It's Okay to Not Be Okay: Experiencing the 5 Stages of Grief After Divorce

April 17, 2023
Michaela Madden

Article written by Michaela Madden

It goes without saying that divorce comes with a lot of emotions. Maybe you’re relieved that you finally are free from a toxic relationship, and are excited to enter this next chapter of your life. Maybe you’re angry after experiencing a deep betrayal, and are figuring out how to move forward from here. Or maybe you can’t shake the sadness that comes with mourning the loss of your marriage. 


This rollercoaster of emotions is very normal, and it’s completely okay to not be okay through it all. In fact, everyone has their own unique emotional rollercoaster and healing journey that they go through. The healing typically includes the 5 stages of grief. While many assume that the 5 stages of grief only apply to the death of a loved one, they actually apply to anyone going through any grieving process. In this article, we’re going to explain each of the 5 stages of grief, how they may arise in your post-divorce healing process, and how it’s okay to not be okay.

What Are the 5 Stages of Grief?

The 5 stages of grief were introduced in the 1960s as a universal set of emotions people experience when it comes to death. These stages eventually evolved from being solely death-related to applying to any type of grief. And although spoken about as if they happen in order, you can actually experience any stage at any time. Additionally, you may experience all of the stages or just a select few. 

Denial- 5 Stages of Divorce Grief


The denial stage is different than you may think. While you may not flat-out deny going through with the divorce itself, you might feel weirdly numb or normal to the process. Typically, you haven’t properly processed or acknowledged the emotions of your divorce at this stage. You do everything possible to distract yourself from acknowledging them.

Anger- 5 Stages of Divorce Grief


Even though anger is frowned upon in many aspects of life, it’s a common and natural emotion to experience after divorce. You may be mad at your former spouse for the demise of your marriage, mad at yourself, or mad at the world because life feels unfair. It’s completely okay to feel angry, and is an important emotion to sort through.

Bargaining- 5 Stages of Divorce Grief


The bargaining stage happens when you start to think there’s a way to change what’s already happened. This could look like making promises to your ex-partner in hopes they’ll not want to move forward with the divorce. It could also look like wagering with God or another higher power to get things back to how they used to be. This stage also involves a lot of self-blame. Common thoughts can include “If only I did ___”, or “I wouldn’t be getting divorced if I had done ____”.


Depression- 5 Stages of Divorce Grief


Depression is experienced differently by everyone. It is said to be one of the longest and hardest stages to get through. By now you’ve come to terms with what’s happened, and are experiencing an overwhelming sadness because of it. Symptoms of depression can include fatigue, loss of appetite, and loss of motivation to do everyday things. If you’re currently in this stage, stay strong and know that there is no timeline you need to be on. Some stay in this stage longer than others, and never be afraid to reach out for help if needed. 

Acceptance- 5 Stages of Divorce Grief


Even if it doesn’t feel like it right now, your emotional rollercoaster will eventually come to an end. And while it’s true that you may never find yourself completely over the divorce, you’ll eventually learn to accept that it happened and the emotions that come with it. All the tears shed and emotions felt are part of your healing journey, and before you know it, the light at the end of the tunnel is just around the corner.

A qualified family lawyer will understand that divorce is an emotional process. Our team at Shulman & Partners is there to support you along your journey. Don't hesitate to reach out to them with any concerns you may have throughout your divorce.