There’s a sense in which an unwanted divorce can be compared to the death of a loved one in which the path to wholeness is found by understanding the grief process. In the 1960s Swiss-American psychiatrist Dr. Elizabeth Kübler-Ross wrote extensively about the five stages of grief. Understanding the stages of grief may be useful in coming to a place of peace or resolution in divorce. These five stages are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.
Denial is a normal reaction in which we tell ourselves that this is not really happening. We cling to false hope as regards a preferred reality.
Anger is also a normal reaction as we realize that our expectations and hopes for the future have been frustrated and dashed. Sometimes this anger is inwardly directed and we are angry with ourselves. Sometimes we blame others, directing our anger toward our spouse or God or circumstances beyond our control.
Bargaining is a stage in which we attempt to negotiate an alternative outcome. Sometimes it involves repeated efforts to change one’s lifestyle, to “fly right” and go straight or seek compromises. People sometimes renew promises to God and to one’s spouse to be better hoping to avert this outcome.
Depression is the fourth stage before acceptance. Dealing with feelings of failure and the loss of a dream that has died can be hard.
Acceptance is exactly what it is. You recognize that you can’t keep fighting it forever. You accept and embrace a new tomorrow, a new future.
Sometimes when depressed you find it impossible to imagine a future where the sun is shining again and your heart is not heavy. In truth, being human means one can feel down at times but “it came to pass,” and there will be a new chapter in your life that can be good and fulfilling. There are countless people who never wanted a divorce who had to go on living afterward and were surprised that they really could live “happily ever after” after the divorce. Some find peace through faith, others find help in counseling, still, others find new love. Having a support network of friends is also invaluable. Every ending carries the seeds of a new beginning.