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3 Stages In Learning to Let Go After Divorce

Part of the process to provide your child with safe and nurturing home environments is learning to Let Go. Seems simple enough, the ink is dry on the divorce paper, so moving on should be easy right?

Wrong. Divorce often feels like an emotional death to a once believed ever after with no rebuilding of that dream. According to Cooperative Parenting and Divorce (CPD), there are three significant areas particular to the Letting Go Process:


Shock: A feeling of complete numbness. Some say they feel nothing as though they were anesthetized. Some people notice a kind of panic that accompanies, precedes or follows the numbness. You may have a hard time concentrating or even expressing yourself when you are in this stage of grief.

Denial: When people stubbornly refuse to grieve, they are said to be in denial. Since grief is painful, most people try to put it off at least temporarily. People might say, “I don’t care anyway.” or “She was never there for me anyway.” However, if denial continues, it may be impossible for the person to move on to healthier stages of life.

Guilt: Feelings of guilt emerge when you examine what you might have done to cause the divorce of what you did do which may have hurt the other person. Your thoughts in this stage may have started with the phrase, “If only I…”

Anger: Anger is often present during the grief process. Following divorce it may take the form of blaming the former spouse not only for initiating the divorce but also for destroying your dream of the perfect family and home. It may even be turned towards yourself for your inability to prevent the divorce.

Bargaining/Depression: Grieving often brings feelings of isolation and loneliness: this is often the case in divorce. Almost as a last effort before resolving some of the grief is a last stand at bargaining with God, with oneself, or with one’s former partner. When the last big effort doesn’t work, the person often experiences depression.

Hope: The hope experienced here is part of the resolution process that indicates hopefulness for the future. It’s a start on the road to the future, leaving the worst behind you.

Acceptance: In this final stage sadness is felt but it is shared with an acceptance that there is no going back. Acceptance does not deny the pain of the experience nor the joy of the past experiences. Instead, it accepts the present as the only alternative and leaves you ready to face the future.

If you have experienced or are currently experiencing any of these stages, you may experience one or several stages more than once. This is a normal process that requires your care and attention. Speak with a trusted friend, family member, and support system. If it feels you may need more than their loving support is skilled to provide, you may need to seek professional help to guide you through this process.


Divorce does not mean you cancel out memories, although your instinct may be to do away with it altogether. The emotional toll may seem too much and cutting out all the good times seems like a good solution. Before you make a final decision, keep in mind that those memories are also a part of your child’s history they may deeply want to treasure them despite the not-so-great outcome between you and your former partner.

CPD suggests the following activity to encourage you to hold onto memories that are unique only to you.

Memories that include you and your former spouse/partner: ______



Memories that include you, your former spouse/partner and child/ren: ______________________________________________________________



Holding on to memories may feel too painful at present, understandably so, but it’s good to remember the good times with your child because sharing this memory with your child will assist in theirs and ultimately your healing process. Which leads us to the third stage: forgiveness.


CPD infers that forgiveness does not mean: you accept your co-parent’s behaviors, that your pain is not real nor justified, and that you have to receive an apology or mutual recognition, or a reconciliation. Rather, forgiveness is an opportunity to heal the damage of the past, free you from the pain unforgiveness holds on to, and prevent your child from being stuck in the middle.

The potential cost to your child in choosing to hold on versus letting go:

  • Your child agrees with you and develops an impaired relationship with the other parent.

  • Your child agrees with you now but resents you and your message later.

  • Your child disagrees with you and defends the other parent.

  • Your child minimizes their own needs in order to be equally connected to both you and the other parent.

*The above potentials create a real danger in promoting a fragile sense of self.

As you take the time to reflect, process, and start your personal journey to healing, it will help to remember that Letting Go is a decision and choice you always have the power to make!

For more tips, please check out our other tips here (add link: You can always find us at 954-903-1676 for counseling services.


Cooperative Parenting and Divorce: Shielding Your Child From Conflict, A Parent Guide to Effective Co-Parenting. Susan Blyth Boyan, M.Ed., L.M.F.T. and Ann Marie Termini, M.S., L.P.C.

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