To some people, divorce can be as hard to deal with as a death. After all, it is a death of a relationship, so it does make sense that the stages of grief for the time during and after a divorce are similar to those of the death of a loved one. However, what happens when one person is less affected by those stages?
The first emotional stage of divorce is denial. “We’re not broken, just bent” are the lyrics to a popular song that comes to mind when speaking about denying the end of a marriage. This is what happens when one person denies the marital issues and believes wholeheartedly that they can work it out. During this stage, the party in denial may do things to hinder a divorce going forward like refusing to accept service of legal documents, or denying the issues to friends and family members which brings us to the next stage.
Anger and resentment is the second emotional stage in a divorce. This is by far the worst stage. Once a person has gone through the denial stage, an anger takes over. You may remember this stage if you ever saw the movie “Waiting to Exhale.” In this scene, Angela Bassett rips all of her soon to be ex-husbands belongings down from the closet, wheels them out to the front yard in a wagon and dumps the items into his car. She then sets everything on fire. When the fire department shows up and says “I’m sorry ma’am, you are only allowed to burn trash in your yard,” she calmly lights a cigarette and says, “It is trash” and walks away. Yes, the blind rage of realizing you have been left behind in a divorce can cause a person to do some pretty insane things.
The third emotional stage of divorce is bargaining. This can be a very dangerous stage because the emotional whirlwind is just starting to catch the person being left, and those emotions can start to bring the person down. During the bargaining stage a person may be prone to say things like “I can change if you don’t leave me” or “I’ll agree to whatever you want me to do, just don’t leave.” This stage is especially hard because it exposes a person’s confidence or lack thereof. This makes it very easy to take advantage of the situation. A person might do things like request full custody, raise alimony or child support, or even hand over the keys to family home all in an attempt to rectify whatever the problem was to make the divorce happen.
The fourth stage of emotions is depression. Once a person’s lack of confidence is exposed during the anger and bargaining stage, they become raw. Everything about the situation hurts. They may lock themselves in a bedroom and cry for a few weeks, or they may result to using drugs or alcohol to help ease the pain. Both of these can be very bad during a divorce proceeding as they may also be doing things like ignoring the children and other household responsibilities, simply because it is just too hard to cope with.
The fifth and final stage of emotions during a divorce is acceptance. This is the clarity stage. The stage where the person looks in the mirror and says, “I’ve got this and I deserve to be happy.” During this stage, if the divorce hasn’t been finalized, the person may look at their ex and decide to truly stand up for themselves. They may take back that family home or even see through clear eyes that full custody is simply not reasonable. Another way a person may express the final stage of acceptance is by changing their hair or appearance, losing weight, perhaps even sticking a toe back into the dating pool.
Divorce is one of the hardest things adults will have to go through. It is not only difficult because of the emotional trauma caused in this situation but also because you have to be able to find the balance of your own feelings not affecting the children. If you are stuck in a sticky divorce and need legal help, the best thing to do is to contact a local attorney who specializes in divorce and family law. Call us at (312) 346-5320 if you’d like to just ask questions or get a referral.