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The 5 Stages of Grief in Divorce

Many people overlook the roller coaster of emotions through divorce as a progression through grief. It’s often not seen as a “loss” since your ex is still somewhere in the picture, likely firmly entrenched in your life if you have kids. Plus, you will have ongoing contact with this person from social media, friends and family, and those potential random, often-awkward, interactions if you still live close to one another.

So, how is it grief, if he’s actually still here?

It’s not grief in the sense of loss through death and that permanent closure, but it is grief as you have lost that relationship with the person you made vows to be bound with forever. It’s the loss of the traditional family unit. It’s the loss of those future dreams. It may be the loss of security. Loss of love. It may be the loss of personal identity. Or even the loss of self-esteem.

The American Institute of Stress lists the loss of a loved one as the top stressor and divorce as #2. So it’s no surprise that when we go through divorce we are not at our best.

So the stages of grief that we work through are denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Remember, these are not necessarily linear. It’s not like, “whew, I’m not angry anymore.” That’s gonna come and go. It’s going to find you when you least expect it, when you least want it and when it’s most inconvenient.


The denial phase is the time when you don’t acknowledge that life is changing. It’s thinking and living normally as if everything is fine. But, this doesn’t let you move forward or plan for the changes that are inevitable. You need to understand that things are changing, that separation and divorce are occurring and that you need to begin to make a plan. Without a plan, it draws out the process and makes it more expensive.


Once that denial has begun to subside, the anger settles in. Often this is when you might want to hire a “shark” of an attorney to get even or make him pay. Even if you initiated the separation, you may be angry that you “had” to leave, and that it was causing even more problems. And in this phase, we don’t always make the best decisions. They’re made from a place of hurt and retaliation. Slow down, it’s not a race. Give yourself time to make the right choices to move ahead.