5 Stages of Loss – Denial is the First

Denial is the First of the 5 Stages of Loss

The book, “On Death and Dying,” by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, proposed there are five distinct stages of normal grief. While the focus of the book is on death, the concept has been extended to all loss – including the loss of a relationship from a breakup or divorce.  The first block to rebuilding after divorce is also denial.

The Five Stages of Loss:

  1. Denial and Isolation
  2. Anger
  3. Bargaining
  4. Depression
  5. Acceptance

Studies show the stages are universal and are experienced by people from all walks of life.  Grief and mourning are normal human responses no matter your age, sex, or race.  The difference is how we respond and move forward.

Denial – The First Rebuilding Block After Divorce

Definition of Denial: 

“Denial is a defense mechanism in which a person unconsciously rejects thoughts, feelings, needs, wishes, or external realities that they would not be able to deal with if they got into the conscious mind. For example, when a person is told by their husband or wife that they want a divorce, the news can be so overwhelming that they enter into a state of denial–they refuse (on every level) to accept that their marriage is going to end in divorce because it is much too painful to handle.”

3 Important Steps to Move Out of Denial and Into Acceptance

  1. Be Patient with Yourself.  It may take sometime before you feel better about your situation.  This is normal and there is not a magic timeline for moving through denial.  As stated in “Conquering Denial,” it is difficult to combat the emotions of denial. That’s why it’s good to remember that though life is not completely in our control, we should take responsibility for the things we can control. It’s scary and can produce a lot of anxiety, but you do not have to be free from fear in order to act in ways that are necessary. Be courageous and face your life — and you’ll find rewards that are beyond your imagination.
  2. Reach out for support. When you are in denial, it’s easy to isolate yourself or to want to save other people from the burden of dealing with your issues (after all, it’s much more manageable when you have others to assist you). Sometimes even just sharing your problem with other people can help. Admitting that you don’t know what you are doing or what you will do can help you to feel like less of an imposter. Instead of using that energy to fake being okay (which is absolutely exhausting), you can use that energy to tackle your problems.
  3. Respect yourself. You need all the energy you can get to deal with your situation and the negative thoughts will only block you from being able to think of and execute solutions. Even if you are completely at fault for your situation, still treat yourself with decency and respect. Stay away from negative self-talk, even if it seems deserved.

Moving out of denial is a conscious decision – deciding to take steps towards accepting the end of your relationship.  This decision is made when the emotional pain is so great that you know you must do something. With this decision comes the first steps towards healing.

Ponder these statements to check your progress of moving from denial to acceptance:

  • I am able to accept that my love relationship is ending.
  • I am comfortable telling my friends and relatives that my love relationship is ending.
  • I have begun to understand some of the reasons why my lover relationship did not work out.
  • I am ready to invest emotionally in my own personal growth.

Be honest with yourself and examine each of the statements.  If you find yourself answering no to these statements, you may benefit from professional help to move you out of denial.  And, if you are able to answer yes to at least 2 of the statements, you are ready to begin the healing process.

The 10 Week Rebuilding Series can help.  It will help you come face-to-face with your denial and begin taking the steps towards accepting the reality of your divorce.  Not sure the series is for you?  Join the complimentary call to preview the classes and get your questions answered.

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