Much like the grief process, there are several emotional stages of divorce.
From denial to anger, bargaining to acceptance, we need to experience a whole range of emotions before we are really ready to move on without the emotional baggage that a divorce can leave us with.
Here are some tips from Ian Shann, a divorce mediation specialist, on how to work through the emotional stages of a divorce.
It’s important to remember that no-one has the exact same experience when it comes to divorce. Some may more through certain stages quicker than others. Some could get stuck in a particular emotion for months or possibly even years.
Be kind to yourself – don’t expect to race through your emotional journey. Take each day as it comes and remember there is a light at the end of the divorce tunnel, even if it seems like there isn’t.
As part of the separation process, you may well experience some degree of denial. It?s hard to believe what?s happening, and that it is actually happening to you.
If you?re used to being in control of your situation, this may be a particularly difficult stage to overcome emotionally. It?s easy to get stuck in denial, so be aware of your thoughts and feelings during the early days of your separation.
Shock, Fear & Anger
Often those who have been married for years, or even decades, go through a stage of separation shock.
This shock can be underpinned by an overwhelming sense of fear ? fear of the future and fear of how your new life might look following your divorce.
Anger can start to build as well ? thoughts like ?why is this happening to me?? and ?what did I do to deserve this?? may be running through your brain at all hours of the day or night.
Remember that anger can cloud your judgement and at a time when you need to make careful and considered decisions, this can be detrimental.
When you start feeling angry or thinking these kind of thoughts, find something to distract your attention. It could be simple breathing exercises, meditation, calling a friend, or even just hugging your dog ? find something that works for you to help calm your emotions and prevent you making bad decisions in the heat of the moment.
When we?re placed in stressful situations, we can often experience a huge range of different emotions, often in a short space of time.
You might feel fine one minute, and the next thing you know, you?re sobbing on the bathroom floor wondering how you got to this point.
And that?s OK.
Allow yourself to feel all the things ? but remember they will not last forever, and these emotions do not define you.
Don?t be afraid to rely on your closest friends and family for support when you are feeling low ? they can help you work through your emotional rollercoaster and make sure you get off the ride ? no matter how long it may take.
Some divorcing couples experience the bargaining stage during their separation. You might want to hold onto the notion that your relationship could survive. You could go to counselling. You could talk things out. You owe it to the kids to give it one more shot.
Only you and your partner know when it?s truly over ? don?t force something if deep down you know it?s all going to end in tears ? again.
Try to recognise any bargaining statements for what they really are, and try not to act on impulse. Carefully think through all your decisions when it comes to the end of your relationship and moving on.
One of the most common emotional stages of divorce is depression.
This usually occurs when you finally realise that your relationship is over. It feels like there is nothing you can do to stop what is happening, and nothing you do will make things better or easier.
You might feel an overwhelming sense of sadness, or not want to get out of bed. You could find yourself over-indulging in food, alcohol or other forms of comfort.
It?s at this point that you need your friends and family the most. They will understand what you?re going through and best of all, they won?t judge you for it. Call them, talk to them, but above all, let them help you work through this. Being overwhelmed with depression can be a rocky road to travel alone.
If needed, consider getting professional help to guide you through this stage.
Acceptance & Letting Go
Ah, acceptance ? we?ve saved the best for last. Once you?ve worked through all the negative emotions, acceptance will grace you with its presence.
That final feeling where you realise there is a new life waiting for you. That light at the end of the tunnel? It really DOES exist!
Of course you may still have moments of sadness, anger, fear, and pretty much any other feelings you can imagine, but they won?t overshadow the fact that you?ve moved on and let go of your relationship.
Many people experience a period of growth or even a sense of being rebirthed ? they become a new person, living their new life to the absolute full.
Now, it?s time to look forward. Not back.
Ian Shann is the principal mediator and director of Move On Mediation in Perth. Move On offers affordable and effective divorce and family mediation in Perth for separating couples.
Ian’s commitment is simple – to help keep separated couples out of the Family Court and minimise their need for lawyers, saving them time, money and anguish. Under Ian’s guidance, separated couples are able top move on with their lives through amicable divorce mediation.