Divorce – The Eight Phases of Change

This is a guest blog by Tricia Woolfrey, a hypnotherapist, coach and wellness practitioner. Tricia explains here the different phases of change people will experience when going through divorce…

Nobody goes into marriage thinking it will end – well, almost nobody.  And yet for approximately 1 in 3 marriages, that’s exactly what happens.  The result for you can be devastating ranging from low self-esteem, feelings of failure, guilt, shame, anger or bitterness.

It can be very difficult thinking about a future on your own when you had planned on being part of a couple and it can take a long time to get your confidence back – even if you are the one who wanted the divorce.  It can be even more challenging if the divorce comes as a shock.

It is useful to understand that, whatever the reason for the divorce, there can be a positive ending.  The first step is to acknowledge that you are now in a process of change.  Here are the phases you might expect to experience:

1.       Denial

This first stage is about rationalising what is going on.  For example,  “he doesn’t mean it.  He is just asking for a divorce to prove a point”.  This is a normal phase and it’s important to recognise it as a natural part of the change process.  The longer you stay in this phase, the longer it will take you to get over it.  Acknowledging it is the first step out of it.

2.      Anger

The next stage is to become angry about the situation.  This may include feelings of blame, frustration and resentment.  Feelings of anger are normal.  When you acknowledge how you feel, it is easier to move onto the next stage.  Suppression of anger serves only to make it stronger – often resulting in lashing out in ways you later regret.  It is an emotion which begs to be recognised and in doing so you can move through it more easily.

3.      Bargaining

This phase is characterised by emotional attempts to seek a compromise in order to hang on to the relationship.  “I promise to always/never …. Please stay.”  Or worse “If you leave me I will end it all”.  Sometimes this can cause a delay in the pursuit of divorce but, unless the underlying problems are addressed, such bargaining rarely has long-term value.  Bargaining is not to be confused with positive mediation where the needs of both parties are being addressed in a logical, respectful and structured way.

4.       Chaos

This stage leads to feelings of insecurity and a loss of “identity”.  When you are part of a couple, your identity is often bound up in that.  When you divorce it is common to feel a sense of powerlessness, fear for the future and a loss of direction – as though the rug has been pulled from under you.

5.       Depression

Whether it is you who sought the divorce or not, the next stage is often a feeling of depression caused by sadness about the loss of what was once good and/or a sense of failure.  This can be exacerbated by an idealistic view of the past, minimising the difficulties which were experienced in the relationship and blaming yourself for what happened.  Again, by acknowledging this as a valid part of the change process, it is possible to more easily move on.

6.       Resignation

In this phase you begin to accept what has happened but this is often accompanied by apathy, sadness and a victim mindset.  Acceptance is an important part of the process, leading onto the next, more positive, step.

7.       Openness

This is an exciting part of the process where you become more positively accepting of what has happened and focussed on the future.  It is often accompanied by positive and empowering learnings from the relationship and help you in your future relationships.

8.      Re-emergence

In this final phase, you will feel more empowered and committed to your new life with a stronger sense of your “self”.  It marks a new beginning which you feel excited about and committed to.  You will be feeling more confident and positive.

It is perfectly normal to either skip phases or to move back and forth from time to time.  Always the best strategy is to acknowledge where you are so that you can more easily move forward.  If you are finding it particularly difficult, it is useful to work with someone to support you through the phases so you feel stronger and more confident more quickly.


Tricia Woolfrey has practices in Byfleet Village, Surrey and Harley Street, London.  She is also an author and has a number of books, CDs, MP3s and e-courses to her name.  www.pw-hypnotherapy.co.ukwww.self-help-resources.co.ukwww.pw-consulting.co.uk.


To find out more about how Rhiannon Ford Divorce Consultancy can help and support you or someone you know through divorce and separation, please get in touch here


If you have found the tips in this blog useful then you will find lots more in my ebook “Tips for Coping with Divorce” which you can download here: free ebook.

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