Divorce: The Four Stages Of Recovery

Rather than viewing the end of your marriage as a tragedy, you can regard it as an opportunity for personal growth.

Myra felt blown away when her husband of 16 years suddenly announced he wanted a divorce. Her reaction was a classic sign of someone going through the first stage of the emotional process that experts call divorce recovery: disbelief. Upset and shocked, she kept asking herself, "Am I sane? Will I ever be all right again?"

For Myra -- and for you -- the answer to both questions is yes. From the day you consider ending your marriage to the moment you officially become single, you go through four stages. They usually take place in consecutive order. Knowing what happens during each stage can help you deal with your intense feelings and handle each difficult situation you face.

  1. Stage One: denial. Divorce is a traumatic shock. At first you feel numb; it's a way of protecting yourself. No matter what circumstances provoked the crisis, you want to fix whatever is wrong between the two of you. If your husband is the one wanting out, you might think a few sessions with a marriage counselor will set things right. If you're the one leaving, you might feel a few counseling sessions might help your husband understand why you've got to go. It is helpful -- and healthy -- for the two of you to visit a qualified expert together. You'll better appreciate each other's point of view and accept your own grief. Whether or not you seek couples counseling, seeing a therapist on your own will help you take control of your emotions. You will begin moving out of denial and into the second stage.
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