Recovering from a divorce is similar to the grieving process one experiences when a loved one dies. There are five stages in divorce recovery. Many people expect to work through these stages one after the other, but that isn’t usually how it happens. You can expect to move in and out of each phase over time and sometimes experience more than one phase at the same time. It is a difficult process and time consuming. Family counselors advise it may take as long as two years to fully recover.
Understanding the process and the types of feelings you might experience will help allow yourself to fully grieve. It’s important to allow the time you need to recover from the traumatic experience of ending a marriage so that you can move on to the next phase of your life.
The Five Stages of Divorce Recovery
1. Shock and Denial
When you finally make the decision to divorce, or you believe your spouse is serious about filing for a divorce; you may experience shock and denial. The enormity of what is happening may seem like more than you can bear. Considering the changes that will happen in your life may create feelings of anxiety and panic. A typical way to cope with the extreme emotions is to deny the reality of what is happening and to cling to familiar routines. There is comfort in the familiarity and a sense of security. Denial allows you to protect yourself from the knowledge that life will change dramatically and the feelings of fear associated with that knowledge. What is important to remember is that denial is an effective coping mechanism as long as it does not last too long or create other problems in your life.
Feelings of anger are characterized in this stage of divorce recovery. You may feel angry with yourself, your spouse, your parents, your job, and perhaps everyone else around you. It can become pervasive, but it is a necessary part of this process. Unless anger is acted out in a destructive way, it can be useful. Allow yourself the time needed to move through your anger. It will help you begin to let go and put emotional distance between you and your spouse. Eventually, you will begin to think of yourself as one, rather than part of a couple. Until you do this, it will be difficult to focus on your own needs and begin to build a new life for yourself.
Ambivalence is what can make people break up and get back together. It tends to be present during most of the grieving process for people who are suffering the end of a marriage. The divorce process takes people on an emotional rollercoaster ride – depressed, excited for a new life, angry, disappointed, and back again. Do not be surprised if you feel out of control and experience a great deal of uncertainty.
Depression is extremely difficult to experience, but it is the part of the grieving process when recovering from divorce that will help you move beyond the past into your new life. Depression may be accompanied by a variety of emotions that seem unrelated to the divorce or the marriage. If you allow yourself to experience loneliness and confront your role in the relationship, you will be ready to let go and move on. You will quit blaming your spouse, lose the feelings of anger and ambivalence, your self-esteem will begin to grow and you will be ready for the final stage of recovery from divorce.
Once you reach the recovery stage from the divorce, you are feeling better about yourself. Your self-esteem may still be shaky, but you are ready to build your new life. The first step is to rebuild your social network. You may maintain friends you shared with your spouse, but often those relationships were based on the shared interests of your marriage. It’s time to find new people whose company you enjoy and who have similar needs in terms of time and activities.
Keep in mind that divorce recovery is part of a process and takes time. Allow yourself this time on your own to explore new interests and to develop a social network before you enter another committed love relationship. Eventually, you will begin to feel comfortable in being a single person. This is a time when you can get to know yourself and build a new identity as a single person which will guide you in making healthier, more loving choices for yourself in the future.
DISCLAIMER: This site and any information contained herein is intended for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. Seek competent legal counsel for advice on any legal matter.