Managing Emotions in the 5 Stages of Divorce: A Helpful Guide

The death of a loved one and divorce, while different in many ways, can often leave the mourning person in similar stages of grief as they cope with such a great loss in their life.

Both can turn life on its head, ruining a sense of normalcy and forcing a feeling of “starting over.”

Just as grieving individuals can find a bit of peace and clarity from understanding the five stages of grief, divorced individuals can also find some direction and support from learning more about the five stages of divorce.

In a way, it’s like a guidebook to working through the changing emotions most people experience post-divorce.

Read on to learn more about each of the five stages of divorce and how to help yourself cope every step of the way.


Denial is the first stage, where people often avoid reality or resist accepting the truth. You may feel like a healthy distraction is your best plan of action, and find yourself avoiding thinking about the situation so you don’t have to feel uncomfortable, often painful feelings.

Denial can lead to extra stress on the mind and body, unexplained crying, and mysterious headaches. To take care of yourself and your emotions during the denial period, try scheduling 30 minutes to an hour each day to think or write about your situation, allowing any emotions to come up. Once the time is over, you can put it away and get back to your life, but forcing a bit of reflecting can help you move through it and accept reality.


Anger is the second stage of divorce, and you may find yourself mad at yourself, your ex or particularly mad at the world for no reason. This stems from the betrayal, abandonment, and rejection people try to avoid during the first stage.

During this stage, you may have short patience, become more argumentative or irritable, and spend more time complaining.

The best antidote to anger is gratefulness. Rather than focus all of your attention on what’s unfair and wrong about the situation, find 3 things each morning you’re grateful for, and try to keep these in mind throughout the day, especially when your anger is tested.


In the third stage, bargaining, you may find yourself trying to fix things so you can “earn” your old life back. Doubt creeps in during the bargaining phase, and as an attempt to eliminate that doubt, you may find yourself trying to make promises that you think could “fix everything.” Alas, it’s not that simple.

Your mind can get wrapped up in the “what ifs” during the bargaining phase, and it can get a bit illogical and unrealistic. This is when talking to a professional can be especially helpful. They can help you understand why the “what ifs” aren’t realistic and bring you back down to earth.


Depression is the fourth stage that can come with a wave of deep sadness as the reality of the divorce sets in.

Like anyone struggling with depression, having a good support system of people around you is especially helpful. You may also want to continue seeing a therapist to work through what you’re feeling.


The fifth and final stage is acceptance when you finally see the lessons and gifts that have come from this trying time.

When you feel you’re starting to turn the corner, start prioritizing yourself and your new life. Lean into it with excitement and curiosity rather than feeling nervous or unsure about what’s next.

Incorporate self-care with yoga, new furniture for your new place, a spa day, or a shopping trip to lift your spirits and give yourself the attention and love you have deserved all along.

The Light at the End of the Tunnel

Even when you’re in the thick of one of the stages of grief, it will always be just a stepping stone to the light at the end of the tunnel, which is acceptance and a better chapter waiting for you.

Reduce the stress and strain of your divorce by exploring divorce mediation, which can support a healthy divorce by allowing both parties to work together toward an agreeable settlement. Get in touch to learn more about mediation or schedule your appointment.