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Coping with the Emotional Aspects of Divorce

by | May 15, 2024

Divorce is an extremely painful experience. Whatever the reason for parting ways with your spouse and whether you want the divorce or not, this period of your life can cause untold stress and pain. You may feel uncertain about the future, mournful over the past, and depressed about the present.

All of these are strong and valid feelings. Yet, because divorce is a legal process, they often get swept under the rug. At Vanden Heuvel & Dineen, S.C., we are keenly aware of the emotional aspects of divorce. Even as we help you navigate the legal hurdles; we want to help you stay above water.

We have prepared the following guide to help you cope with the strong emotions that accompany divorce. The following tips and pointers will help you handle communication with your soon-to-be ex and protect your children during this difficult time. Here we go.

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Understanding The Emotional Stages of Divorce

It might not seem like it, but emotions that follow a divorce are very similar to grief.

A divorce represents a loss. In addition to losing your companion, you also lose the sense of security they gave you, your plans for the future, and financial, emotional, or social support. 

So, just as you would mourn the loss of a loved one if they died, you need to mourn the end of your marriage. More often than not, this process looks like this:  

  1. Denial – When you experience a big loss, your mind tries to protect you by denying the catalyst of that loss. This is called denial. For a while, you may actively ignore that your marriage is ending. You may keep interacting with your spouse as if nothing has changed or refuse to acknowledge the issue completely, including ignoring legal proceedings.   
  2. Anger – But once you accept the situation, you may experience intense anger. This anger might be directed at the situation, your spouse, yourself, or another third party. While valid, anger can be destructive. Avoid making major decisions during this stage or lashing out at your loved ones.
  3. Bargaining – The bargaining stage is often characterized by attempts to reverse the situation. You may try to get back with your spouse, change who you are, or backtrack your decision.  
  4. Depression – If the bargaining stage fails to reverse the situation, the next stage of grieving over your divorce is usually depression. This period is characterized by a prolonged feeling of sadness and hopelessness. You may isolate yourself, stop going to work, sleep less, etc.  
  5. Acceptance – But if you work through all these stages, you can achieve the final stage – acceptance. This is where you begin to make peace with the situation and work with your spouse on issues like child custody and support. 

People are different, and so are divorce and post-divorce experiences. During your divorce, you may not experience the stages of grief in this exact same way or even in this order. It is still okay. Whatever your feelings are, and however they present, they are valid.

How to Manage Your Emotions During Divorce

The emotional stages of divorce are scary and understandably so – you have no control over them. 

But while you have no say over how you feel, you can take steps to manage your emotions more healthily. You can: 

  1. Acknowledge and Accept Your Feelings

Accept that you are going to feel a lot of things for some time – anger, confusion, exhaustion, frustration, sadness, pain, anxiety. These emotions are intense but normal. So, accept that your reactions to them will improve over time.

What does this look like? Basically, allow yourself to not function at your usual levels for some time. No one expects you to be productive, caring, and responsive all at once. Take time to grieve, feel your emotions, rest, regroup, and re-energize.

  1. Build a Support System

It is normal to want to isolate yourself and sit with your feelings. But the idea that someone else knows what you are going through can help you feel less alone. 

Reach out to friends and family you feel safe talking to and be open about your emotional state. Connect, particularly, with people who have gone through divorce before. They can offer much-needed perspective on the emotional rollercoaster that is divorce.  

  1. Seek Therapy or Professional Counseling

If you don’t have a strong support system or feel uncomfortable opening up to the people in your life, seek help from a professional counselor or therapist.

A therapist can provide a safe space to unpack your emotions, brainstorm solutions to common issues that arise during this period, and find healing.  

Taking Care of Yourself – Self-Care and Wellness Tips  

Divorce happens to many people – spouses, children, families, communities, joint businesses, and more. But you cannot take care of anyone else until you are okay.   

As you navigate your new reality, take care of your emotional and physical well-being. Some steps you can take include: 

  1. Make time for yourself. Schedule time every day to do the things that relax or excite you, be it reading a book, taking a long bath, dancing, or walking.
  2. Set and stick to a routine. A divorce can disrupt your normal routine and make you feel untethered. Create a new routine to help bring structure into your life.
  3. Explore new interests and hobbies. Venture out of the house and try new things that don’t involve your partner. Open yourself up to the possibility of making new friends.
  4. Avoid falling into bad habits like binge eating, drinking, or abusing drugs to cope with the strong emotions you are feeling. Instead, add healthy habits to your life, like exercise and diet.
  5. Get enough sleep. 

Essentially, treat yourself as if you were someone ill. Minimize stress, eat well, exercise, rest, and find new things that make you happy. 

Communicating with Your Ex-Spouse During Divorce

Despite the emotional upheaval, divorce is still a legal process that involves many decisions. You may find that you often have to talk to your soon-to-be ex-spouse about issues like property division, spousal support, child support, and child custody.   

These interactions can be counterproductive and difficult, especially when emotions run wild. This is why we recommend professional mediation services for couples going through a divorce. In the meantime, the following tips can help you hold productive talks with your soon-to-be ex:   

  1. Be open and honest about your feelings, needs, concerns, and thoughts. Also, encourage your partner to do the same and practice active listening.
  2. Establish clear communication channels. Find a mode of communication that works for you and use it consistently, be it one-on-one conversations, emails, or phone calls. 
  3. Try to remain present and focus on what is happening now and how it will affect the future. Don’t dwell on the future or dredge up past mistakes. 
  4. When emotions run high, take a break
  5. Find a private, comfortable, and neutral place to hold your discussions.

Protecting and Supporting Your Children During Divorce

Children are another key piece of the divorce puzzle. Your emotions can impact and amplify theirs and vice versa. Often, children feel responsible for the divorce and can act out in different ways.

Acknowledge your kid’s emotions and create open channels of communication with them. Also:

  1. Make time for them every day and enjoy fun activities together. You can create new traditions, talk, or maintain old traditions. It doesn’t even need to be fun. Just be there for them.
  2. Spend time outside every week. Visit a museum, park, beach, or whatever your kids enjoy.
  3. Spend one-on-one time with each of your kids separately (if you have more than one). Children respond to strong emotions differently, and it is important that all your children feel seen.    
  4. When they ask questions about the divorce, answer honestly with facts but in an age-appropriate manner. Use a calm and neutral tone, and don’t bad mouth your ex. 
  5. Constantly remind your children that the divorce is not their fault. 

Finding a Way to Move On – Don’t Go Through Divorce Alone 

When a marriage ends, you lose more than your partner. You lose the future you had planned with them, your routines, your identity, some relationships, and possibly your home and financial security.   

It is normal to feel angry, sad, frustrated, scared, afraid, confused, even relieved during this time. Whatever your feelings, ignoring them can be detrimental to your physical, emotional, and mental health. You must acknowledge and deal with these emotions head-on. 

Fortunately, you don’t have to do it alone. There are so many resources out there designed to guide you to the help you need. The attorneys at Vanden Heuvel & Dineen, S.C. also want to help.

We have over four decades of combined experience in family law and divorce that we can leverage to help you navigate this difficult period. Whether you need mediation services, representation for litigation, or simply an expert to hold your hand during your divorce, we are here for you.   

Give us a call today to schedule a free consultation.


  1. Wisconsin Divorce Laws
  2. Coping with Separation and Divorce (Mental Health America)
  3. Divorce Matters: Coping with Stress and Change  (Iowa State University)
  4. Find a divorce support group meeting near you  (DivorceCare)
  5. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline


Nielsen L. (2014). Shared physical custody: Summary of 40 studies on outcomes for children.


Sander S, et al. (2020). When love hurts — Mental and physical health among recently divorced Danes.


Sbarra, DA. (2016). Divorce and health: Current trends and future directions.


Ubaidi, BA. (2017). The psychological and emotional stages of divorce.


Written by Vanden Heuvel & Dineen, S.C.


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