The 7 Stages of Separation

You may have recently found yourself facing a divorce or separation and in need of a divorce solicitor; whether it was on the cards or a bit of a bombshell, chances are you are feeling a bit lost. Whatever the situation, it is perfectly normal to feel like you are on an emotional rollercoaster and you may not know where to turn. You will not be alone in feeling this way and separation is a lot more common than one might think.

You will no doubt feel that there is a lot to sort out, both practically and emotionally. It is not uncommon for one party to be feeling all over the place whereas the other party might have already reached the point of accepting the relationship is over. However, either way, all parties involved will be feeling a sense of loss and grief.

Coming to terms with losing someone who you thought you would be with forever is one of the most difficult journeys you can take. But you aren’t alone, in the UK there are over 100,000 divorces every year, and the feelings you have and will have over the next few months, are completely justified. An understanding of what’s to come can provide you with a bit more clarity so you do not feel alone.

Below you will find a breakdown of the seven stages of separation. We hope this helps you take control of what can otherwise be an overwhelming time.

Topics to be answered in this article

1. Denial

Separation and an end of a relationship is a type of loss and the first stage of loss and grief is often denial. Whether you are the party in the relationship who has taken steps to end the relationship or not, you will be experiencing some form of grief. If you are experiencing denial, you may withdraw from friends and family and may want to bury your head in the sand to avoid making important decisions. However, sometimes the delay in facing issues head on can cause difficulties when trying to sort things out and can make it much harder. It is often the case that much of what you need to sort out isn’t related to legal advice but is more practical and emotional and it is important you get support early on.

2. Anger

The next stage may often be anger. This can be in the form of anger towards yourself or the other party and it may be difficult to make rational and clear decisions when thinking negatively of the other person or yourself. It may also hinder your ability to negotiate and come to amicable decisions. It is quite often the feeling of anger that gets in the way of achieving an outcome that benefits all parties involved because you might want your day in court or have the other person pay for what they have done, but it often creates a lot of hurt in the process.

3. Guilt

It is important to put yourself first and be easy on yourself. It is very easy to put yourself at fault and blame yourself for the separation but as soon as you are rid of that feeling you will be able to move forward more quickly. It is likely you would need some time and space to come to terms with the situation emotionally and therefore it is important to treat yourself, whether it is as simple as a walk in nature or a trip to the cinema with friends, a massage or time with family.

4. Fear

The prospect of being alone is a very scary thing and it is normal to worry about how you are going to cope on your own, whether that be emotionally or financially. However, it is important to face those fears head on because you will feel much stronger once you have been through the journey and come out the other side.

5. Grief

At some point during the process you may feel overwhelmed because everything is settling into place and you realise you are at the point of no return. It is inevitable you will feel sadness and will struggle to accept the relationship is over, but it is important that you seek help and support. There are many professionals who can help you on the journey.

6. Re-invention

There will come a point where you are able to think more rationally and clearer and you will feel ready to move. You will have worked through the period of uncertainty and have more clarity and understanding of where things stand for your future.

7. Acceptance

The final stage is acceptance and is the point where you are no longer looking back and will stop trying to retrieve the life you once had. Acceptance will come at a different stage for each person and may take some longer than others, but it will take as long as you need and once you get there you will see your future much more clearly.

How to deal with separation

Although an experienced family solicitor can work with you through the process, you may find it beneficial to consult with a therapist or divorce coach who has the experience of helping separating couples at an early stage.

There is a great deal of research into how family separation impacts parties and children (if they are involved) and if you are emotionally supported, it can make the process slightly easier. Having the right emotional support will also ensure you do not feel frustrated and misunderstood.

Whether you are facing separation now, or it is on the cards, it is important that you take practical and legal steps to protect your position. To help you through the process, there are a few links below of useful contacts who you can get in touch with. For more information on our legal services, get in touch today

Home | Mind, the mental health charity – help for mental health problems

Relate | The relationship people

Home – Cafcass – Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service

Find the Best Counsellors and Therapists in England – Psychology Today

Click to share this article

Author Bio

Alice Blackmore

I qualified as a Solicitor in October 2016 and previously worked at a firm in Plymouth before moving to Bath. I joined Goughs in January 2020 and was promoted to Associate in April 2021 then Senior Associate in April 2023. I am a member of the Family Law Panel and I am experienced in dealing with all areas of family law including disputes involving children, divorce, separation, finances, and cohabitation.

I have frequently assisted clients with Non-Molestation Orders and Occupation Orders. I regularly attend court in relation to disputes involving children and domestic abuse issues to represent clients. These are areas that I have a particular interest in. I also have close links with domestic abuse organisations in the local area and am a member of The Family Law Panel’s Green Phone Scheme initiative.

I am a Resolution member and an active member of YRes. Resolution promotes trying to resolve matters in a constructive and non-confrontational way. I pride myself on encouraging parties, where possible, to resolve matters in an amicable way and to put the needs of any children first to ensure they make positive decisions.

Related Content

What is a special guardianship order (SGO)?

What is a postnuptial agreement?

Living together and civil partnership – legal differences

Let us search for you