The grief of divorce

We often speak of the grief of loss as pertaining to the death of a loved one. But, we rarely speak of the grief associated with divorce... And we should.


Divorce can be a profound loss like no other. The person you committed to spending the rest of your life with, in some cases (if you have no children together or other ties), can leave your life and you may never see them again. To all intents and purposes, they may as well have died.

The grief cycle is a theory developed by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross which suggests there are five stages we go through during grieving, including:

  1. Denial
  2. Anger
  3. Bargaining
  4. Depression/sadness
  5. Acceptance

Denial is the stage where we just cannot accept what has happened. Perhaps your partner has voiced that they want a divorce, perhaps you have found out they cheated and know you cannot forgive them. Those initial moments are a protection mechanism for us, when our mind simply cannot process what is about to happen it helps us by pretending it is not. "This cannot be happening" is typically something you will feel or say during this stage.

Anger is very often just that. Anger with the world, at yourself, at your former partner. Seeing other happy couples may make you incredibly jealous and frustrated. It can also show itself as frustration, resentment and other low vibe emotions.

Bargaining is the stage where you may ask yourself, your ex-partner, or the universe why this has happened and try to think of ways that it can not happen. You may plead with the universe that, if this does not happen, you will make your partner’s favourite breakfast every weekend forever! Even if you are the one instigating the divorce, you may try and bargain for the pain and misery to end.

Depression/sadness is when the reality of the situation sets in and it can be hard to stop the tears. For some people, this can be as serious as depression that needs medical support. For others, this is extreme sadness that can mean crying or overwhelming feelings of grief and loss.

Acceptance is the stage at which you accept what has happened and begin to move on. It is important to note that reaching this stage does not mean there is no sadness associated with the event anymore. It is just that you can start to move forward without feeling in the midst of grief every single moment.

What I teach my clients, that we often forget and therefore struggle with, is that this process is not linear. We can move forward a stage, or even three stages, and then back a stage or two. Just because we have moved from anger to sadness does not mean that anger about the situation will never return.

What can you do if you’re in the midst of a divorce to help with the grieving process?

1. Own the emotions that you feel, whatever they are

The more we try to suppress them or pretend they aren’t happening the harder it will be for us in the long term. Take each day at a time and when the emotions present themselves sit with them. It can help to write them down in a journal which helps your mind process them.

2. Ask for support

Obviously surrounding yourself with loving friends and family is super helpful at this time. However, as the days/weeks/months go by, some people feel as though they are burdening their loved ones. It may be helpful to get additional support from a professional such as a doctor, therapist or coach (or all of the above).

3. Start to gently explore what makes you happy

If we have been with a partner for many years, it can feel overwhelming to start to own all your life choices again and not have to compromise or undertake activities you used to do together. Remember what you enjoy and start to incorporate them into your week in whatever way feels doable.

Overall, be as kind to yourself as you would to a close friend going through a great loss. As cliché as it sounds, there is light at the end of this dark tunnel and dealing with your divorce head-on will help you get through the dark tunnel and out the other side.

Life Coach Directory is not responsible for the articles published by members. The views expressed are those of the member who wrote the article.

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Potters Bar EN6 & Stansted CM24
Written by Amy Reeve, BSc | MBA | Certified Coach | Divorce Specialist
Potters Bar EN6 & Stansted CM24

Amy Reeve is a specialist Divorce Coach supporting clients through divorce and out the other side confident and empowered to begin a new chapter of life. Amy works with clients on the emotional pain of the divorce, as well as the next steps post divorce.
She is a Certified Coach, NLP practitioner, Clinical Hypnotherapist and MBA.

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