5 stages of divorce grief

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In a divorce, there are 5 stages of grief, or emotions felt by parties involved. These ‘5 stages of divorce’ or also known as ‘5 stages of grief’ were theorized and introduced by Dr Elisabeth Kübler-Ross in her book ‘On Death and Dying’. Dr Elisabeth was a psychiatrist who pioneered near-death studies and has received over 20 honorary degrees for her work.

The 5 stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance) are not only applicable to divorce, but are also similar to reactions people experience when they encounter less taxing issues like relocation, crime and punishment, injury and bankruptcy.

It’s also important to note that the grief cycle is actually a change cycle, to help us understand and deal better with these emotions we feel when in adverse personal situations. Without further ado, let’s explore these 5 stages of grief, in a divorce context :



Denial is the first stage of grief. News of your partner wanting a divorce, or even you as the initiator, can be surprising and difficult to take in. In this stage, the couple is still trying to come to terms with the fact that the marriage is over.

How do you know if you are in denial?

If you believe that your relationship is ‘just having a rough patch’ or that things will get back to normal after awhile, even after your partner has made it clear that they want to get a divorce or has contacted divorce lawyers, then you are probably in denial.

Another form of denial is when you accept that divorce is looming, but are refusing to listen or simply ignoring your partner’s requests, hoping that they will change their minds. To get out of this denial stage, a good tactic is to do some reality check. Sit down in a quiet place and reflect. Think of the ideal situation you’d want to be in. Then, assess where you are right now, and how near or far you are from that goal. Lastly, create a list of things you have to do to get your life to your ideal situation. Your ideal situation could be getting back together with your partner, or something else. It’s personal and depends entirely on the individual. For this to be effective, you have to be unbiased and as honest to yourself as possible.



The next stage of grief is anger. Once reality sets in, people get angry. They get angry at their partner for wanting a divorce, or for the things they did or said in the past, or getting mad at yourself for your own faults and actions that led to the divorce.

During this anger phase, most people tend to focus on the negative traits of their partners, or the things they hate about them.

As reality hits, the pain can be too intense to bear. Anger comes, justifiable or not, and we have to let it come. In my case I was blindsided and betrayed. There was anger to get out. When a loved one dies, we still feel anger and it may come out at inanimate objects, strangers, friends or family. For me, anger has been healing. It has been productive and cleansing to get angry about things I’d let go for years, ways I’d been treated, and to what I’d lost. Anger can be harmful if misdirected. So, be aware. I found ranting with friends, sometimes chanting a mantra while exercising, burning a picture or breaking something (in a safe private manner), all these rituals were physical releases that helped. My anger started to dissipate. There’s more there, but I’m not stuck.




Bargaining is sort of the last attempt at coming to terms with the impending divorce. This is the time when the parties tries to repair the damage done to the marriage or convince themselves that divorce is the best option for everyone.

In a divorce, this stage consists of a partner asking if they can still be friends, if they can keep this and that, etc. They start questioning their past actions by asking “what if i had done this or that?” They attempt to negotiate and find a sweet spot in this emotional mess through bargaining and seek to negotiate a compromise.

But in life, you can only control your actions, not the actions of others. Things happen and we learn from it.




Depression is where the couple prepares to face the aftermath of the divorce. Guilt, sadness and sorrow are common emotions felt and thought it is expected, the surge of emotions can get very overwhelming for most people. They’ll feel like staying in bed all day, crying their eyes out and shutting themselves from the world.

What’s worse is dealing with legal and personal issues related to the divorce, such as matrimonial assets, custody of children, living arrangements etc. There’s simply too much to think about and can be overbearing for some people. Here, it’s a good idea to get a support network of friends and family to help guide you through this phase. The people in your support network will help ease your burden.

The good news is that this is the final stage (albeit the worst) before moving on to a better you.



In the last stage of grief, you come to accept that the divorce was inevitable, and is a part of your life’s events. You have embraced the help and support you received during this tough period and are beginning to let go of the negative emotions.

You may still feel some anger and sadness at the loss of your marriage, but you’ve learned to accept the reality and are learning to cope and live with it. Grieving is no longer a word you can use to describe your situation, as it is no longer holding you back.

As you sailed through the storm previously, the sea is now calming down and the skies are looking much brighter. You see the light and are excited to move on with your life, and what is has in store for you.  

You’re in control, go out there and conquer the world !

Divorce Lawyers in Singapore.


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