The Emotional Stages of Divorce (DABDA)

January 27, 2017

Divorce is a major life transition that is accompanied with stages of intense emotions.  The emotional stages of divorce are similar to emotions that are experienced after the death of a loved one. I refer to these emotions as, the DABDA stages of divorce. They include Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance. 

There is no set timeline or order of stages an individual goes through while dealing with a divorce. They may find themselves reaching one stage and then going back to another. Everyone experiences these stages differently. Most couples that come to divorce mediation sessions are experiencing a different stage than their spouse. 


DENIAL- It is extremely difficult dealing with the grief and loss of a loved one. You may be in denial that the split is going to happen. It may be easier to deny the reality of the situation than to deal with the difficult process. This is common and many people report to feeling “numb” during this stage.


ANGER-During this stage, you may develop a strong sense of anger toward your spouse. Anything he/she says or does may trigger irritability. You may find yourself thinking about things they have done wrong in the past and revisiting every “slight” you have experienced in your relationship. It is not uncommon to experience emotions of rage during this phase. The anger will eventually subside.


BARGAINING-This stage involves a lot of “what ifs?” You find yourself “bargaining” to prevent the inevitable outcome.  “What if I tried harder to save the marriage?” “What if I put in less time at work and more time at home?” During this stage, you are thinking about all of the good memories of the relationship and positive traits of your spouse.

Sometimes it is easier to run back to a life that, although was not happy or healthy, is familiar to us. The future after a divorce is uncertain and that can be scary. You may attempt to “bargain” back to the life you once had before the divorce process began.


DEPRESSION-Feelings of sadness, loneliness, and despair are common during this stage. These feelings are expected during a major life transition, such as divorce. Give yourself time to go through the experience of these emotions. It is a healthy part of the healing process.  A support system is invaluable during this stage. Surround yourself with good friends & family you can lean on.  A therapist can also help support you during this process and be of great assistance towards healing. Therapy is highly recommended.


ACCEPTANCE-There will come a time (believe it or not) that you will come to accept your divorce. This does not mean you are necessarily happy about getting divorced but you are accepting of the fact that the marriage is over. You accept that the marriage failed and are ready to move forward.

Please know you are not alone and the majority of people going through a divorce experience the emotional stages of DABDA.

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