The 12 Emotional Stages Of Grief & Heartbreak You Have To Survive During A Divorce

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Some people say divorce is like a death. It's the death of your dream of a life together, your long-term plans for your family, and in some ways, the death of your identity as a married person and a partner.

But even if you want to be less dramatic about it, divorce is heartbreaking and you have to grieve all the losses — the love, the romance, your plans, your in-laws, and sometimes your mutual friends. 

Fortunately, there are some relatively predictable emotional stages to this grief and heartbreak after divorce. 

In her best-selling book from 1969, Elisabeth Kübler-Ross first identified various stages of grief that you go through when faced with a bereavement. While this is far from scientific — everyone will experience grief differently, and that's OK — the Kübler-Ross Model has been helpful in giving people who are grieving a bit of a road map to the emotions they may experience. 

These stages are:

  • denial
  • anger
  • bargaining
  • depression
  • acceptance

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While all of her work was focused on death and dying, the "Change Curve" that is derived from her work is widely referred to when people go through any kind of change.

For some people, they already experienced the strong emotional states as they went through the breakup and so will rapidly be moving into acceptance.

John M. Fisher is a Chartered Psychologist and his research has produced the Process of Transition curve. This is much more comprehensive and explains how people respond to change through more defined stages that are followed in succession until they accept the change.

The Process of Transition curve is explained well in the video below, but, basically, you go through much of the actual transition completed subconsciously. While some people move through the stages more quickly than others, everyone will need different things depending upon which phase they are in. 

Your deciding factors will be your temperament, life experiences, perceived degree of control, and so on.

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The key to understanding the stages is not to feel like you must go through every one of them, in precise order. You may regress to an earlier stage depending on your situation. 

Instead, it’s more helpful to look at them as guides in the change process — it helps you understand and put into context where you.

Keep in mind that everyone reacts differently. You may readily show your emotions or you may experience your emotions internally. Each person will experience this major change in their life differently.

See if you can relate to these 10 steps of grief and change when you're going through a heartbreaking divorce:

1. Anxiety

You don’t really know what’s going to hap­pen next, and you aren’t sure what the future will really look like at this point.

2. Happiness

You’ve committed to the fact that your marriage is over, and you are feeling really good about it. 

You realize that much of the marriage was not working and things are now going to change.

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3. Feeling threatened

You are unsure about how your marriage ending is going to affect you and how you are going to cope.

4. Fear

You are fearful of the way your new life will force you into a new way of thinking, working and behaving.

5. Anger

Some anger and frustration is directed at others, especially those who you believe are responsible for forcing your marriage to end.  

6. Guilt

In this phase, you experience feelings of guilt for not having coped as well as you believe you could have.

RELATED: 4 Reasons Why People Feel Such Deep Shame When They Get Divorced

7. Despair

You may feel confused and apathetic and really start to wonder who you are. 

This stage is often labeled as depression but may not be as deep, as long-lasting, and as intense as clinical depression that requires medical support.

8. Hostility

You show aggression towards yourself and others and your change in circumstances, in general. Some people easily get stuck in this angry stage of divorce.

9. Acceptance

You become more emotionally detached from the situation and begin to make sense of your new circumstances and begin to look forward to a new future.

RELATED: 24 Myths About Divorce That Will Keep You From Moving On

10. Moving Forward

You start exerting more control over your life and make more things happen in a positive sense.=

11. Denial

You deny that there is any change to your marriage is occurring at all.

12. Disillusionment

You decide that the changes in your life are not going to fit with your value system. 

This will create major upheaval in these circumstances whereby you completely change your lifestyle — you give up your job and travel around the world, join a religious sect, spend excessively, find a same sex partner, etc.

Because your change in circumstance comes with a whole new set of emotions; it gives you the chance to authentically reconnect to who you truly are.

The change brought about by your marriage finally ending can be traumatic yet it can, also, be a really valuable, exciting opportunity with the right approach and focus. However, it is important to recognize the emotional transition that you go through and see it as an important part of the process.

RELATED: 6 Ways Strong Women Can Turn Obstacles Into Opportunity After Divorce

Robin Hills is the author of "The Authority Guide to Emotional Resilience in Business: Strategies to manage stress and weather storms in the workplace". Available to order from Amazon.

This article has been adapted from the author's book.