How Long Does It Take to Heal from Divorce?

Although divorce is a common experience for nearly half the U.S. population, it’s far more than a simple legal process. It’s also a life-changing grief process – you must grieve the loss of your marriage in the same way you would grieve the loss of a loved one. This is true whether you wanted the divorce or not.

In order to truly move on and be whole again, you must allow yourself to go through the grieving process after the loss of your marriage. This is part of the healing process.

How long will you feel this way?

There is no denying the devastation divorce leaves in its wake. The end of your marriage turns your very life upside down. You may long for it to be over so you can get on with your life, but the grief process isn’t a fast process. Anger, sadness, guilt … you’ve got stages to work through, and the stages of grief are not always orderly or predictable.

How long it takes to get over your divorce depends on many factors. While studies tell us this process can take around two years, it’s different for everybody – very much an individual journey.

Although this is your road to travel, you don’t have to go it alone. Find a support system, whether it’s old friends, new friends, mental health professionals, loved ones in your family, or a divorce support group.

The stages of divorce grief

In the late 1960s, psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross coined the stages of grief in her book On Death and Dying. While her work involved observing these stages in terminal individuals, there are parallels to coping with a loved one’s death and coping with the end of a marriage.

  • Denial: We experience shock and denial and may refuse to believe it is happening.
  • Fear: When the shock finally hits home, we are fearful. What will we do? How will we survive?
  • Anger: Intense anger may accompany our feelings of fear. How could our spouse have done this? 
  • Bargaining: We bargain. We may desperately want to see if trying again would save the marriage.
  • Guilt: We feel a sense of guilt and fault for our own actions. We wonder if we have made a difference.
  • Sadness: We experience intense sadness. We cry. We are left numb to life. 
  • Acceptance: We come to a place of acceptance. Although we still feel some residual sadness or anger, we can now move toward the future, creating a new life beyond our former relationship.

The timeline for healing will look different from person to person. How long were you married? Was your marriage full of conflict? Were there children involved? Were you betrayed? Did you initiate the divorce? Did it take you completely by surprise?

Grief does not progress in a linear fashion, and each person needs as much time as they need.

What is uncomplicated grief?

While it may seem a misnomer, uncomplicated grief is defined as the “normal” difficult feelings people confront after a significant loss such as divorce. Nothing about grief feels “normal,” of course, but uncomplicated grief is the fluid movement through the grief process to the other side, where healing can occur. 

While uncomplicated grief can take you through rocky territory and cause you to experience things that feel anything but uncomplicated, it has a trajectory that doesn’t leave you stuck in its grip forever.

Are you getting enough sleep? If not, read these tips.

What is complicated grief?

Complicated grief is the counterpart to uncomplicated grief. When a relationship ends, many people move through grief with enough time and support — but some have a more difficult time.

“Complicated grief” is included in the DSM-5 as a disorder in which you cannot move through your grief, even after a prolonged time. In order to be diagnosed officially with Prolonged Grief Disorder, the loss must have happened at least one year prior, and the sufferer must still be firmly stuck in its grip. 

The DSM-5 lists symptoms that precipitate a diagnosis if they have persisted daily for at least a month:

  • A sense of disrupted identity
  • Disbelief about the event
  • Avoidance of reminders of the event
  • Persistent, intense emotional pain about the event
  • Difficulty returning to a normal life
  • Chronic numbness
  • Feeling that life has no meaning
  • Loneliness and social isolation

If you think you may be stuck in a persistent pattern of grief, it’s important to seek support and even professional help.

Read: Guide to Therapy during and after Divorce

Reaching acceptance

While grief is difficult, it’s an integral part of healing after divorce. Through this process, you learn to separate yourself from the event and see it from an emotional distance while still preserving what was good and valuable about your marriage. If you’re unable to do that, however, you are bound to keep reliving your pain. Fortunately, there are many mental health professionals and support groups that can help facilitate post-divorce healing so you can enjoy your life after divorce.

At Hello Divorce, we know you need serious support along with essential legal services. We offer online divorce plans, related professional services, and a library of resources to help you get through and beyond divorce into your new, exciting life. Let us help: Schedule a free 15-minute phone call today.

Divorce Content Specialist
Mediation, Divorce Strategy, Divorce Process, Mental Health
Candice is a former paralegal and has spent the last 16 years in the digital landscape, writing website content, blog posts, and articles for the legal industry. Now, at Hello Divorce, she is helping demystify the complex legal and emotional world of divorce. Away from the keyboard, she’s a devoted wife, mom, and grandmother to two awesome granddaughters who are already forces to be reckoned with. Based in Florida, she’s an avid traveler, painter, ceramic artist, and self-avowed bookish nerd.