7 Stages of Grief During and After Divorce

During and following a divorce, you will experience various stages of grief as you begin processing your divorce and what caused your marriage to end.

By L.J. Burke
Updated: November 21, 2016
stages of grief during and after divorce

They say that there are different stages of grief when you are going through and have gone through a divorce. There are different variations, but they are very similar to the stages of grief when dealing with a death of a loved one.

Out of the many experts or folks who like to think of themselves as experts, most agree that these stages don’t necessarily go in an exact order. When you have moved on to one, you can certainly revert to another. The stages I experienced and you will probably also experience are as follows:

1. Denial

You can’t believe this is actually happening. I really didn’t have too much of this. It had been coming for some time.

2. Pain and Fear

This really hurts in many ways, and how am I going to go on by myself emotionally, monetarily, etc.? You will feel all kinds of pain during your divorce; some of it will never go away. That’s OK, though. Pain lets you know you’re still alive; it can be your friend. Pain is also the great motivator. Pain gets you off of your ass and makes you do something to stop feeling sorry for yourself.

There was a poster in the academy that read, “Pain is weakness leaving your body!” I thought of that poster many times when I thought I was going to die after running until I felt like I was going to pass out. It’s OK to be afraid during this time. My biggest fears were if my kids would be OK during and after all this mess. I also had the fear of losing my home and a host of other financial problems. I made it through all the mess – and you will, too!

3. Anger

How could the person I exchanged vows with in front of God, family, and friends be doing this? I don’t deserve this. I was angry because Sam made the whole divorce into an epic battle when it didn’t have to be. I would add frustration with this emotion. You will experience both. Don’t let these emotions make you do something stupid or cloud your judgment too much.

4. Bargaining

You might start to promise your spouse mostly unrealistic things to stop the action. Or you tell yourself you will stop or start a behavior to change this. Please don’t embarrass yourself. Odds are the ball is rolling; don’t beg your spouse to stop the divorce if it’s inevitable. Keep your chin up! You might also start bargaining with God. It’s amazing how religious I’ve seen people get during crises, saying things like, “I promise I won’t do X if you just let me have my life back” or the opposite, “I hate you, God! How could you of let this happen?”

I like to think I have a good relationship with the big guy and try not to blame him for my woes. I did, however, say my prayers every night before I went to sleep. I tried not to sound too needy and understood he had bigger fish to fry, but if he had a spare couple of seconds, I could use some help.

5. Guilt

You believe it’s all your fault – maybe a lot of it is. I’m totally screwing up my kids’ lives, and they will wind up in an orphanage. Try to take it easy on yourself. If most of the divorce is your fault, accept that fact and for God’s sake learn from your mistakes. Guilt is like a 100-pound weight strapped to your ankle. You have to get rid of it before you can move forward.

6. Depression

This is all settling in now. The person I was supposed to have loved and he/she love me back has betrayed me. I’m looking at Internet dating, bar scenes, and whatever else single people do nowadays. You get to become friends with embarrassment, serious money problems, and a host of other problems. Depression is inevitable during and after a divorce. Accept it and deal with it. It should dissipate with time. If you’re having more depression than what you think you can handle, get some help! Or just get some help if you’re just mildly depressed. Doctors, therapists, peer support groups, and friends can be a big help.

7. Acceptance

This really is happening to me. I have to devise some coping mechanisms and strategies to deal with all of this. There is no running away from it anymore. Time to face the music: I was already divorced in my head long before Sam filed. It would take a lot of time to accept all of this if I didn’t want a divorce and didn’t see it coming.

So you are divorced now. Grab an ore and jump in my canoe. Join the millions of other folks that have survived this life-changing event. You are not alone! I sincerely hope you and your kids will go on to a happy, healthy life together. Nothing is going to be exactly the same as when you were married. I know for some that is a bitter pill to swallow, but for others, it is a relief. It’s time to build a new life with your kids and perhaps eventually with a partner.


Divorced Dad | L.J. BurkeThis article has been edited and excerpted from Divorced Dad: Kids are Forever, Wives are Not (CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2016) by L.J. Burke. With a blend of personal stories and advice, L.J. Burke guides fathers through the different phases of divorce.

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July 25, 2016
Categories:  Coping with Divorce

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Reason for your Divorce

Why did your relationship end? If there's more than one reason, choose the strongest factor.

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Physical/Emotional Infidelity
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