ensure your legal rights are protected. Legal professionals possess the skills and knowledge necessary to handle divorce-related challenges effectively.

Much like eagles who protect their territory, legal eagles are portrayed as defenders, safeguarding the legal interests and rights of those they represent. Your lawyer can intervene and provide support in the face of trials or uncertainties arising from the divorce.

12. Patience, Grasshopper

Be patient with yourself. Healing is a journey, not a sprint. Remember, you’re the main character in your story, and while the plot might have taken an unexpected turn, the narrative is still in your hands.

You need to approach every situation with calmness and endurance, understanding that some things take time to learn, achieve, or unfold. Move forward with with patience, humility, and a sense of humor, i.e. when life gives you lemons, make lemonade!

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