Coping With Divorce: 4 Phases of Healing Everyone Undergoes

divorced couple

A divorce is a devastating life crisis, often the worst that people experience in their life. Whether you’re the initiator or recipient, the pain from a permanent separation like this can be unmanageable and overwhelming. 

Perhaps you had no idea your spouse was unhappy, or you were distracted by parenting or your career. Maybe you even had an inkling of their troubles but had no idea things were this serious. Alternatively, if you’re the party who wants to leave, announcing your intentions might not provide the release you expected—instead, it might weigh heavily on you.

While it is difficult, it is possible to heal from a divorce. It’s possible to learn how to move past arguments and stonewalling to discuss matters that are important to you and your ex. Here are the phases people go through during or after a separation.

Phase 1: Acute Pain

When you hurt physically, there will almost always be a wound. It is the same with emotional hurt. Your goal for the first phase is to move past the hurt and stop the bleeding. In this stage, things could feel out of control, or you might be paralyzed by shock. Do not let these things cloud your judgment—attend to your emotions before thinking of the next step.

Process the divorce—find healthy coping mechanisms like seeking support from your therapist, friends, or family. Don’t think of your legal steps just yet; taking care of your emotions and physical needs take precedence. Eat and sleep well so you have the bandwidth for the surges of emotion that will inevitably come.

Set boundaries and manage your responses. Don’t escalate, make rash decisions, or hire a lawyer straight away. Wait until you feel calm and ready, and don’t talk to your children or other people until you have decided with your spouse when and how you will speak to them. Don’t start financial negotiations at home or resort to drugs, drinking, and other harmful coping strategies.

Phase 2: Acceptance

After you “stem the bleeding,” you can attend to the wound. Be gentle when you do—like with physical wounds, emotional ones can hurt and bleed again if you are harsh on them. 

The next few months will have you feeling a gamut of emotions from anger to grief, guilt, shame, and even relief. When you go through this, keep in mind that all feelings are valid and normal. Your emotions will come in waves, but eventually, you’ll have more extended periods of calm. Going for separation counselling will help you make sense of this confusing time.

Phase 3: Adjustment

After your emotions have settled, you can address the practical aspects of your divorce. Once you have adjusted to your new situation, you can think about the legal processes and related matters like parenting and financial responsibilities. You need to keep taking care of yourself even if the pain has mostly subsided—join a divorce support group, focus on your children, and prioritize your mental wellbeing.

Phase 4: Healing

The last phase is the hardest to reach; healing takes time, and it’s essential not to rush it. Keep busy with work, friends, and family, and develop or reclaim interests you had no space for during your time with your spouse. Don’t rush into a new relationship or start dating right away because you need to repair yourself before doing so.

Keep reminding yourself that you are worthy of love and adopt practices like journaling, which can improve your mindfulness and help you be grateful for your progress. Also, stay active—20-minute daily walks, playing with a pet, or nurturing a garden can keep you healthy and happy.


According to research, it will take a year or two to recover from a divorce. Your experience will also change you—after all, most wounds leave scars. However, when you take your time and fully process things, a divorce will make you a better partner if you decide to have a new relationship.

Divorces are complicated, but you can manage with the right support system. Let Chettiar Counselling be part of yours—we offer separation counselling in Guelph, Kitchener, Waterloo, and Cambridge. Chettiar’s counsellors are ready to help you through the most emotionally challenging aspects of a divorce; book an appointment today for more information.