Divorce and the Stages of Grief: 4 Tips for Healing

Chances are you never thought you would get divorced. You didn’t put on your wedding gown and say your vows with the idea that one day it would end. Maybe you dreamed of your wedding day since you were just a little girl and now that it’s over, you feel like you failed. Or maybe breaking up your family unit has you racked with anxiety and guilt. Whatever you’re feeling, know that it’s completely normal and you are not alone.

Just like falling in love is a process, so is moving on from the loss of a relationship. Most of us don’t just wake up one morning head over heels in love, so it makes sense why it would take more than just a good night’s sleep to fully heal from a breakup. Here are some thoughts to keep in mind as you navigate the emotional aspects of divorce.

1.) Divorce Is Like Death Without a Burial

Relationship expert Dane Cunningham has said that “Divorce is like death without a burial.” It is the death of a relationship and a way of life that you may have known for 20+ years. And in some ways it’s worse than the loss of a loved one because you don’t get the same degree of closure you would from a funeral or memorial service. 

Who are you now that you are on your own? What will your new reality look like? How much will you have to interact with your ex-spouse, and how will it feel to see them again? These are all valid questions to ask as you move forward, but try to remember that you got divorced for a reason. Take time to get to know yourself and remember who you are as an individual, not just the second half of a couple.

2.) There Is No “Right” Way to Grieve

Many of us are familiar with Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’s five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. But what many of us don’t realize is that those stages are oversimplified and not exact.

In fact, Kubler-Ross’s work has evolved over time to include seven stages of grief: (1)

  1. Shock and Denial. Characterized by numbness and disbelief, you may struggle to comprehend what’s happening or how you got here.
  2. Pain and Guilt. As the numbness subsides, you may start to feel like you can’t take the hurt that comes from the loss and that you are burdening others with your emotional needs.
  3. Anger and Bargaining. Characterized by lashing out and “if only” thoughts. If only you had tried harder, or if only you had given it one more chance. It’s easier to feel like you could have done something to prevent the situation than to accept your new reality. 
  4. Depression. This stage involves deep sadness and isolation, and the emotions surrounding the loss may start to affect your day-to-day life.
  5. The Upward Turn. The more intense stages of anger and pain have lessened and you are left feeling calmer and more relaxed.
  6. Reconstruction and Working Through. You start to process the loss and slowly put your life back together.
  7. Acceptance and Hope. You have come to a gradual acceptance of your new reality and are experiencing a brighter outlook toward the future.

Though these stages are presented in a step-by-step fashion, they don’t always follow a sequential order. You can feel incredibly angry one day, hopeful the next, and sad another as different memories, thoughts, and feelings come up. 

Try to acknowledge your unique experience and don’t push yourself to feel a certain way. By recognizing and honoring what has been lost, you’ll gradually start to find closure. Be sure to give yourself the space to grieve fully and authentically, without judgment. It is one of the best things you can do to heal.

3.) Keep Time-Sensitive Financial Decisions in Mind

Though you shouldn’t push yourself to act or feel a certain way, you should keep time-sensitive financial decisions in mind and try as best as you can to avoid getting caught up in emotions. 

Divorce, no matter how amicable, is always complicated by finances. There are many things to figure out both during and after the proceedings: division of assets, allocation of liabilities, insurance, alimony, custody agreements, and child support, not to mention how and when to file your taxes as a newly single person. 

It can be extremely challenging to navigate these decisions, and it may be your gut reaction to avoid them or put them off. Doing so will only delay the inevitable and possibly put you in a worse financial position right as you try to start your financial life over. Divorce already comes with several financial setbacks (loss of tax benefits, splitting of assets, reduced income, etc.); don’t make your situation worse by waiting to act on important financial decisions.

4.) Partner With a Trusted Expert

Divorce is a devastating reality for many women, including myself. I know firsthand how it can shatter the thoughts, hopes, and dreams you had for the future. But I also know firsthand how a beautiful new reality can be born from even the most painful experiences. 

As a divorce specialist, I am passionate about helping others through the healing process.

It’s okay to ask for help in times of grief or transition. In fact, it’s encouraged! You wouldn’t navigate the death of a loved one alone, so don’t go through divorce alone. Families need a team of experts to guide them through the process.

Though divorce is a grieving process, it doesn’t have to be completely hopeless and overwhelming. At Calamita Wealth Management, we have the tools and expertise to empower and guide you toward a seamless divorce transition. If you’re ready to move forward with excitement and hope, schedule an introductory phone call using our online calendar or reach out to us at (704) 276-7325.

About Catherine

Catherine Dematte Burawski is a senior life planner and divorce specialist for women at Calamita Wealth Management, an independent, fee-only wealth management company. When Catherine experienced a life-changing divorce and the resulting financial disarray, she felt like her life was ruined. But through the process, she realized that what she thought was ruin was actually a defining moment. Now Catherine uses her experience and passion to help other women navigate divorce transition. With the help of the Calamita Wealth Management team’s comprehensive financial planning services, Catherine provides compassionate emotional support and the guidance necessary for a seamless and empowering divorce transition. She loves to help women see the possibilities of life and move forward with excitement and hope. 

Catherine is a Pennsylvania native who has called Lake Tahoe, CA, home for the last two decades. She and her daughter, Mia, enjoy skiing, hiking, paddleboarding, kayaking, river and lake swimming, music, dancing, boxing, and just about any adventure that comes their way (including a future trip to Italy)! To learn more about Catherine, connect with her on LinkedIn.

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(1) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6844541/