Divorce can cause the same reactions of grief as the death of a loved one. Both situations involve the loss of a relationship, and most people experience five stages throughout the grieving process. Though the road is difficult, the emotional experience of grieving a divorce allows an individual to grow and move on with his life.
The first stage of grieving a divorce involves denial. In this stage, couples experience a difficult time believing the divorce is actually happening. Confusion, disbelief and numbness characterize this stage. Commonly, the denial stage occurs when one partner believes the other does not really want a divorce and will return. Some people still hold hope that repair of the marriage is possible, even after the divorce is legally finalized.
During the second stage of grieving a divorce, anger towards your former partner is common. Anger may surface as a result of past fights, adultery or child custody issues. If only one spouse wanted the divorce, the other person frequently feels anger towards the partner who left. Anger at the prospect of a failed marriage is typical as well. In addition, divorcees may feel anger towards friends, family members and others.
Bargaining, the third stage of grieving a divorce, involves offering something in an attempt to change the situation. Typically, one spouse offers to change her behavior, either emotionally or physically, in hopes that the other spouse stays with her. Marriage or couples therapy represents a common bargaining tool. Alternately, a person may bargain with God, or a higher being, to help save the marriage.
The fourth stage of grieving a divorce, depression, often occurs when a person finally realizes that divorce is inevitable. Sadness, a loss of interest in activities that once made you happy and withdrawal from friends and family commonly mark this stage. The acknowledgement of a failed marriage and the loss of your past life contribute to feelings of grief associated with this time.
The final stage of grieving a divorce is acceptance. Reaching this stage in the process, people often wrongly assume that everything is normal and okay. On the contrary, acceptance means the griever accepts the finality of the divorce. The grief is not forgotten, but the divorcee realizes it is time to move forward. After acceptance, you are ready to begin the next stage in your new life.