Divorce is a profoundly emotional journey that can bring a roller coaster of feelings and challenges. Break ups can be abrupt, painful and confronting. Navigating the ending of a relationship involves more than just legal and logistical concerns, it’s also an emotionally challenging time. 

We will explore the emotional stages commonly experienced during a separation and offer guidance on how to process and move forward. By understanding and addressing the emotional aspects of a relationship ending, you can begin to embark on a path of healing and growth, and look forward to a brighter future.

The emotional stages of divorce

Understanding the typical emotional stages experienced in processing a separation can help individuals navigate this difficult time. 

Initially, shock and denial may dominate, which can often involve a sense of numbness and feelings of disbelief. Further along in the process, as reality sets in, anger and blame towards one’s partner or the situation can arise. One of the common stages that follows anger, includes bargaining, both with one’s partner and internally, as you try to find a resolution. Finally, the loss of a relationship and significant life changes that this brings can lead to feelings of depression and sadness. Ultimately, as time passes and you move through these stages, acceptance emerges, bringing with it the opportunity for personal growth. 

Everyone experiences a separation differently, so don’t judge yourself as you move through the different stages, and don’t feel as if you need to be on anyone else’s timeline. 

How to have a successful divorce or separation

Ending a marriage or de facto relationship doesn’t mean that all love, respect, and connection must be lost. It’s possible to have a successful divorce or separation by approaching the process with intention and compassion. 

Psychologist Esther Perel suggests writing “goodbye letters” as a way to express closure and acknowledge your shared history. Marking the end of the relationship with a ceremony can symbolise the transition into a new stage for both parties and the family as a whole. Framing it this way, a divorce or breakup is not the end of your family but simply a reorganisation. 

Take the time to acknowledge the positive aspects of the partnership, such as shared goals, life experiences, and children or businesses created together. 

Consider incorporating principles from the “conscious uncoupling” movement, which emphasises conscious decision-making and healthy communication. By embracing rituals and ceremonies, you can experience cathartic closure, empowering narratives, and a healthier path forward for everyone involved.

While divorce can be a difficult and emotional experience, there are steps you can take to help ensure a successful and amicable divorce process.

Mediation can be a helpful way to resolve disputes and come to agreements outside of court. A mediator can help you and your spouse communicate effectively and find solutions that work for both of you.

Communicate clearly and respectfully – effective communication is key to a successful separation. Be respectful in your communication and avoid blaming or attacking your ex. Listen actively to their perspective and try to understand their point of view.

Keep the big picture in mind as you go through the process. What are your long-term goals and priorities? How can you work towards a resolution that supports those goals?

Separation can be emotionally and physically taxing, so it’s important to take care of yourself during the process. Make sure you’re getting enough rest, exercise, and healthy food. Tap into your networks and seek support from a therapist, support group, or friends.  

Work with a skilled family lawyer. A family lawyer can help guide you through the process, protect your rights, and ensure that your interests are represented. This can assist in addressing some of your worry, uncertainty and overwhelm.

Detach from cultural and social narratives of a separation

Separation can be a challenging and emotionally charged process, but it’s important to detach from the cultural and social narratives that can make it even harder. Release the guilt, shame, and sense of failure often associated with a break up, as the future is unwritten and you have the power to shape it. 

Remember that sometimes a separation is the best option for both individuals’ happiness and fulfilment, and it doesn’t mean you’ve failed or chosen a negative outcome. 

Seek support from a reliable network, reframe the narrative to focus on growth and self-discovery, practice self-care, and create a new positive narrative for yourself. 

Seeking professional help

Going through a separation can be an emotionally challenging time, and seeking professional help is crucial for your well-being. Therapy and counselling can provide a safe space to express your feelings, gain insights, and develop coping strategies. Support groups offer the opportunity to connect with others who are going through similar experiences, providing understanding and solidarity. 

Your support networks, including friends, family, and the community, can offer invaluable emotional support. Volunteering can be a meaningful way to redirect your focus and give back to others while also gaining a sense of purpose. 

Self care

When going through a separation, self-care becomes even more essential to navigate the emotional challenges and take care of your overall well being. 

Give yourself permission to feel your emotions, but also remember to take breaks from constantly dwelling on them. Engage in regular exercise to release stress and boost your endorphins. Find relaxation techniques that work for you, such as deep breathing exercises, meditation, or taking warm baths. Explore creative pursuits that bring you joy and serve as outlets for self-expression. Reconnect with nature by spending time outdoors, whether it’s going for walks, gardening, or simply enjoying the tranquillity of natural surroundings. Prioritising self-care allows you to nurture your mind, body, and spirit as you navigate a separation.

Reinventing the self

The period after a separation is a transformative time that allows you to discover new possibilities and embrace a fresh chapter in your life. It’s a time for healing, self-development, and envisioning the future. 

To begin, take the opportunity to reflect on who you are and what you truly desire. Engaging in practices such as meditation, breathwork, and journaling can help you find inner peace and clarity. Explore forgotten interests, venture into new communities, and forge new friendships to broaden your horizons. Establishing new routines and habits that align with your goals will help you build a strong foundation for your new life. Surround yourself with a supportive network of friends, family, and professionals who believe in your journey of reinvention. This is your chance to create a life that reflects your truest desires and aspirations!


What is the hardest stage of divorce?

Some of the challenging stages of a separation include:

  • Acceptance: coming to terms with the end of a marriage can be difficult, especially if one partner is not ready or willing to accept the reality of the situation. It can be hard to let go of the hope that things will get better, and to face the prospect of starting over on one’s own.
  • Emotional upheaval: divorce can be an intensely emotional process, with feelings of anger, grief, guilt, and fear all surfacing at different times. Coping with these emotions can be overwhelming, especially if one doesn’t have a strong support system in place.
  • Practical challenges: there are many practical challenges that come with divorce. These can include dividing assets, determining parenting arrangements, and figuring out how to support oneself financially. These challenges can be especially difficult if one partner was not involved in managing the household finances or other practical matters.
  • Adjustment: adjusting to life after divorce can be a long and difficult process. It can be hard to build a new life on one’s own, especially if one has been in a long-term relationship. Learning to be single again, establishing new routines and social networks, and finding meaning and purpose in life can all take time and effort.

How long does it take to emotionally recover from a divorce?

The amount of time it takes to emotionally recover from a divorce can vary widely depending on a number of factors, such as the length of the marriage, the reason for the divorce, the level of conflict during the divorce process, and the individual’s personal coping skills and support system.

Some people may start to feel better relatively quickly after their divorce, while others may take years to fully recover. In general, however, it’s safe to say that the emotional recovery process can take anywhere from several months to several years.

It’s important to give yourself time and space to heal after a divorce, and to seek support from friends, family, or a therapist if you’re struggling. There’s no set timeline for emotional recovery, and everyone’s journey is unique.

What are the 7 stages of divorce?

The seven stages of divorce were originally identified by psychologist and divorce mediator, Dr. Joan B. Kelly. These stages are not necessarily linear or experienced in a specific order, and different people may experience these stages in different ways. However, they can provide a helpful framework for understanding some of the emotional and practical challenges that commonly arise during the divorce process. Here are the seven stages of divorce:

  • Denial: In this stage, one or both partners may deny that the marriage is ending, or may have difficulty accepting the reality of the situation.

  • Anger: Once the reality of the divorce sets in, it’s common to feel anger towards one’s spouse or towards the situation itself. This anger can be intense and may take some time to process.

  • Bargaining: In this stage, one or both partners may try to negotiate or bargain in an attempt to salvage the marriage. This can involve making promises or offering to change certain behaviours.
  • Depression: As the reality of the divorce sets in, it’s common to experience feelings of sadness, grief, and depression. This stage can be especially difficult and may require professional support.

  • Acceptance: In this stage, one or both partners begin to accept the reality of the divorce and start to move towards a new phase of life.

  • Testing: During this stage, one or both partners may begin to test the waters of single life. This can involve exploring new social relationships, trying new activities, or making other changes in one’s life.

  • Rebuilding: In this final stage, one or both partners begin to build a new life and identity as a single person. This can involve setting new goals, pursuing new interests, and establishing new relationships.

It’s important to note that not everyone will experience all of these stages, and that the order in which they are experienced can vary. Additionally, the duration of each stage may differ depending on the individual and the circumstances of the divorce.

I wanted the divorce, why am I so sad?

It’s not uncommon for someone who initiated a divorce to experience feelings of sadness or grief during and after the process. Even if the decision to divorce was ultimately the right one, it can still be a difficult and emotional experience.

If you’re struggling with sadness or grief during or after your divorce, it’s important to seek support from loved ones or a mental health professional. Grief is a normal and natural response to loss, and it’s important to give yourself permission to feel and process your emotions. Remember that healing takes time, and that it’s okay to ask for help when you need it.

Does anyone ever totally recover from separation or divorce?

It’s definitely possible to recover from separation and divorce and go on to lead a happy and fulfilling life. While the experience can be painful and challenging, it does not have to define a person’s future happiness or success. Recovery is a process, and it may take time to heal emotionally, rebuild one’s life, and move on from the end of a de facto relationship or marriage.

The exact timeline and process of recovery will vary from person to person, and will depend on a variety of factors such as the length of the relationship, the reason for the separation, and the support network available to the individual. However, with time, support, and a willingness to work through the emotional challenges, many people are able to move on and find happiness in their new lives.