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When couples divorce, the emotions they go through are often compared to those experienced by those who are going through grief. It’s no wonder, then, that much of the discussion surrounding the emotional response to separation centres around the 5 stages of grief which were identified in 1969 by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross. When a relationship comes to an end, it is a form of bereavement. You are losing the way you used to live and a life you thought you would continue to enjoy.

Every divorcing couple will experience a range of emotions as they progress through the process.. However, it’s important to remember that moving between stages isn’t necessarily as neat and tidy as you might be led to believe. Often, you’ll experience some or all of those emotions during a single day. Sometimes, you’ll find that you’re stuck in one stage and can’t move on. Sometimes, you’ll even find one of those emotions returning again and again. For most people, there isn’t a clear beginning, middle and end to the emotional process of divorce.

It’s therefore best to avoid trying to manage or control the process. Everyone going through divorce should, instead, progress at their own page. There isn’t a wrong or right way to handle the emotional upheaval of divorce, so if you’re struggling with depression or anxiety, it’s important to get professional help from your doctor.

Unlike the five stages of grief, there are actually six stages in the emotional journey through divorce.


This is the first stage that most people going through divorce experience. They feel an overwhelming sense of fear and sheer panic. Both their mind and body fall into shock as they struggle to grasp the idea that their life is changed forever. Struggling to sleep is normal, and many people stop eating properly. Thinking straight becomes a challenge and some people even suffer from panic attacks due to the lack of control they feel.


Denial represents a coping mechanism which many people going through divorce adopt to pretend that everything will be alright. This helps them to avoid facing the difficult emotions they are being overwhelmed by. It can be tempting to cling onto this stage because of the safe haven it provides. However, it’s important to move onto the next stage and to face those fears of the future. Feeling emotions is very important for overall healing. Without progressing to the next stage, stress, illness and anxiety can be the eventual result.


It is completely normal to feel angry when going through any stressful situation. Once you reach this stage it’s time to start releasing the pent-up emotions which were suppressed during the phase of denial. Let those angry feelings out as otherwise, bottled up anger comes out in different ways. There are lots of positive ways in which emotions can be channelled. Singing, exercise and yoga are just some of the ways in which you can express yourself in a healthy way. Counselling is also a valuable tool at this time to obtain professional help and advice.

However, there are two simple rules: never in front of your children and not publicly on social media (it will come back to haunt you).


Many people going through divorce make a last ditch effort to restore their relationship and get it back on track. They search for things which could take them back to their previous intimacy. There are many ways in which couples try to do this. It’s common to try moving to a different part of the country or having a child. Some people even try to change the person that they truly are, something which is impossible. They try anything and everything to get their relationship back “to normal” and to reassure themselves that they can mend the rifts which have occurred.


Once couples come to the realisation their relationship has finally come to an end, an extreme feeling of loneliness and sadness can overwhelm them. Joy can easily be taken away from daily life. Many people stop feeling motivated to go out and do things that they previously enjoyed. It can be tempting to simply sit on the sofa watching TV all day long without any energy to get up and move. However hiding away doesn’t work. In fact, it just causes further isolation. Calling upon family and friends for support and love is a vital coping mechanism. Counselling can also be extremely helpful at this time. Talking, crying and letting out all those emotions is important during this stage.


Although it may take some time, eventually acceptance is the end of the road. There is finally hope as individuals realise they have to progress and move on, taking their life forward into the future. While feelings of regret and sadness are still there in the background, it becomes possible to live with them. There is no paralysing sadness, fear or grief any more. It is now time to start again, get on with life and forge a new way forward.

Help And Support

Getting a skilled divorce lawyer on your side has a vital role to play if you’re to progress through the six emotional stages of your journey successfully. We have a team of experienced divorce lawyers with expertise in advising their clients through every step of the process. We understand the stress and emotional pressure which comes at every stage and we’re able to support you effectively by simplifying and smoothing the legal aspects of your divorce.

Making the decision to separate or divorce is never going to be easy. However, getting the right help at every step of the way is essential. If you find you’re struggling to cope with depression or anxiety, getting advice from your doctor or a counsellor is important. Meanwhile, we are here to help you through all the legal challenges of your separation so you can have the best chance of a positive experience, despite the difficulties you encounter.

If you need help with your divorce or separation call The Divorce Manager on 0800 294 0452 to book your FREE consultation.

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