Going through the legal process to get a divorce can be painful. But just as difficult are the emotional stages of divorce that most people experience. Different people work their way through the process in varying ways.

Grieving a Divorce

It’s natural to feel sorrow when the marriage ends. While it can be uncomfortable, the emotional response of grief to a divorce is a healthy reaction to the loss of someone that was once very important to you.

Over the years, research and the personal experience of people worldwide getting through a divorce have shown that the grief suffered from the separation is just as painful as if there were a death in the family. The process of grief has a beginning, middle, and end. While it may seem to take forever, the agony and confusion gradually recede and go away as the emotional stages of divorce are completed.

Based on the pioneering work of Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, there are five stages of grief that people undergo in responding to traumatic events like death or divorce. These are denial, anger and resentment, negotiation, depression, and acceptance.

Denial is the first stage. You can’t believe it’s happening – it’s just a mid-life crisis or a mix-up with your spouse that can be worked out. Denial is a coping tool that too easily allows you to avoid facing the reality of your situation.

Next come anger and resentment. You can’t believe your spouse is doing this to you. It’s not fair, and it’s not deserved. Such anger comes at a bad time because it can detract from your ability to make rational decisions during the divorce process.

The third stage is negotiating or offering to change. You’ll do whatever it takes to make things right. You agree to do things your spouse’s way and hope the result will be getting back together.

Depression then follows. You can’t believe divorce is really going to happen, and just the thought of it is unbearable. Depression is no fun. The sooner you can move out of this stage of grief, the better.

The final stage is acceptance. You come to terms with reality and how it’s going to be. It’s time to accept it, stop focusing on the past, and begin your new life. You likely (hopefully) forget all about the emotional stages of divorce at this point.


Those grieving a divorce often encounter feelings of shame and guilt. This is another normal reaction to the end of a marriage. It is a strong institution. You may feel like you’ve failed to meet society’s expectations by failing to remain married for life.

Shame and guilt are uncomfortable emotions, but are an integral part of the emotional stages of divorce. It’s natural for you to avoid them by focusing instead on less painful feelings like anger. This why so many spouses descend into the blame game rather than objectively understanding that they likely had a role in the dissolution of the marriage.

Fear and Anxiety

Divorce causes stress. Your body instinctively responds to stress with fear and anxiety. The heart beats faster, and adrenaline flows in your veins. You can get a pounding headache or may have hot flashes. The severe stress that can accompany divorce may trigger an anxiety attack or may paralyze you into inaction.

Fighting Between Spouses

As a marriage fails, couples often resort to dealing with their differences by arguing instead of finding solutions. And if you couldn’t resolve issues during the marriage, there’s little reason to think that you’ll be able to resolve differences with your spouse during a divorce proceeding.

Impact on Others During the Emotional Stages of Divorce

Dealing with all these emotions is hard. But as challenging as this time is, remember that others still rely on you. Children, especially younger ones, fully depend on you as a parent, even while you and your spouse are going through the emotional stages of divorce. You may realize that a divorce is inevitable, but it can completely turn a child’s life upside down.

Others, like aging parents, also may rely on you. Changes in your behavior will impact them due to experiencing the grieving emotions associated with the end of a marriage.

Bad Timing

Our court system doesn’t help. It encourages parties to take action at the worst time – in the middle of the emotional stages of divorce when emotions are running high. In this state of mind, it can be difficult to make rational decisions about important issues concerning your divorce.

We’re Here for You

Which is why we encourage you to call us when considering a divorce. At DeTorres & DeGeorge Family Law, we can help you rationally make it through the complicated process of divorce when you are suffering through the difficult emotional stages of divorce. We’ve worked with countless persons contemplating the end of their marriage. In addition, we are intimately aware with the emotional stages of divorce and can offer you counsel. Call us today at 908-691-2104 or fill out our contact form to schedule an appointment. We have offices in Clinton and Morristown.

Erin D. DeGeorge
Erin D. DeGeorge joined DeTorres & DeGeorge, LLC as partner to the firm in June of 2010. Prior to joining DeTorres & DeGeorge, Erin was associated with the national firm of Fox Rothschild LLP and Cutler, Simeone, Townsend, Tomaio & Newmark, LLC...
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