In every divorce journey, there comes a time when we might feel like we’re getting through life okay, and then—wham!—along comes a memory or a sideways comment that slams us back into feeling angry or depressed all over again.
Seriously—what gives? Shouldn’t we be able to deal with our grief and anger once and then move on?
First, let me tell you that this “regression” is really common. Every client and every acquaintance I know who has dealt with divorce goes through cycles of feeling okay and then feeling utterly wretched again.
Even though you’ll hear well-meaning advice like “just let the past go!” it’s actually entirely natural to move back and forth through the five different stages of grief. And not only is it natural—they each serve a purpose and play an important part in your healing journey.
The key to maintaining emotional resiliency and recovering is to let yourself experience each of these stages in turn—“feeling all the feels” in a deep and natural way.
> Surviving in the moment
I think people tend to think that Denial is a stage to move through as quickly as possible, but that’s only partially true. Yes, it can be problematic for someone to stay in this stage for too long and insist that their situation isn’t changing. But in the short-term, denial is your body and mind’s way of protecting you, coping with the loss, and managing your emotions so that you can get through what needs to be done so you can move on and start your new life.
> Protecting yourself
Divorce is listed as the second most stressful life event you can experience—and no wonder. It’s a complete upheaval of everything you know and are familiar with. Anger is a protective mechanism that comes at a time when we’re feeling extremely vulnerable, and again, helps us continue coping with everyday life.
> Coping with the pain
Otherwise known as Bargaining, this is another stage that people often feel isn’t a good one to get stuck in. But at its root, bargaining is really about trying to regain control when we feel out of control. That’s a tactic that rarely works, but it’s a sign that you’re trying to step into the situation and turn it into something that works for you—which can lead to improvements in your life and emotional well-being overall.
> Coming to terms with your new situation
Once you’ve fully accepted that divorce is happening, Depression often sets in. Again, this is part of our natural coping cycle. After realizing that we can’t (or don’t want to) change the situation, we have to allow ourselves to deeply feel the emotions that come along with it in order to process and fully let go.
> Looking toward the future
Moving through these stages and into Acceptance doesn’t mean that we don’t feel the pain any longer, but it does mean we’ve found strength in ourselves—and we know we will be okay, no matter what happens.
It’s really, really important to realize that these stages don’t represent a linear journey. Some people jump around between the stages, or experience multiple at once. You will go through each stage and you might go through them multiple times, depending on what triggers you have and what kind of situations you find yourself in.
The important thing is to let your mind and body gracefully move through and feel all of your emotions. Don’t try to rush them or circumvent them—a fun vacation or new clothes or that bottle of wine will only delay your feelings for a little while, it won’t resolve them.
If you can give yourself grace and acceptance, no matter what you are feeling and what stage you are in, the sooner you will be able to start creating a truly fulfilling life.
Are you ready to feel joy again, reclaim your independence, and chart a path toward healing and recovery? I would love to help you as you take those steps.
Check out my guide on 7 Ways to Rebuild Your Confidence During Divorce, with real, practical tips on how to start taking control of your story and create the life you have been dreaming about!