Divorce is one of the most stressful life changes you can experience. When I went through my divorce, I felt as if I had been tied up, blindfolded and strapped into the front car of a run-away roller coaster. It was terrifying! What made it so bad was that I didn’t know what to expect next and I was always anticipating the worst.
What I’ve learned through my own divorce recovery and helping all my clients over the years is that when you have some knowledge about what to expect, things are less scary. This is like the idea of taking the blindfold off so although you might still feel like you’re tied up and on the roller-coaster ride at least you’ll be able to see what’s coming up next.
So let’s take that blindfold off you once and for all! There are four phases of divorce change that you’ll experience – just like there are four seasons:
- The End/Beginning – Winter
- The Chaotic Redefinition of Life – Spring
- The Settling In – Summer
- Moving On – Fall
The first phase, the end/beginning, is tough – just like winter is. This phase is a progression from the first thought of divorce, to the struggle to make the decision and then finally to making the decision. In this phase it’s common to feel frozen by fear and/or indecision. Once the decision is made, unless both spouses made the decision together, it’s common for the spouse not making the decision to feel frozen by denial and rejection.
In the spring-like phase of divorce, the chaotic redefinition of life, everything seems to change at once. Life can feel tumultuous and like there’s too much happening. It’s hard to keep your bearings and it’s easy to get overwhelmed by everything. This is just like spring when there is a tremendous flurry of activity with the plants emerging and coming back to life along with the scurrying of wildlife to build nests and welcome their young.
In the next phase of divorce, settling in, things slow down and pick up a new rhythm just like we all do in summer. You’ve learned what you needed to learn to get your life on the new track and you’re able to slow down the frenzy of activity of the last phase. There are still a few things that need your attention, but overall you’re feeling pretty good about your life.
The fall-like phase of divorce is when you’re able to move on with your life. You’ve completed all the transition and preparation and now you’re really living your life again. Just like fall was traditionally the time to relax and appreciate all of the hard work that went into the spring and summer.
And just like our weather, there are no firm and fast divisions of the four phases of divorce. There are freak storms in divorce recovery that can make spring and fall feel like winter, but that’s all they are, just storms that you can weather and move on from.
Now with this knowledge of the phases of divorce and how they echo the seasons of the year, I’m hopeful that you’ll feel like you’ve been able to remove the blindfold and know more of what to expect on your divorce roller-coaster ride.
Your Divorce Recovery Assignment:
Which phase of divorce are you in? By recognizing which of the phases of divorce you’re in, you can be better prepared to weather it and know what to expect next.
Feel like you’re in more than one phase? Don’t worry. It’s common to feel like you’re in a couple of phases at the same time. Just like the seasons don’t abruptly change, your divorce recovery won’t abruptly shift from one phase to another.