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It’s a fact. When you get a divorce, you will go through the seven stages of grief just as if someone had died. In reality, someone has.

When you get married you “become one” with your spouse. For all intents and purposes you’ve created a third entity, a personality that is unique to you. When you divorce, you are effectively killing off that personality. No matter how you explain what happens, no matter how much you want a divorce – the loss of that entity is painful and traumatic.

Don’t kid yourself. You are going to grieve.

It’s normal, natural, and even healthy to work through the grief process after divorce. Go at your own pace and get help when you need to.

Denial

Denial can express itself in many ways. You may pretend nothing is happening, or you may just feel numb. You get through your days by just doing the next thing, and you probably feel like you are just going through the motions. Others may not even realize what is going on.

Basically, you can’t imagine your life without your spouse, so you don’t even let yourself think about it. It’s usually a relatively short stage.

Fear

Once the denial begins to ebb away, fear and pain move in quickly. This was the ugly crying stage for me. I don’t like change – even good change. I felt abandoned, alone, and I couldn’t figure out what I was going to do to support my kids. My future looked bare, lonely, and bleak.

Just goes to show you how wrong you can be about your life. Hell, if I could have seen the results of my divorce I’d have jumped sooner.

This stage can be long or short and, maybe more than any other stage, the time you spend in it depends on you. This is where you acknowledge your pain and your fear, square your shoulders, and push through. Create goals and a plan for achieving them.

You are strong, and you’ve got this!

Anger

You are going to be mad at your ex and anybody else who you decide contributed to the divorce. I was angry with myself more than anyone else because I believed that if I had been closer to perfect, or prettier, or thinner it wouldn’t have happened. I blamed myself for his unfaithfulness.

I was admittedly really angry at God. I screamed at Him day after day. I did everything right, and this was how He rewarded me? Homeschooling moms who go to church three times a week, grind their own flour, and have stuffed their rowdy selves into a quiet and gentle Proverbs 31 chick mold aren’t supposed to get divorced.

You will be angry and if you aren’t used to expressing or dealing with your anger it can get bad.

Bargaining

This is your inner preschooler’s way of regaining a feeling of control. You may bargain with your ex, with yourself, or with God. You’ll promise anything if only you get another chance.

Somewhere inside yourself you believe that things could go back to how they were, and maybe even better if you just follow the right formula. Bargaining is a sign of desperation. Recognize it for what it is. Accept that you feel that way, and that it’s a normal part of grief.

Guilt

This is where the anger and blame that you experienced in stage three come back as guilt for not making it work. You think about the things you could have done differently to stave off the scourge of divorce and the humiliation of being a divorced person.

You want to step into a time machine and make it all go away.

Depression

Even if you’ve always been optimistic you will probably go through some degree of depression. You’ll toss and turn at night and be unable to sleep. You may stop eating or constantly eat. You’ll lose your temper, and you may cry a lot.

I hate taking medicine. At 54, I am on thyroid medication because my thyroid was removed, but that is all. I don’t like going to doctors, and I don’t like being dependent on chemicals. Still, I began taking Wellbutrin during the divorce and its aftermath, and it made a huge difference. I rarely take it now.

Don’t be afraid to get help.

Acceptance

Slowly it sinks in that this is your new normal. You begin to let go of the past, and you find yourself increasingly satisfied by your present. You begin to see how strong you are and that you can really do this.

One day you wake up and realize that you’re happy, and life is good.

But Wait, There’s More

Getting to that place of acceptance takes time but it’s great when you get there. You breathe a sigh of relief and then all of a sudden you slip back down the rabbit hole and you are back in stage two or three or five. What happened?

It’s OK. It’s normal to cycle through. You’ve been through a lot, and some aspects of your healing may take years. You may even be surprised by issues you had that you didn’t know existed.

I have been through all of the stages at least once and yet a couple of years ago I was talking with a counselor about how I was startled easily, how I was having nightmares, and how being around my ex caused panic attacks. He went into a lengthy conversation with me that introduced me to the term Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

I don’t know how long I will deal with C-PTSD. It makes me feel like damaged goods, and sometimes it’s embarrassing. I was at an air show recently, and there was a truck with a jet engine that drove by and made a huge, sharp sound unexpectedly.

Adrenaline poured into my chest. I began to cry, and I hid in my husband’s arms until I stopped shaking. I felt like a total idiot when it was over. It’s a fact of my life, and I have to deal with it whether I like it or not–but it doesn’t mean that I am not over the divorce.

It’s just a reminder that my past relationship left me with an emotional limp. How about you? Have you found yourself going through these or similar stages? Join First Wives World today and talk to others who know what you are going through because they’ve been there – and they’ve got the limp to prove it.

Image Courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons, User: Gisela Giardino

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6 comments

  • Comment Link Relieved Friday, 03 July 2015 16:45 posted by Relieved

    THANK YOU! This explains why this has been so difficult for me and why I slipped back when I have been doing so well emotionally. I felt so awful and experienced all these emotions, and I blamed it on my Aspergers and said if only I hadn't had my autistic meltdowns in front of him things would be different and he would see me more positive but it was his decision and I supported him as much as I could throghoht his nervous break down but he still stopped loving me despite my loyalty and support. I kept thinking if only I was a "typical" person but "typical " people go through divorce too, 50 per cent of them so it is pointless blaming my autism. I know now slip backs are common and it is a sign I have progressed because I could not slip back if I hadn't. Thank you for making sense. God bless youxx

  • Comment Link Tboulter Wednesday, 12 November 2014 16:01 posted by Tboulter

    Thank you for sharing your story. I am sorry that you have had to go through this. It is certainly life changing and heartbreaking. My husband decided to abruptly leave our home and our three daughters 3 years ago without any explanation. We have been divorced for one year and I feel that I am still limping through these stages! I am so grateful for this site -- I makes this journey less scary and lonely.

    Thank you again for writing this.......

  • Comment Link Kimberly Tuesday, 11 November 2014 18:08 posted by Kimberly

    My journey started over 3 years ago - a 30 year marriage... I'm still feeling it - having my ups and downs. He's getting married again and I can't even bear the thought of dating.

    Fear, yes. I simply never want to go through that kind of pain again ever..

  • Comment Link ILOVE80S Wednesday, 29 October 2014 03:30 posted by ILOVE80S

    Hi Mayre,
    Everything thing you wrote of is so true. I have been divorced now going on 9 years. I can honestly say that I have experienced all of these stages and t was able to come to the day where I realized I am happy with this life. This fits me. I have always been independent, but you don't realize how much strength you have until you go through something so traumatic as divorce. Sure I miss and wish I had that 50+ marriage, a husband that adores me and a normal family life for my children, but the fairy tale that you read of in books doesn't happen for everybody. With all that being said however, what I struggle with the most is when I got to this "over it" stage it was great and empowering and then BOOM!....the grief process started all over again many years later. I thought I was over this! That is what I find so unfair. I really loved where how you mentioned you might one day later feel like you have moved on and are past the grief process and then you relapse back through a couple stages again and this is "normal". I just wonder if anyone else does this and feels this way too?

  • Comment Link twillet Tuesday, 28 October 2014 22:06 posted by twillet

    My divorce was final in January 2014. I have went through the mentioned stages for sure, maybe even more than once. The one I can't get past is the anger..The alcohol abuse,emotional abuse, infidelity (with his bro's wifes sister), emotionally abandoning our daughter etc.... It is getting better but sometimes I feel overwhelmed with a million different feelings. Can't wait for the accepting and moving on part.

  • Comment Link FreeSpirit52 Tuesday, 28 October 2014 16:56 posted by FreeSpirit52

    Hi Marye and thank you for a great piece of supporting true writing. I was married for 24 years with him nearly 28. Only divorced 7 months ago. All what you say I have found to be a mirror to my own feelings. So I take one day at a time and take any support that I can. It is so hard to start your life all over let alone think about finding piece and love for yourself but with time it's amazing when you look back, how well you have done. Another day blooms!