The Emotional Journey of Divorce

The Emotional Journey of Divorce

The emotional journey of divorce is personal and complex.  Each situation is different and encompasses many emotions and stages, similar to the grieving process. Mediation can provide a controlled and supportive environment for couples to work through the separation and divorce process with minimal stress toward a mutually beneficial outcome.

What are some divorce stress symptoms?

The stress, anxiety, and uncertainty after the divorce are final and can trigger emotional responses.  According to Oklahoma State UniversityThe loss of the “ideal marriage” is a crisis similar to losing a spouse by death. You may feel alone, unloved, and rejected. You may experience deep pain as you try to understand the reasons for the divorce. You may also experience:

  • Physical symptoms or illness.
  • Sleep-related problems—too much or not enough sleep.
  • Appetite change—loss of appetite or overeating.
  • Mood swings—anger, sadness, clinical depression.
  • Substance abuse of alcohol, drugs, and/or tobacco.
  • Thoughts of suicide. (Seek counseling immediately.) 

Individuals may go through several stages of mourning or grief. The emotional intensity of this period usually reaches a peak within the first six months of separation. However, the grieving process may take as long as two years. Although you are likely to experience all the grieving stages at some point, they may not occur in the same order for each person. It is normal to have these feelings, and they may return at sentimental times of the year, such as a wedding anniversary or holidays.

What are the five emotional stages of divorce?

According to, The stages of divorce are likened to the five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Here is how Remy Dowd, LCSW and certified family and couples’ therapist in private practice, describes them:

Denial: Denial is not accepting divorce as your reality. It’s used as a defense mechanism so people don’t feel too emotionally overwhelmed.

Anger: Emotions run high in the next stage after suppressing them when in denial; people channel these emotions into hatred and blame during the anger stage.

Bargaining: Couples going through divorce often look back at their marriage and replay moments they think could have impacted the outcome. This leads to bargaining—one partner trying to work things out and promising to make changes or doubting/questioning if they made the right decision. Bargaining attempts to pump the breaks and get your old life back.

Depression: Depression is when the reality of the situation sets in, and it’s the toughest and often longest stage.

Acceptance: Lastly, acceptance is when you make peace with the situation and find hope for the future. People may start to feel like their old selves again or have a renewed sense of freedom and relief. Acceptance doesn’t mean all negative emotions are gone, but people will see the light at the end of the tunnel. “It’s important to remember that grief comes in waves and is not a linear journey.”

How does divorce mediation assist couples through the emotional process?

Divorce litigation is an inherently adversarial process—more than most litigated divorces are settled. Assuming competent attorneys and a level playing field, the litigated settlement will be fair and equitable, returning the same result as mediation. Surprisingly, mediation is not the first option most couples seek.

According to, in addition to being more cost-effective, faster, and flexible than traditional divorce litigation, divorce mediation helps couples cooperatively end their marriage by reducing conflict. The focus is on making decisions together, not on fighting against each other. As a result, couples who mediate can lessen the hostilities and leave the marriage with some reduction in rancor, which reduces the emotional stress involved in the process.

Mediation makes it easier for parents to co-parent after divorce because they craft a parenting plan that is detailed to their own needs and schedules. Mediation also models cooperative behavior so that children see their parents working together.

Couples who mediate learn conflict-resolution skills so that if they have disagreements in the future (over custody, payments, or other matters), they already have the skills to work together to find a mutually beneficial outcome without necessarily having to go back to court.

Divorce mediation as an emotionally healthy alternative to litigation

In the best of scenarios, divorce is an emotional and life-changing event. Mediation is an option to work through the details and events of divorce in a calming and supportive environment. Schedule some time with me to discuss your situation and how mediation can work with you, your partner, and your family toward a mutually agreeable and emotionally secure solution.

Please note: Litigation may be more appropriate if there is a history of abuse or significant instances of conflict.

Safer Divorce Mediation

Resources: Oklahoma State University,,

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