How does a divorce lawyer in Clearwater, Florida, explain the behavior of persons going through the divorce process?  It turns out that there is a model that is helpful.  Elisabeth Kübler-Ross introduced a model for dealing with grief in her 1969 book, On Death and Dying, which was inspired by her work with terminally ill patients.  However, she later expanded her theory to apply to any form of catastrophic personal loss, such as the death of a loved one, the loss of a job or income, a major rejection, and the end of a relationship or divorce.  The application of the theory is intended to help the sufferer to fully resolve each stage, then help them transition to the next at the appropriate time rather than getting stuck in a particular phase or continually bouncing around from one unsolved phase to another.

There are at least two instances in which the Kübler-Ross model helps us understand what goes on in certain divorces.  The first is when children grieve in divorce.  Children journey through the stages of grief.  The sooner parents start to move on from the situation, the sooner the children can accept the reality of it.

The second scenario is describing grieving a breakup:

  • Denial
    The person left behind is unable to admit that the relationship is really over. They may continue to call the former partner even though that person wants to be left alone. Instead they may deny their feelings and not admit that they are upset about it at all.
  • Anger
    The partner left behind may feel angry for the pain the leaving partner causes them. The partner left also might blame himself/herself.
  • Bargaining
    After the anger stage, the one left behind may plead with their former partner by promising that whatever caused the breakup will never happen again. Example: “I can change. Please give me a chance.”
  • Depression
    Next, the person might feel discouraged that his or her bargaining plea did not convince the former partner to stay. This may send the person into depression causing disruption to life functions.
  • Acceptance
    Moving on from the situation and the person is the last stage. The partner leftbehind accepts that the relationship is over and begins to move forward with his or her life. She or he may not be completely over the situation but is weary of going back and forth, so much so that they can accept the separation as reality.[1]
by Patrick Gaffney

by Patrick Gaffney

According to her hypothesis, Kübler-Ross claimed these stages do not necessarily come in order, nor are all stages experienced by all patients.  She stated, however, that a person always experiences at least two of the stages.  Often, people experience several stages in a “roller coaster effect – switching between two or more stages, returning to one or more several times before working through it.

Understanding the stages of grief helps divorce professionals advise their clients.  For example, there are instances in which a spouse is grieving a breakup.  Until they have moved to the acceptance stage of the grieving process, it may not be possible to effectively settle the divorce matter.  Divorce is a life event that can be a confusing time.  Moving through the states of grief to a place of closure is an experience shared by many.

[1] Wikipedia: The Stages of Grief.