No question about it, Divorce is hard. It’s emotional, it’s expensive, it’s scary and sometimes it feels like it’s never going to end.
Talking to friends and family, we’ll be asked, what stage of your divorce are you at? It’s not as simple as that.
There are various stages of the divorce process and over the next couple of weeks I’ll be discussing the different areas of Divorce and their respective stages.
The Stages of Divorce
Before you can start to understand the various stages of divorce, you first have to remember that divorce is not just one thing.
Divorce is a legal process. It’s a financial reorganization. It’s also an emotional roller coaster overlaid with a good dose of grief.
Each one of those different aspects of divorce (legal, financial, emotional, and grieving) has its own very distinct, and very different, stages.
What makes divorce so challenging is that all of those different stages of divorce are happening at the same time.
That means that, at any given moment, you can be in one stage of the legal process, a different stage of the financial process, and a separate stage of the emotional process. On top of that, you can be grieving, too.
To complicate matters even further, while the legal and financial stages of divorce tend to move in a fairly linear fashion, the grieving and emotional stages of divorce do not. You can bounce back and forth between the different grieving and emotional stages of divorce many times before you finally (hopefully) end up at acceptance.
Because all of these different stages of divorce overlap so much, it’s easy to get confused about where you are at any given time. Step one in clearing up that confusion is understanding the various stages of divorce and how they relate to one another.
This week: Grief and Loss
Divorce is like death. In a very real way, it is a death. It is the death of your marriage. It is the death of your dream of having “the perfect family.” It is the death of life as you knew it to be.
It’s not surprising, then, that while you’re going through a divorce, you’re grieving.
That grief overlays everything else you go through while you are getting a divorce. What’s more, it’s never over until it’s over.
You can’t shortcut grief. It’s going to happen. It’s also going to run its course on its own timeline.
In reality, the grief that we experience in Divorce mirrors the stages of grief that we experience when a loved one dies. The difference here being, we may still have to deal with your spouse.
The stages that you may experience are the following:
DENIAL AND FEAR
In this stage, you are in shock. You may not really believe that you are going to get a divorce. You may not have thought getting a divorce was something that ever could have happened to you.
If you are the one who is contemplating divorce, you may find that you are bouncing between wanting a divorce and thinking that your marriage is really not that bad. Questioning whether you have made the right decision, convincing yourself that he issues you feel are not that bad or can be improved.
If your spouse is the one wanting the divorce, at this point you will feel shell-shocked, numb, and confused.
After the initial shock and as this stage starts to be more manageable, reality sets in … and you are scared. You have no idea what you are facing.
Everything about your life seems upside down and uncertain. As you think about what the future holds for you, you’re terrified.
You are also in serious pain, emotional pain that we may experience in a physical way. Our bodies bouncing between flight and fight, our stress levels rocketing. You may not be able to sleep, tou may find that you are waking up in the middle of the night or early hours of the morning.
Whether your spouse betrayed you, or whether you are simply trying to wrap your head around the fact that the marriage you thought you would be in forever is now over, the pain you feel it 24/7.
The next stage you may start to feel is guilt about your divorce – whether it was your decision or not.
You may feel guilty for cheating. You may feel guilty about what you think you could have or should have done differently in the past to save your marriage. You may feel guilty about calling time on the marriage.
Most of all, you also feel guilty about the pain your children and spouse may be experiencing.
Once you have gotten past the shock, fear, and guilt of divorce, you start to get mad. You look for someone to blame.
You may blame your spouse, your spouse’s job, your spouse’s new lover, your in-laws, or anything else you can think of. Whoever or whatever you think contributed to the downfall of your marriage becomes the target of your rage. You’re also mad at yourself. You’re mad about the mess that your life is in. In short, you are mad about pretty much everything.
Once the anger subsides, and don't be fooled it will creep up again when you least expect it, you are going to start to want to strategise your way out of your pain. You will start bargaining with anyone and about anything, your spouse, the Universe, or whoever you think is in charge here to give you your life back.
You may try promising your spouse that you will give up drinking, smoking, or some other behavior if s/he will just give your marriage another chance. Or, you may try making a deal with God. At this point, you would negotiate with anyone, just to go back to the way things were.
When you realise that the divorce is inevitable, you may begin to feel depressed. You may not be able to go to work, get out of bed, or function in any normal capacity. You may cry a lot, feel like you have no control over your emotions and that everything around you is negative and bad.
This kind of depression brought on by the circumstances in which we find ourselves is normal. If you become concerned about your depression, then please do seek help from a professional.
After you have gone through all the above stages, there will come a time when you start to accept the situation that you are in. You start to notice that the pain has subsided and that you can start to see the light at the end of the tunnel. You start to want for other things and not for the marriage that once was. You are able to accept that ' it is, what it is'.
These stages are most often experienced in this pattern and there is no set time period for their longevity. These stages though are not experienced on their own, and next week we will look at the stages of divorce, the legal process and finances in a divorce.
My clients often find the fact that they have to experience all the different stages of different streams at once and this is when they tend to call on for help to navigate their way through this difficult time.
If you need help with your divorce process, or perhaps you have questions about divorce generally or are considering divorce, contact Your Divorce Coach for further information and to see how we can work together.