The Four Stages of Divorce

In my private practice, I work with many women who are in various stages of the divorce process. While I wholeheartedly acknowledge that divorce is not the appropriate choice for everyone, I hope to provide some insight about the process that I have witnessed for those that are taking this very personal journey.

I have found a common theme to the stages of the divorce process, and have labeled them pre-contemplation, contemplation, action and transformation.


Oftentimes it is the pre-contemplation stage that brings women into my office, even if they do not consciously know that their marriage is in trouble. They may arrive in therapy unsure why they are experiencing unwanted symptoms such as anxiety, insomnia, depression, over (or under) eating, or just simply a sense of unease or disappointment in their lives. We may discuss their marriages in our sessions, but it is usually just a set of complaints about their partner rather than fully acknowledging the extent of their own unhappiness.


The contemplation stage begins to unfold as many of my clients acknowledge how unhappy they truly are and have been for sometime. Perhaps their marriage has been lacking connection, intimacy and true communication for years (or even decades). Or perhaps they are seeing patterns of mistreatment, toxicity and abuse that they have not been able to acknowledge until they began the therapy process. This is often a very painful and difficult stage in therapy, as it tends to bring up feelings of deep grief and sadness. Clients begin to acknowledge patterns in their marriage that mirror early relationships with primary caregivers. For example, a woman with a critical, narcissistic, and emotionally absent spouse is reminded of how she was treated similarly by her mother. No matter how hard she tries to please her spouse and win their love, she will never succeed (much like with her mother). This is a painful yet pivotal time in the therapeutic process, and often when a client may want to end therapy. But if she persists, however painful it is, she will find the strength to acknowledge her unmet needs and desires, many of which have been kept hidden since childhood, and move towards healing and wholeness.


It takes time to arrive at this stage. This is where patience and compassion are essential – the choice to end a marriage is complex and frightening, and the fear of the unknown often keeps women stuck. Along with patience and compassion, I find that trust is another essential component during this time. I never rush my clients through this stage; I believe doing so could cause unnecessary suffering and stress, especially because so many of my clients have children, homes, and financial obligations to consider. This process is an unfolding, and is also marked by a sense of considerable grief and loss. But the promise of a new life on the horizon gives these women the strength and trust that they are moving in the right direction, no matter how scary. And I find that once the choice has been made, most of my clients feel a deep sense of relief and renewed energy to move forward.


For many of my clients, the choice to end an unhealthy and/or unhappy marriage is the first choice they have ever made that was completely their own. The freedom and sense of agency that making this difficult and painful choice gives them can be transformative. In the wake of a divorce and the grief and fear that accompanies it, a deep inner strength is revealed. I am in awe of my clients that choose to walk the path of their truth, for I know (from personal experience) that it is not one to be taken lightly. It is a sacred honor to join these clients as they travel to the depths of their pain and reemerge as more authentic and joyful versions of themselves. The work they do in therapy is not isolated to the therapy office – it reverberates through every aspect of their lives as they learn to break old, unhealthy cycles of relationships, honor their needs and desires, and live a life that is truly their own.

How Yoga Helps Us Navigate Life Transitions

In yoga, we say that you don’t get injured IN a pose, you get injured on your way in or out of it. Mindlessly entering into a headstand, moving too quickly from chaturanga to upward facing dog, flopping into a forward fold without engaging your core or quadriceps - this is how we get hurt. We check out during the transitions.

This is much like life. We humans don’t like life transitions much – they are uncomfortable, tenuous, frightening, and often painful. There is a moment (or a series of moments) much like in our yoga practice, where we don’t want to deal with the unknown or the trickiness of getting from point A to point B, we’d rather just bypass the entire transition experience and get to where we are going. It is programmed into our evolution that change is something to be suspicious of because it involves confronting the unknown. This coming face-to-face with uncertainty shakes us to our core, because we don’t know how to prepare and we don’t know what tools to pack on our journey.

I see several clients in my private practice who are in the process of grieving the loss of a loved one, and what I often hear (especially in the beginning stages) is, “I just want to be done with this”. Grief is a complex issue that does not necessarily have an end point, or a point B, where everything feels normal again. Rushing through the grief process robs us of the richness and complexity of truly feeling our pain, sadness and despair. It hardens our pain, often turning it into depression or anxiety, which in turn increases our suffering. In an effort to deny our pain, we actually end up increasing it. As psychotherapist Miriam Greenspan writes, “A grief deferred is a grief prolonged”.  Grief is one of the most natural processes human beings can experience, because it is universal – we all, at some point, will lose someone or something we love dearly.

Denying our discomfort and/or rushing through it, much like rushing into a yoga pose without paying attention to alignment, breath and sensation in our body (all of which can feel superfluous and annoying), can lead to injury.

Here are some ways that the ancient wisdom of yoga can aid our journey through major life transitions:

1. Breathe

Sounds simple, right? In a yoga class, it is our breath that tempers the speed at which we move between poses. When we focus on our breath, we are more likely to stay present during the in-between stages. During big life transitions, we can slow ourselves down and gain perspective (as well as stimulate our parasympathetic nervous system, aka the “rest and digest” response) simply by tuning into our breath and remembering to stay present.

2. Turn Inward

Interoception, that is, sensing the body from the inside out, is a profoundly helpful skill when moving through life transitions. Feeling into our internal world, which is always rich, vibrant and alive, helps us sense where we feel stress and tension in our bodies so that we are able to ease some of that stress on our own. Mindfulness meditation, yoga and iRest Yoga Nidra are all ways of increasing interoception.

3. Surrender

The final pose in every yoga class is Savasana. In Savasana, we are instructed to lay still on the floor with our eyes closed from anywhere from three to 20 minutes (depending on the class, sometimes longer). In Savasana, you are awake yet still, in a state that evokes surrender and letting go. Surrender can be the last thing we want when we are facing the void of the unknown – what if I am swallowed by my discomfort/fear/pain/longing? The irony is that by surrendering to our experience, allowing the feelings to arise and take shape, we are not swallowed by it – we are transformed by it.

If you are in the midst of a major life transition, I highly recommend trying some kind of embodied, meditative practice. Staying present and attuning to your body is powerful medicine during difficult times, and reminds us that in the midst of transition, if we slow down and turn inward, we don’t have to get hurt.