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Emotional Stages of Divorce

Counseling specialists teach that people experience five stages of grieving after the death of a relative/friend. Grief counselors, priests, ministers and rabbis spend time with those with recent losses to assist during difficult times.  A similar emotional reaction comes with divorce.

Many fail to comprehend that people separating also face emotional upheaval. People ignore that there are more issues than deciding parenting schedules and splitting finances. I have worked with white and blue collar workers, homemakers, doctors, lawyer and business executives; most initially claim that a divorce will not affect day-to-day activities and job performance. Later, these same individuals admit that they refused to be realistic on the emotional affect of separating. Emotional upheaval can block the ability to reach a settlement.

Below is a chart of the Emotional Stages of Divorce.

Blaming the Spouse -

1. focus on the spouse, blaming all past, present and future problems on spouse.

2. develop negative self image.

3. guilt over causing separation (initiator)

4. period of disbelief, fear, feelings of loss of control etc. for non-initiator

5. time of diminished parenting

Mourning the Loss -

1. focus is on acknowledging the end of the relationship

2. grieving - poor me attitude; future seems hopeless

3. over-sensitivity to comments, suggestions

4. intensive pre-occupation with his/her feelings

5. difficulty concentrating on tasks, because lost in world of feelings

6. may attempt to hold onto child in attempt to recapture separated spouse

7. still difficult to make long term decisions.


1. rage from feeling betrayed - often focused at spouse

2. behind anger is fear of how will I live

3. higher energy level than prior two stages

4. anger & energy are part of same cycle - anger means movement so good time to mediate so that energy is channeled

5. mediation can diffuse the anger - focus on tasks - budgets, etc.

Being Single

1. second adolescence - trying out new experiences - often times, spouse learns something new that he/she wanted old spouse to join in

2. growing sense of being whole again

3. begin to trust in self again, to make own decisions

4. improved self image

5. easier to make decision

6. high energy level - ideal to mediate


1. time of settling down

2. feeling of being in control of your life again

3. accepts the end of the marriage and continues on new life

Let Steve Hirsch, a Rhode Island divorce lawyer and divorce mediator, allows you to recognize and navigate the early stages so you gain clarity to negotiate your settlement. Some people need to work with a professional counselor and we can help guide you to the right person(s).

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