When you divorce, you go through all five of the grieving stages; denial, bargaining, depression, anger and finally acceptance.
There is no particular order that you will go through these grieving stages. There is no set length of time for any of these grieving stages. Some people never reach the acceptance stage which keeps them stuck and unable to move forward. Your grieving time will be greatly reduced with the right kind of support and guidance.
A person that is grieving over the death of their marriage does not receive the same type of support as one who has lost a spouse to death. When a spouse dies, the widow is expected to grieve. Family and friends rally around, telling her they are there for her. These people are loving and non-judgmental. They encourage her to cry and let it all out. Her supporters bring her food so she doesn’t have to cook and they clean her house for her. They also tell her, “Do not make any major decisions for at least a year while grieving.”
When you go through a divorce, there is no one cooking and cleaning for you. There is no one telling you that it is ok to grieve. You may have family and friends judging you. They tell you things like, “Just get over it,” or “You are better off without him.” You are not allowed to just grieve, as you must make major decisions that will impact you for the rest of your life.
It’s important to recognize which stage of grief you are in.
Take a look at the 5 grieving stages as they pertain to divorce:
During a divorce the denial stage of the grieving process can appear very different, depending on who left whom and your own personal values and beliefs. The denial stage often begins while you are still married and living with one another. One or both of you may not have wanted to see or believe that your marriage was on the rocks, or that it was actually over.
While in denial, you are living in a nightmare and believe you will wake up soon and everything will be just as it should be. He will wake up and realize just how much he loves you and will be magically transformed into your Prince Charming. You may not want to believe that he is really in love with another woman, or that other things in his life are more important to him than you are. You find it difficult to believe that this is really happening, it all seems so surreal. Denial helps you to grasp the reality of what is happening in small doses without overwhelming emotions that might send you over the edge. It’s a way to process the facts on a subconscious level.
While in the bargaining stage of the grieving process, you are trying to figure out how to prevent the pain you are feeling. If you are trying to figure out how to change the past, you are constantly rewriting scenes from previous events in your mind with thoughts like, “if only,” “I should have,” or “I could have.” In essence, you are trying to fix mistakes you think you made.
On the other hand, if you are trying to prevent the pain, you will be saying things like, “I will do anything to win you back.” You may get a new hairstyle, lose weight, or dress differently in an attempt to win him back. You want him to know what he is missing out on. You don’t want to feel the tremendous ache in your heart, so you would sell your soul in order to make the pain stop.
Anger is often expressed in an effort to not feel sad and depressed. In the sense of fairness, you believe that someone or something is to blame and should be punished. During the anger grieving stage you may falsely believe that if the person you blame for your pain pays, that you will feel better. You are looking for revenge, sweet revenge. You might think he is happy and want him to be as miserable as you are.
Your anger may be directed at your spouse, their lover, their addiction (alcohol or drugs), or even their boss for making him work long hours. You may be angry that he doesn’t pay his child support on time or that he left you in a financial mess. You may also be turning the anger inward, somehow believing that you are at fault for not seeing the writing on the wall, not showing him the love and respect that he craved, gaining weight or for putting up with his crap all of these years.
During a divorce, it is also very common for you to be angry at him because of the way he is treating the kids. When you do this you are ignoring your pain, and focusing on what you think your kids are feeling. Anger also occurs because of the way he treats the kids. You are angry that he doesn’t call them, visit them, or seem to care about them.
This is the hardest emotion to really feel. If you are like most people, you hate being sad. You hate crying and you think that it makes you weak. In this grieving stage, you may feel a deep wave of sadness and may even be experiencing real pain in your chest. It feels unbearable and you don’t know if you can get through this.
You might think life is not worth living and want to hide under the covers for the rest of your life. You are not bathing, dressing, or eating. The nights are filled with restless sleep and dreams of being old and alone. You question everything that you valued and do not understand why his vows didn’t mean the same thing to him.
You are shedding a sea of tears for everything that you have lost. Besides the loss of your hopes and dreams for the future, your losses may include friends, relatives, your home, and security. The mere thought that you are totally on your own may scare the heck out of you. This overwhelming fear may revert you back to any of the other grieving stages.
The depression stage is where many people find themselves playing the victim. They continuously tell their story to others to validate that they have every reason to be sad, lost, and alone. The more shock value your story has – the better. Know that you are not a victim! You can pick yourself up and move forward anytime you choose to.
This is the final stage of the grieving process. Acceptance comes when you fully accept the fact that your old life is over and it is time to move forward. You are no longer holding onto the past. It is at this point that you are ready to build a new life for yourself. Feeling acceptance doesn’t mean that you will never feel angry, sad, or depressed again. These feelings will get less intense as time goes on. For the most part, you feel indifference for who your ex is and what he is doing. You have separated your personal life from his. If you have children together, you learn to co-parent without rehashing old hurts.