The Stages of Separation and Divorce…
Posted by: Sue Atkins
I run a two hour workshop called “How To Tell Your Children You’re Divorcing – Presenting a United Front” (Simply call me on 01883 818329 to book your 1-2-1 session) as I’ve worked with hundreds of parents going through divorce and one of the main worries is how to tell their children about what is going to happen and what to actually say to them.
Children naturally fear that they’ll lose one of their parents in divorce or that their parents will abandon them. They also fear the changes and disruptions that divorce inevitably brings to their family. Children often blame themselves.
When a marriage becomes troubled, a couple often relies on old habits of interacting, which lead to fights rather than solutions. If those old habits didn’t lead to constructive solutions during the marriage, they’ll surely reap no better results during the divorce.
Bitter fights in the divorce courts often stem from these old ways of handling differences.
You may not have been a united front while married, but you and your partner must take this opportunity for the good of your children to work together.
Understanding and identifying these stages can be very helpful when you’re talking about divorce and deciding how to nurture your children through this difficult time. Identifying your present stage of grief and being aware of it is an important step toward ensuring that you make the best choices you can.
I have written in my books about the Stages of Separation and Divorce but here is another very helpful article on the Stages you will probably go through from LoveShack.org
Stage 1: Blaming the spouse – The most difficult stage
Focus: On the spouse. Blames them for all past, present and future issues/problems. Both parties obsess and often relive scenes from earlier years.
The dumper will experience relief from a stressful situation, but also guilt. They will blame the dumpee, have fears, anger, and depression; but, they will mask these feelings and act as if nothing’s wrong. The dumpee will see the dumper as “stubborn” and “going through a stage”.
This is the first time we here they are leaving. The dumpee will experience negative self-image, be easily hurt, appears depressed, sad, has low energy levels, and be “very upset.” There will be disbelief, denial of the reality, and you will become opposed to the separation/divorce – all your energy will go into this opposition, which won’t turn things around. You will feel powerlessness, a sense of a lack of control, and you will react in one of two ways: letting the dumper make all the decisions, or by taking control and trying to make all the decisions yourself.
Children tend to be neglected during this period. They too will be confused, hurting, upset, etc.,.
What you should do: take up a new hobby, seek relationship counselling, seek mediation, eat healthily, exercise regularly, be a great parent and be there for your kids, take care of your finances, split all joint accounts, seek legal advice, spend time with friends/make new friends, redecorate, new clothes, new haircut, new aftershave/perfume, etc.,.
Stage 2: Mourning the loss
Focus: Acknowledging the end of the relationship.
You will experience profound grieving. You may cry for weeks. The grief will feel overwhelming. You will have a “poor me” attitude. The future will appear hopeless and meaningless.
You will experience a loss of identity. Be overly sensitive to comments or criticism. You will be intensely preoccupied with your own feelings. You won’t be able to concentrate on tasks – being lost in your own world of feelings. Parenting skills will be diminished.
Beware: Do not hold on to your children in an attempt to replace your spouse. Do not reject them either.
What you should do: maintain committed to mediation, keep in relationship counselling, seek emotional support from friends and family, let go, read about divorce and separation, re-focus “poor me” attitude, look after yourself and your children, etc.,.
Stage 3: Anger – feeling betrayed by spouse and by life
Although you’ve been angry before, this now becomes dominant. The rage is upsetting to others and friends and family may back off. Often directed toward the spouse, but may be aimed at “all men/women”. There will be a sense of righteousness – the spouse is wrong and deserves to suffer. You may fantasise that they are the “bad” one, and you are the “wronged” one. Parents may upset the children by reacting angrily to them.
But behind this anger are fears: “How will I live alone? Will I have enough money to support myself? Will I find someone else? Will I be able to get a job?”
Positive: Parenting skills will start returning. Your children’s needs will be better met. Your energy levels will start returning. You will experience higher self-esteem. Anger means movement forward.
What you should do: learn to relax, focus on challenging fears and dealing with potential problems before they arise, do not take part in divorce proceedings during this time, stay in mediation, stay in relationship counselling, be a great parent, look after yourself, think positively about your future and your new life, etc.,.
Stage 4: Being Single
Read more here
As we all know, everyone experiences things differently… so you may find that you go through some stages quicker than others you may even skip some stages but on average after a long-term relationship ends, you may be facing up to two to three years to emotionally recover – but as I always say “A Divorce is a process NOT an event” and it takes as long as it takes – it’s not like a broken arm all healed in 6 weeks so be patient with yourself, be self aware and allow yourself to recover in your own time.
I can help you to create a powerful One Page Profile specifically designed to support your children through this traumatic time in their lives positively – look at the video above to see how my One Page Profile Process can help give you clarity, confidence and a clear way forward.