What Is Divorce Recovery and How Can It Help Me?

by Lauren Cook-McKay | Last Updated: December 14, 2021

Most people don’t commit to a marriage with the intention of ever leaving the other person. But, life happens, people drift apart for many reasons, and marriage can’t always support that distance. 

Divorce is more than an ordinary breakup, making it a difficult and emotional event for most people. While it can look different for everyone, most people need time and support to work through the emotional and mental strain that accompanies divorce proceedings. 

No matter how amicable divorce might be, there will be complicated feelings that arise at some point in the process. Experiencing a divorce can even have a negative impact on physical health

Divorce recovery is essential to working through complex emotions and moving on with life in the healthiest possible way. It involves a supportive, accepting setting and teaches healthy ways to manage stress.

picture of a woman in divorce recovery session

What Is Divorce Recovery?

Divorce recovery is the process of healing from the various stages of the split. It’s a way to support a person through the complex emotions tied to the divorce, adjust to a new life, and lay the groundwork for healthy future relationships.

Most people break the divorce recovery process into five phases or stages. 

Note that even if the individual wants the divorce, they still typically work through each stage.

Different Phases in the Divorce Recovery Cycle

It’s important to understand that divorce recovery looks different for every person. Some people might find it necessary to spend more time working through certain phases, and that’s okay. Part of the divorce recovery process is getting in touch with feelings and working through them to accept that your marriage is over and move forward in a positive way.

Rejection Phase

The first stage involves an adjustment to the new situation. Divorce is the loss of a partner, and some people struggle to see their life without the other person. To avoid dealing with that loss, the individual shoves the emotions aside and essentially denies the pain because they can’t face it yet.

Resentment Phase

When those rejected feelings start bubbling up and breaking through, they usually take the form of resentment. It’s easy to feel angry because the suppressed emotions are uncomfortable.

This phase is critical and often requires extensive support to work through the resentment healthily. Finding awareness and knowing how to identify triggers can prevent the individual from reacting poorly to a situation, like exploding on an innocent person. 

Renegotiation Phase

The third phase typically involves some level of fantasizing as the individual does everything in their power to reduce the amount of pain they feel. For example, the individual might imagine ways to improve things and mentally rewrite what happened to have a different ending.

Trying to maintain the relationship after the marriage ends is not a healthy move because it prevents both parties from moving forward. It can only prolong the pain and sorrow, while often adding a healthy dose of confusion into an already tumultuous situation.

Remorse Phase

The remorse phase might be the most pivotal for many people because it’s all about facing reality. By letting go of what could have been, it’s possible to see what is. This is the time when people need the most support from loved ones because it’s easy for them to shut people out and retreat into themselves.

This phase is also about acceptance. Finding a way to accept everything about the situation, from the loss to the emotions tied to that loss. 

Reality Phase

Speaking of reality, when it’s possible to face life as it is, the person can truly move on. This phase is about embracing life as it is and opening up to a new future. Release the pain, confusion, guilt, and sorrow to open the heart and mind to new possibilities.

Read More: How To Get a Divorce In YOUR State

What Is Divorce Recovery Therapy?

Divorce recovery therapy is usually one-on-one counseling that helps people develop coping mechanisms to work through the various stages. The process can guide an individual through the phases while providing the support, encouragement, and validation they need to heal.

Who Should Seek After Divorce Therapy?

Divorce therapy can benefit everybody involved in the situation. Both adults and children can reach new understandings and find ways to heal.

Adults can attend joint sessions and individual sessions to work through emotions and work on new ways to relate to each other. Joint sessions can help the divorcing couple establish new boundaries and find common ground to move forward with the proceedings. Individual sessions allow each party a safe space to explore and learn how to manage their emotions.

Children tend to struggle with emotions of fear, guilt, and even abandonment. Therapy can help them understand what is happening and work through the intense feelings attached to their parents’ divorce.

While divorce recovery therapy is often a one-on-one situation, it can benefit each member of the family. However, family counseling might be helpful in some situations, especially for couples with children.

Read More: Understanding The Psychological Effects of Divorce on Children

The Benefits of Divorce Recovery Therapy

Divorce therapy creates a safe space to explore feelings and reactions at each phase, and having an experienced professional as a guide can be immensely helpful. There are several benefits to engaging in divorce recovery therapy, including:

Additionally, if there are children in the family, divorce therapy can help the family work through the new arrangements. Divorced parents have new challenges with parenting, and therapy can help ease them.

Aside from learning how to co-parent in a new reality, divorce therapy can teach parents how to support their children throughout the divorce process. It’s not an easy time for anybody, but parents who don’t support their children can often develop more feelings of guilt and failure down the line. 

Read More: How to Overcome Divorce Depression and Emerge Stronger

How to Find a Divorce Recovery Therapist

Like any therapy, finding a counselor who makes you feel comfortable is crucial to your success. It might seem like a daunting task, but there are many resources available to help you find the right divorce recovery therapist.

Ask Your Friends, Family, and Social Network

Word of mouth remains one of the best options for finding a therapist. Ask people you know who have been divorced or know somebody who’s been through something similar. If you feel comfortable, post on a social network for suggestions, like in a neighborhood group. You could even say “asking for a friend” if it makes you feel more comfortable.

Online Reviews

A simple Google search is a good place to start. Many therapists and doctors have Yelp and Google reviews with feedback. There are also sites like Healthgrades that allow people to rate treating sources, including therapists. You can also go to reliable professional sites, like Psychology Today, to find suggestions.

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Ask Your Insurance Provider

Divorce therapy usually qualifies as mental health counseling, which is often covered by insurance. It’s a good idea to reach out to an insurance provider for a list of therapists.

FAQs

Divorce is a difficult time for most people, even if you wanted it, and that often means a lot of complicated questions. Here are a few common questions about divorce recovery and what it could mean for you.

  • How long does divorce recovery take?
    If only there were a definitive answer to give, but there isn’t. Divorce recovery is different for everybody, and some people take longer than others. That said, many professionals weigh in with different estimates and guidelines. Some say it takes anywhere from one to two years, while others suggest that the amount of time it takes relates to the length of the marriage. The truth is, divorce recovery should take as long as the individual needs it to take.
  • How do I recover from divorce emotionally?
    Recovering from divorce is a challenge, and it’s one of the toughest things to endure. In fact, in terms of most stressful life events, divorce is usually in the top five. Recovering from something so stressful takes patience and effort. Therapy can be helpful, but there are other steps you can take.  
    • Be kind to yourself. Accept that you are going to feel strong emotions and embrace them.
    • Commit to self-care.
    • Reach out to loved ones for support. Do not go it alone.
    • Consider a support group where you can talk with other people going through the same thing.
    • Reconnect with your passions. Did you put a hobby on the back burner during your marriage, or is there something you always wanted to try? Now is the time to do it.
    • Commit to positivity. While it is important to feel the emotions, it is equally necessary to find positive things in your life to create balance.
    Finally, reinforce with yourself that things will get better and you will find a way to a new normal. Once you work through the phases of divorce recovery, you can establish a path forward.
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    Lauren Cook-McKay is the Vice President of Marketing at DivorceAnswers.com. She holds a Master’s Degree in Marriage and Family Therapy (MFT) from the University of San Diego and applies her training in private practice to helping couples struggling in their marriage. She strongly believes there is hope in all marriages and strives to provide therapy to couples that will lead them back towards a loving marriage, or an amicable divorce that brings peace and closure. Connect with Lauren on LinkedIn here.