Stages of Grief During Divorce

Grief can be a part of the divorce process and beyond. It is mourning what was and will never be again.

grief during divorce: man standing outdoors with hands on head

Grief during divorce means mourning what was and will never be again. Grief can catch people by surprise when they are the ones initiating the divorce. Grief is like waves in the ocean: sometimes the water is calm, sometimes it can knock you down.

Here’s What You Should Know About Grief During Divorce

Divorce is the death of a marriage and involves loss. Not everyone goes through each stage of grief. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross wrote about the five stages of grief in her book, On Death and Dying. The stages can be adapted to those going through divorce.


Denial means avoiding the situation and pretending that things are not happening. People who are in denial do not like to face reality. This is delusional thinking. Typically when someone is in denial, they carry on with their life as usual with the same routine as if nothing has happened.


Anger occurs when you finally realize that it is impossible to deny the divorce is happening. Papers are served, the other party’s attorney has contacted you, or perhaps a court date has been set. You may be furious that your life is in such an upheaval.

Anger can lead to revenge, including using children as weapons. People going through this stage may also act out and try to ruin a spouse’s reputation on social media.


Bargaining occurs when you think that if you change your behavior, then the divorce will be stopped. Being in the bargaining stage, though, is acknowledging the situation. It represents moving along in the grief process. It is wishing for a miracle to happen.


Depression during this stage can feel like numbness, and that everything is going in slow motion. There may be brain fog or lethargy. The body is worn out from having the strong surge of emotions from earlier in the divorce process. These emotions range from shock, to panic, to despair.

This stage can also be a time to take a pause and nurture yourself, which leads to the next stage.


This last stage can come during the divorce proceedings or a bit later. This stage occurs when you finally come to terms with what has happened. You acknowledge the loss and begin to look ahead to the future. A new chapter is opening in life. This can include changing careers, or relocating, or taking up new challenges and hobbies. It is a time of exploration – whether it is self-assessment or traveling to enticing destinations.

If you are feeling grief during divorce, let your lawyer know. This will make the divorce process go more smoothly. Talk it out with friends, particularly those who have gone down a similar path. Understanding that grief comes and goes can help you deal with it more effectively during divorce and beyond.

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