Divorce is one of the only times in life a human will die, go through the stages of grief, and live to talk about it. The process is accompanied by a level of pain comparable to a death, or what one might experience with a serious illness.
There are several stages to the grieving process that can last for any amount of time. It all depends on how big the loss was. But to most, a broken marriage is a huge loss. Even more so if children are involved.
Shock & Denial is where the grieving process begins when a relationship ends. The shock is much worse if your spouse has already moved on with someone else. You may find yourself saying “This is not happening” “We were suppose to ____!” “I didn’t see this coming!” “None of this is my fault!” “Well maybe if I would have___.” You may even find yourself not taking him or her seriously about the divorce. You may be avoiding the issue in hopes that they change their mind.
Anger & Hatred are by far the worst phases; aside from depression. We begin to get mad at ourselves, and the other person. Often times, we are mad at the world. Everyone is out to get us!
The anger phases comes and goes throughout the process. I have found that people often bounce back and forth between stages one, two, and three. At times we might think we have entered the next phase of grief, then a previous stage surfaces unexpectedly. Sometimes it can surface just by looking at the other person.
Anger can last for many years. Perhaps forever once it takes root. It truly varies from person to person.
Bargaining is something we do to try and hold on to the relationship and it often occurs at the same time as phase one, denial. It goes hand in hand with denial. “I will do ___ if you take me back”, “I will buy you ___” “We can go on a trip” “Look, I finally got you that ____ that you wanted”. We sometimes even begin to bargain with God. “Lord if you fix this I will never ______ again!” “God if you ____ I will ____.
Depression can be a scary stage of grief. It is important to keep activities scheduled to keep from slipping into a deep depression. Surround yourself with loved ones and positive people. With depression one loses interest in normal activities, they oversleep or don’t get enough sleep, and the eating habits are comparable to the sleeping. They are either eating a lot, or very little at all. They may have suicidal thoughts, and struggle just to get out of bed. They are remembering only good things about the relationship. And they have very little interest in their life. They feel hopeless.
Acceptance is when we begin to pick up the pieces. We can take the positive things we learned by having the relationship, and simply chalk up the loss. We see that there is hope. Yes, there is some light at the end of that dark tunnel.
Once one reaches the stage of acceptance, they have regained more control of their new life. It gives them more control of their destiny. They realize that they can do it! It is when they begin to dream again, discover themselves, and begin to truly live.
I once read somewhere that it takes approximately 3-6 months for every year you were married to complete all 5 phases of grieving. From what I have seen, that number is fairly accurate. There is life after divorce. It just doesn’t truly begin until we have grieved the loss, learned our lesson that was intended for us to learn in that relationship, and move on. In doing that we have discovered who we are again, and may even get down the road and be thankful for that loss.
Healing, takes time. And time, heals. Most of the time it heals anyway.
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