What are the Stages of Divorce Grief?

Going through the divorce process is rarely easy. Even in amicable circumstances, you and your former spouse may find it challenging to navigate the emotions involved alongside the practical legal components. After all, you’re experiencing loss, which tends to bring with it the sense of grief.

The stages of divorce grief are largely the same as in any other loss experience; you may go through denial, anger, bargaining, and depression before reaching acceptance. While transitioning these steps is vital for a healthy route forward, they might also present some complications in your life and your divorce.

We’re going to explore the stages of divorce grief a little further alongside some steps you and your divorce attorney can take to address the challenges that come with them.


Denial is a common stage of grief people experience during the divorce process. This is especially prevalent if the separation comes as a surprise. If you’ve previously believed that your marriage had been largely happy and now find that your partner was unfaithful or dissatisfied, it can’t make divorce a difficult reality to face.

Unfortunately, this can be a challenging component of divorces. Denial tends to prevent people from moving forward in a practical and meaningful way. Therefore, it’s not unusual to find a party who is going through denial will delay filing paperwork or performing essential administrative divorce tasks. This often isn’t malicious in nature, it’s just that you or they haven’t quite been able to get over the first hurdle: that life is about to change.

Addressing this stage isn’t necessarily easy, but requires a reality check. Often, working with an experienced divorce attorney can be instrumental in pushing this aspect, as they can guide you through the practical components of divorce that cement the truth of the situation. If your former spouse is exhibiting denial, your attorney’s letters and actions can also prompt the need to recognize the reality of the situation.


Anger is perhaps the most prevalent part of divorce grief. This is certainly understandable. If you or your former spouse acted in a way that caused the deterioration of the relationship, it’s not unusual for anger to arise in relation to blame. There can also be anger related to the turbulence you may experience in the short-term as a result of your divorce, such as financial difficulty, court dates, and change of lifestyle.

In some instances, anger can make the divorce process more complicated. This is because such emotions can bring out malicious or difficult behavior in people. An angry former spouse may express their anger in the form of punishing actions. For instance, they may try to deprive you of custody of your children. They might even try to turn your kids against you through activities that are consistent with malicious parent syndrome. You may even find yourself tempted to act in anger either due to the divorce or in response to your former spouse’s difficult behavior.

The important thing is not to be reactive when going through the anger stage of grief. It is perfectly natural to be emotionally affected in such a difficult situation. But thoughtless and malicious actions don’t help anyone in these scenarios. Take a little time to consider your actions before responding. If your ex is acting out of anger, consult your family law attorney on how best to counter this in a sensible and practical way. In some instances, it may be worth seeking assistance from a therapist to get you past the anger you feel at this stage.


Bargaining can feel like a strange stage of divorce grief. It involves attempting to bargain with another party to stop the process. In some instances, the divorcing party experiencing this will try to bargain directly with their former partner. In others, the bargaining behavior will be directed toward an intangible “higher power”, such as a religious deity or the universe. Such behavior may be illogical, but it often comes from a place of fear for the unknown future they’re facing.

The behavior this prompts during a divorce tends to take a range of forms. Your spouse may try to bargain with you by saying they will change if you simply agree to end the divorce process. This is especially common in spouses that have cheated or were abusive during the relationship. Bargaining may be more malicious than this, too. It’s not uncommon for men going through divorce to find their ex tries to use access to their children to force a reconciliation.

It is important to approach such issues with clarity of thought. While it is not your attorney’s role to influence your choice to divorce, they may be able to remind you of the context with which you decided to move toward divorce in the first place. If your ex is attempting to utilize custody or other actions as a bargaining tactic, your attorney will also help you to respond in an effective way.


Even if you’ve never experienced symptoms of depression previously, this can be a common stage of divorce grief. Indeed, you may not initially recognize the symptoms you live with as those of depression. In many instances, it’s not just an experience of sadness. It can also result in a lack of motivation to perform key tasks every day or prompt a neglect of your personal well-being.

Depression during the divorce process is certainly understandable. After all, you’ve likely put a lot of your time, energy, and love into a marriage that is ultimately no longer working. You might also find that your symptoms stem from the prospect of not spending as much time with your children or having to rebuild certain parts of your life.

There’s no easy route out of depression. Though it may help you to know that the change can often represent positive elements in your life. Moving forward is a chance for reinvention and fresh experiences. Nevertheless, it’s vital to understand that you don’t need to go through it alone. Reach out to your loved ones and talk about what you’re going through. If possible, work with a therapist or psychiatrist to establish tactics for moving forward through this stage of divorce grief.


Acceptance is the goal of moving through the stages of divorce grief. This isn’t the same thing as saying you’re happy about divorcing or the circumstances that led up to it. The feelings surrounding divorce are often complex and you may even find you or your ex dipping back into the other stages occasionally. Reaching acceptance, though, is generally considered the healthiest stage to achieve during a time of change.

On an emotional level, acceptance prepares helps you to more effectively manage the difficult feelings that come with the end of your relationship. It can also trigger the mentality you need to make plans to move forward in the most positive fashion. From the perspective of your divorce case and any associated custody hearings, acceptance is also vital for taking the most practical steps to achieve an amicable, sensible, and mutually beneficial outcome.

Reaching this stage certainly isn’t easy. It takes a lot of personal work and sometimes painful emotions to get to the point at which you’re ready to make your fresh start. Rest assured, though, that with support from friends and experienced professionals, you can navigate your way to acceptance and your life beyond.

Call The Family Law Attorneys Men Trust (813) 652-0598

In Law We Trust Divorce and Family Lawyers is a premier firm of divorce lawyers representing men in family law proceedings. We have years of experience assisting men who are going through the stages of grief while navigating divorce and custody cases. Our experience and skills help to guide our clients through the challenges of the Florida family law courts and reach a fair outcome. Call us today and get the proper representation men need and deserve.

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