DIVORCE CAN SEEM LIKE AN OVERWHELMING EXPERIENCE.
But there are ways of coping with the stages of grief in divorce.
Divorce is one of the most difficult life events and it has a profound impact on your mental health.
Whether or not you initiated the divorce, you are sure to experience the emotional fallout sooner or later. Even with an uncontested divorce, grief is not just common, it’s expected! But coping with the stages of grief in divorce is more than just mourning the loss of your relationship. It’s also about managing these complex emotions and learning to cope with them over time.
Whether you’re mourning the loss of a loved one or putting your life together after a divorce, grief stages are necessary to processing your emotions so you can better maintain your long-term mental health. Read on to discover more about how you can cope with stages of grief in divorce, then check out our blog to learn more about how you can better navigate your divorce.
WHAT ARE THE FIVE STAGES OF GRIEF IN DIVORCE?
Divorce is difficult for everyone involved, and the grieving process is different for every couple and every individual. Divorce affects different parts of people’s lives, such as self-image, family relationships, finances, work environment, and future expectations. (This is why it’s crucial to adequately prepare for your divorce as well.)
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The five stages of grief—denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance—are often trotted out as a sequence of steps that one must get through in order to heal from a loss. But it’s important to remember that these feelings do not come in any particular order. In fact, most people need to “ping pong” through each of these steps multiple times (a day!) as they try to come to terms with the situation. You may skip some steps entirely. You may be stuck in one mindset for years. When it comes to grief, there is no such thing as “normal” because everything is normal.
COPING WITH DENIAL
Denial can manifest itself in a lot of different ways. Many people might find themselves shell shocked. They say things like, “This can’t be happening.” Others may dismiss the situation, assuring themselves that their spouse will “come around eventually.” Others might operate on autopilot to avoid feeling anything at all. Overcoming denial is often one of the hardest stages of grief in divorce, as it demands that you go against your gut feeling. As a divorce lawyer, trust me when I say that everyone feels this way at some point. It doesn’t mean that divorce is a mistake. Coping with denial is crucial, as it’s a mindset that will paralyze you. Prolonging the inevitable will not make the pain of divorce any less; it merely makes it last longer. If your spouse is adamant about wanting a divorce, it’s important to respect that boundary, regardless of how you feel about the relationship.
COPING WITH ANGER
Feeling angry toward your spouse (or another individual) for “ruining” your marriage is completely normal, but rarely helpful. But rather than ignoring your feelings and putting up a cheerful front, therapists often suggest examining your anger more closely. In most circumstances, anger is a secondary emotion that is covering up what we are really feeling, such as fear or sadness. Reaching the root of your emotions can sometimes be enough to disarm them completely. Start a journal or video diary. Vent to a friend over a cup of coffee. Talk to a therapist or trusted spiritual advisor.
COPING WITH BARGAINING
“If only he would change his mind and come back to me, I’d do anything!” “Please rethink the divorce, Cheryl! I’ll quit smoking and wash the dishes every night, I promise!” If any of these statements resonate with you, then you’ve likely experienced the stage of bargaining firsthand. This stage of grief is tricky, because it gives us the illusion that we are in control: If I do X, I will get Y. Of course, the reality is that you can’t force anyone to do what you want just because you want it. In fact, I’ve seen many people agree to terms they wouldn’t normally be in favor of simply because they didn’t want to “rock the boat” or upset their spouses further. As a result, they are left with a less-than-ideal outcome (and are still divorced).
COPING WITH DEPRESSION
Depression is a natural response to any kind of loss. It’s also the emotion that we try our hardest to keep at bay. The stages of denial, anger, and bargaining are actually our mind’s way of protecting us from the crushing weight of sadness. Once you are able to feel it, that’s actually a sign that you are coming closer to the final stage: acceptance. It’s important to go easy on yourself when you’re feeling sad and depressed. Accept that you may not operate at the same capacity as before and allow yourself time to rest (grief is exhausting). COPING WITH ACCEPTANCE
Many people avoid getting to this stage because they think it means “looking on the bright side” or being happy that you got a divorce. But “acceptance” and “being happy about the divorce” are two completely different things. Acceptance merely means recognizing the reality of your situation so that you can start to make peace with it. Contentment and (believe it or not!) happiness will come in time.
MAKING DIVORCE EASIER
Divorce can seem like an overwhelming experience, but believe me when I say that it is possible to cope with the stages of grief in divorce. While you’ll inevitably harbor strong feelings of jealousy, anger, or sadness, these emotions don’t have to steer the ship. In my practice, I’ve seen that couples who pursue an amicable, collaborative divorce tend to have a much more positive experience than those who stoke the flames. No matter which coping techniques you select, the most crucial thing to remember is that you’re never alone as you’re dealing with divorce grief. This is a critical time to reach out to friends, family, therapists, spiritual advisors, mentors, and—for legal guidance—the team here at Leap Frog Divorce. We are not only dedicated to protecting your rights, but providing you with the emotional support you need as you navigate these choppy waters. Ready to learn more? Contact us today to discover just how we can help.