Models and Stages of Divorce

Posted by: Dr. Justin D'Arienzo, Psy.D., ABPP

Models and Stages of Divorce

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Young sad parents signing papers for divorce while their daughter at home interior

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While every divorce is different, many of them follow similar stages and patterns. Many times, divorce follows a very similar pattern to the stages of grief. When undergoing a divorce, in many ways, the person that you used to be married to you is now a different person. You now must grieve the loss of who they once were in your life. In this article, we will outline the five stages of the Kübler Ross Stages of Grief model and how they relate to divorce.


This is the first stage in the grief process. This can be paired with shock and disbelief. A part of you might not even believe that your marriage is over. You might even have feelings of disbelief. You might go to sleep and wake up hoping that everything is back to normal. You might even feel numb or like you cannot process any emotions at all.


This is the next stage that usually comes after denial. In this stage, you start trying to process different emotions. The emotions that you are trying to process might be that your partner cheated on you or expressed to you that they did not love you. Naturally, these events can be followed by feelings of anger. You might not have expected to have so many feelings and emotions about your divorce, this might result in frustration.


This is the stage that you start to develop a more positive outlook on the situation. Your feelings of anger start to mitigate, and you start to think of scenarios where the outcome looks a little bit brighter. You might start to develop scenarios where everything will be okay. You start to think of ways that you will be able to cope without your partner. This is when you really start to process and put all of the pieces together.


This is when you ultimately realize that the person is gone from your life. In this period, you realize that you must fully move on with your life without them. Bargaining moves you into reality, which can result in depression.


In this period, you gain a feeling of acceptance and willingness to move forward without them in your life.  You start to establish your self-identity without this person. You start to accept that this person will not be in your life in the same way, but this is paired with real feelings that everything will turn out okay.

These stages might not be chronological for everyone. This is just a general order of stages. Some individuals experience several stages at the same time. This process can start at different times depending on the person. After a divorce, some can navigate these stages in a course of a few months and for others, this process might take years.

Article by Reema Sabella, UNF psychology graduate.