The Emotional Stages of Divorce

It's ComplicatedThey say there are stages of grief: denial, anger, depression, bargaining and acceptance. So far my divorce has been nothing like this. Maybe because a lot of it isn’t really about grief and loss, it’s about having to navigate a whole new set of expectations. But I can chart how my journey has gone so far and it’s looked something like this.

Stage 1: Anguish Epic awful-ness. Sadness that is too big to manage. All-consuming failure. 

Stage 2: Shallow Obsessions Divorce is a stigma. Everyone will see me as a failure. What about my ring? It’s so beautiful, I’ll miss it so much. Should I save it for one of the kids? Is it too tainted to pass on? Should I change my name? That’ll be a lot of paperwork. What should I make my relationship status on Facebook?

Stage 3: Anger The road ahead of me is so long and there are so many hurdles I have to jump through and this wasn’t my choice and I am stuck with all of this and it’s NOT FAIR. I don’t deserve this. I spent years sacrificing for a family that no longer exists. I gave up my career and it was all for nothing. I am not the person I would have been! I don’t have the options I once did! Why??!!

Stage 4: Empowerment Reset button! Time to build my life into what I want it to be! No more sacrificing my own path! I am a powerful, independent woman!! Hear me roar!!

Stage 5: Crotchety-ness I hate everyone who complains about putting their kids to bed with no help. And everyone who complains about parenting solo for *gasp* a whole week. I hate everyone who is happily married. Especially the ones who wish their spouse Happy Anniversary on Facebook. I just hate all the people. All of them.

Stage 6: Disillusionment I get to start a new job! Oh wait, I have to find a new job. I will get to start dating again! Oh man, I’ll have to start dating again. I’ll get past this, the decree will be final, and it will all be over! Oh boy, it’s going to take a long time for this to be over.

Stage 7: Terror I don’t have a job. I don’t have money coming in. It’s a few more weeks until the court steps in to decide how the money stuff will work and I don’t know what will happen. The amount of child support may not even cover my rent. I don’t know if I’ll get any alimony. I don’t know how long it will be before I work again. I’m not eligible for unemployment benefits because I haven’t worked full-time in nearly 2 years. My need is not quite the specific kind of dire that defers my student loan payments. I have no income and a bunch of bills. I could lose the apartment. I could lose the kids. I could end up alone living in a box. I could end up living with my parents. 

…and that’s about where I am right now. I can keep the terror at bay most of the time. We are going to be in a courtroom, there will be the opportunity to present my situation. I just don’t know exactly how it will go and what the temporary rules will be. And then there’s all the time it will take to set the final rules and I don’t know how much it’ll take out of me and how much I’ll lose and how much I’ll get and how it will all fit together.

I am realizing that this is a marathon. I’m probably somewhere around mile 4. It’s not going to be a smooth, flat road like I hoped it would be, either. Turns out there’s a reason everyone tells you how much divorce sucks. Because it really does suck.


  1. says

    I cannot even begin to imagine what it’s like for you. But I can tell you that you are an amazing and brave woman with tons of talent and chutzpah. The getting “there” –wherever it ends up being– is probably going to suck horribly. But I do have faith you will be able to look back on this time of your life one day and realize just how incredible you are and how far you have come.

    I wish you well. I wish you peace and resolution. And I wish you…enough. Enough to fill the empty places.
    Niksmom recently posted..Phone Home

  2. says

    All of this and more. I am sorry you are going through this too. There is a Stage 8 too: Relief. Even if sometimes you take a detour back through the Anger. All necessary in moving on. Wishing you what you need to move forward.
    Kal recently posted..Looking Up (And Moving On)

  3. Julie D says

    Wow. That was an honest and beautiful post. Would it help you to know that I am a member of a chorus of women who adore you, and know that you are indeed a strong, smart woman who can do ANYTHING you put your mind to?!? I liked your style the moment I met you – and your employer will to. If you need job connections or freelance work, I’m here for you… really.

  4. says

    You post is honest and courageous. I am so sorry you have to undergo this pain. I will be holding you and your beautiful family in my prayers.

  5. says

    I cannot even begin to imagine what this must be like. I’ve been in situations before where the fear of the unknown just takes over every thought. Thinking of you.
    Robbie recently posted..Cutting Edge

  6. says

    Being a woman myself i’m always afraid to depend entirely on my husbands income and support. I work my a.. ooff just to be independent cause i’ve seen and heard to many stories of couples braking up just over night. I just heard of a lady that got the news from her hubby he does not want to be married any more, just like that out of the blue. I just do not want to be unprepared completely and always keep me some 90% sure in my happiness, just in case…. maybe this i not the way to live marriage, but just in case…..I’m so sorry you have to live through this and i wish your husband would been man enough to support you till you are able to stand on your own, i wish you all the best

  7. says

    I am so very sorry for you and the situation you now face.
    In a not so typical situation, I am a man who has tried to work tirelessly for the past 4 years to fix our relationship but to only discover my wife is a control freak, manipulating whatever she can.
    Seperation and eventual divorce represents such an awful outcome to something I cherished but it was really only one sided.
    And I run a relationship website as well – devastating but lots of topics to cover in the coming years. I say that smiling when really yesterday I discovered she has been looking to jump ship to someone else for the last few years. I cried for hours when I saw that.

    I hope you find peace, love and life, Jess. We all deserve it!
    Martin Cooney recently posted..An End To What Was The Perfect Relationship

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