The Kubler-Ross model of grief and mourning suggests that people go through five stages during or after a loss or tragedy, such as the death of a loved one. However, the loss of a family member or friend is not the only source of grief strong enough to create the cycle. Other life-altering events can also generate the same response, such as divorce.
It is said that divorce can be as painful as the death of a loved one, and many people go through the Kubler-Ross stages of grief during the process. Below are the five stages and the extreme emotions some people can expect to experience during their divorce.
1. Denial – many people will respond to the initial announcement or realization that a spouse wants to be released from the marriage with denial. Denial may be a coping mechanism to help soften the initial impact of an emotional or destructive event and can help to reduce the associated pain. In many cases, divorce proceedings may come as a surprise to one partner, and denial may allow time to accept the truth.
2. Anger – An angry response is almost guaranteed to follow denial. The betrayal associated with an affair can even illicit fury in some cases, but even the realization that a spouse has been considering divorce for some time can bring anger and resentment. Intense emotions may drive one partner to focus on little things that were considered annoyances, turning them into much bigger issues. With any divorce, anger is almost assured.
3. Bargaining – The third stage in the emotional rollercoaster associated with divorce is bargaining, which one partner may see as the opportunity to salvage the relationship. Bargaining may include attempts at counseling, or even one partner begging the other not to go while promising change or acceptance of the another’s own poor behavior. Bargaining can add additional time to the divorce process and may not affect the outcome.
4. Depression – The pain of divorce has been compared to the loss of a beloved family member or friend. In many ways, the dissolution of a marriage is just that, especially if one partner intends to move away or has already developed a relationship with someone else. Divorcing spouses can also see the event as a failure, and depression may be accompanied by shame.
5. Acceptance – Once the cycle is complete, divorcing partners will reach acceptance and can begin to move on with their lives. Although other emotions may still exist, such as anger and depression, acceptance will allow work to begin so that divorce proceedings can be completed, and spouses can begin to reclaim their lives. Acceptance may not bring happiness, but it can at least help to reduce divorce-related stress and anger.
Divorce is one of the most emotionally challenging events a person can experience. However, as divorcing spouses pass through the five stages of grief during the process, recognizing the steps can help process the event and return to normalcy sooner. Once acceptance has been reached, there is a better chance at a stable, and even happy, life.
The emotional impact of divorce can be overwhelming. If you are struggling with any of the five stages of grief throughout the process, please consider speaking with a mental health professional who can help you work through the cycle. The sooner you can move on, the sooner you can begin to heal.
If you are facing or considering divorce, it is important to speak with an experienced attorney to discuss the options and decisions that are right for your situation. In West Michigan, please contact the experienced attorneys at Johnsen Wikander and let us help you through this difficult time.