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The Emotional Process of Divorce

There are a few people that leave a marriage with no doubt or regret; these are people that didn't share a close emotional bond with their spouse, or gradually grew apart over such a long period of time that their emotional processing of the divorce was mostly done with before the process of divorce was ever implemented.

For the rest of us, the most difficult aspect of divorce is accepting that someone that we loved as part of our family - as the person closest to us in our entire life - is not going to be there anymore. While it may sound like strange terminology, there is a "grieving" process that each of us most go through in accepting the losses that we have in divorce, whether the loss is one of a close relationship, a sense of partnership or just our hopes of what the marriage would have been. If we do not grieve the end of a relationship we will never emotionally leave it behind; it will follow us into our new, divorced life as well as our future relationships. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross published a book titled On Death and Dying in 1969, that contains Five Stages of Grief that are still very relevant in the divorce process. They are:

1. Denial. Refusal to accept something. We may choose not to believe that this is truly happening, or that it is permanent. (In a relationship, this is static; sometimes separation or divorce are not permanent.) During a period of emotional upheaval, it is immensely important to rely on your intellect rather than your emotions to decide whether this needs to be a permanent decision, or is something that can be repaired.

2. Anger. We may experience anger at ourselves for "losing" our spouse or for not having chosen better earlier on, or we may be angry at our spouse for not living up to our expectations. We may just be angry that we have to make life changes.

3. Bargaining, or trying to prevent or change the situation to prevent an unwanted result. Once the decision is made and finalized, it is important not to unreasonably attempt to prevent your divorce by compromising yourself, your spouse, or your children. Trust your judgement, and accept that there are good reasons that you are in this predicament. Keep your safety, your future and your history in mind.

4. Depression may be the ugliest stage of the process. We will mourn the losses that we have and grieve over the change in plans. This is a very important stage of divorce, and every person handles this part a little differently. Allow yourself an appropriate time to mourn (some therapists recommend a third of the length of your relationship) and avoid finding comfort in unhealthy choices like immediately pursuing another relationship, excessive drinking or other distractions. Instead, find a healthy outlet for your emotions. Write, paint, sing or just allow yourself time to work through them. Do not allow yourself to neglect important parts of your life, though!

5. Acceptance. In the final stage, you realize that you are fine, and the change was just another doorway to new things.

Best of luck to you wherever you are on the path! If you need a support network, please check our forums for some friendly encouragement!

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