Five stages of grieving after separation or divorce

Monday, January 8, 2018 is the day family lawyers and attorneys across the globe will be bracing themselves for a crazy day, as more people will be contacting them to file for divorce or retain their services than any other day of the year.

Unfortunately, with one in two marriages in the United States failing (up to one in three in other countries), there will be a lot of couples marking January 8 as one of the worst days of their life.

If you’re one of these couples, the necessary and natural process in dealing with a fundamental change like this is to grieve. Grieving sucks. Grieving hurts. But like sculling a large glass of straight vodka, the longer you put it off, or the longer you take to get through it, the worse it will be. Here are the five stages of grieving you will go through after separation and divorce.

The Five Stages of Grieving According to Homer Simpson

Skip to How to Make Grieving Bearable and as Quick as Possible

Five Stages of Grieving


Denial is a primal psychological defense mechanism to cope with radical change, and it expresses itself in many forms:

a) DENYING INVOLVEMENT – ’I didn’t have anything to do with the breakdown of our marriage.’
b) DENYING FAULT – "They just didn’t love me the way I needed to be loved. It was inevitable I would turn to someone else to feel valued and needed."
b) DENYING IT’S HAPPENING – "We’re just having some time apart to sort through a few things. We’ll be back together in no time’ OR ‘I’m super busy at work right now, I will deal with this later."
c) DENYING YOU’RE NOT OK – "I’m fine. This is a great thing to be happening. I’ll be much happier without them … the grass will be totally greener."

It’s ok to feel this way, as it gives your mind time to adjust to your new situation.  



Once the denial cloud lifts, you will be feel anger. This is our minds defence mechanism to feeling shame, sadness and vulnerability. So what better way to cope than making your ex suffer more than you! You might be surprised at your rage, like Hela in Thor: Ragnorak, where you will feel like stopping at nothing to take down the person who betrayed you. Verbal rage can come in different forms too. Slinging expletives is the obvious way, but the most destructive form is when you say things that undermine your ex as a person, as a parent, or as a friend. 
• "If only you knew what your friends said behind your back"
• "Well if you weren’t as cold as a fish in bed, I might have stayed"
• "The kids cried all night knowing they have to go to your place today. Do you really want to do that to them every week?"

 Hela gif courtesy of

Hela gif courtesy of

The greatest sacrilege you can commit is putting your kids in the middle of your rage, and the higher you climb on the anger ladder as an ‘A-class’ bitch or bastard, the further you'll fall. Before you climb past the third rung, reach out to a professional for help before you do or say something you will regret, or pre-register to get early access to Divvito to help take the sting out of messaging.



Bargaining is the stage where you come to the full realisation of your situation and will negotiate anything to make the pain go away. You might ask your ex for forgiveness and plead to get back together. You might feel the need to make amends for the hurt you’ve caused and allow your ex to take more in the financial settlement or in shared custody. You also might make promises you know you can’t commit to. Find someone you trust to be your sounding board so they can ensure you don’t regret the decisions you make while in this stage of grief.  


Depression is when you hit rock bottom, feeling like you never want to leave your bed for days. It’s where you burst into tears when your boss asks “how was your weekend?”. It’s when you stop taking calls from friends as the thought of going out for a drink and being surrounded by everybody else having fun makes you want to vomit. It’s when your kids might not know how to cope with your sadness. That is totally ok. This stage is necessary for your psyche to come to terms with the reality of the situation, the uneasiness of how your world has changed and anxiety in what the future holds. It might take a month, it might take several, but you will get through it by drawing on the strength and love of others, and then you’re on the home stretch!



The day you feel that everything will be ok is the day you’ve reached acceptance. It’s the day that you know it’s not worth taking the bait from your ex who is still in earlier stages of grief. That's not to say you won’t feel a vast array of emotions, but you won’t let take your focus away from the good things in your life – your children, you family, your friends, your health, and most importantly you’re pursuit of fulfilment.

The five stages of grieving can take several months to two years. Any longer and it becomes unhealthy and destructive to your wellbeing and everybody you love.

How to make the grieving process bearable and as short as possible 

Dealing with the grieving process is like facing that large glass of vodka. You just need to add lemon (legal advice), some salt (professional social support) and throw a party (surround yourself with your most supportive friends and family). Only rule, kick out the party-crashers! 

Seriously, to manage the grieving process:
1. Reach out to find collaborative legal advice and understand how to fairly separate so it’s in the best interests of your whole family
2. Talk to a professional who can help you navigate your emotional upheaval, whether that be a pshychologist, psychiatrist, counsellor or priest
3. Lean on positively-minded friends and family and stay away from those who want to negatively fuel the first four stages of your grieving.

The positive side to separation or divorce (if there has to be one) is that you learn a lot about yourself and how strong you can be when faced with adversity. Whatever your situation, stay safe, stay positive, be respectful and most of all be kind to yourself.

Five Stages of Grieving after Separation or Divorce was written by Wendy Oxenham, CEO of Divvito, the messaging app to help make co-parenting communication easier.

For more information from grief professionals, head to

Pre-register to Divvito Messenger app launch in January to help manage co-parenting communication through divorce and you could win $500 in cleaning, cooking or child-minding services to help you get through your grieving process.