sixtyandme logo
We are community supported and may earn a commission when you buy through links on our site. Learn more

Are You Stuck in the Remorse Phase After Divorce?

By Donna McGoff January 24, 2023 Mindset

The Road Through Recovery after divorce starts with pinpointing exactly where we are “stuck” or “in pain.” There are five phases within it. It is a cycle of feelings we experience in the divorce recovery process.

You may be stuck in the Rejection phase if you don’t accept the reality of your life as it is now. Refusing to accept the “here and now” means not allowing the feelings you need to cope with in order to begin the healing process.

The second phase, Resentment, simply means that although you let the conflicting feelings come in and you experience them, you have trouble handling them in a responsive manner. It is easy to fall into the trap of victimhood.

Renegotiation is the third phase whereby you want to replay the past so that there is a different outcome. Although, the past is gone and you can’t change it, you may be stuck in the “What If” or “If Only.” Focusing on what you could have done in the past takes away the potential for the future. You can’t change the past, but you are the creator of choices and decisions you make for the future.

The fourth phase is Remorse.

What Is the Remorse Phase?

You may be stuck here if you find yourself less outgoing and withdraw into yourself. The good news is that you are beginning to accept “what is.” You find yourself taking some time for personal reflection and soul searching. This is healthy. It only becomes unhealthy if you spend more time than is necessary in this space of emotions.

These emotions are a necessary part of the healing process. The remorse phase is one whereby you experience a sort of mourning process before letting go. It is the precursor to the last phase, Reality.

Having a strong support system of family and friends as well as being mindful of self-care is essential during this time. Some try to avoid this phase as much as possible so as to not feel the terrible sadness and regret that comes up.

Unlike other phases you may experience, this phase is necessary to acknowledge and accept so that you are able to heal by reflecting on the loss. These feelings and emotions need to be experienced; otherwise, they become an albatross around your neck weighing you down.

Here’s an Example

Lisa married Richard at 22, after finishing college. She raised four children and got divorced after 39 years of marriage. She and Richard grew up in the same town. The marriage was rocky right from the start, but they “stuck it out” for the children. Why? One reason is because of the upbringing and mindset so typical during that generation.

As a dutiful daughter, Lisa did what was expected of her. She married Richard. After all, they dated exclusively during the last two years of college. It was the natural progression.

This scenario may sound familiar to some.

Lisa intuitively knew almost from the very beginning that the person she married was not necessarily the person who she will be happy with for the rest of her life. After the children were grown and flew the nest, she decided to make the break.

As a result, Lisa now experiences terrible guilt for having ended the marriage; she also feels guilty for staying in it so long and feeling so unhappy. As she looks back on her life and the people close to her who have been affected by her decision, it’s hard for her to feel good about being true to herself.

She is filled with regret.

What Does Lisa Begin to Recognize?

Lisa becomes “unstuck” and rises up after divorce when she acknowledges and accepts the uncomfortable feelings she is experiencing. She gives herself permission to accept that she was being true to herself in spite of these feelings. In forgiving herself, she frees herself to move on. Here are some of the issues she needs to work on.

  • Know that working through the guilt and sadness will allow her to make a positive shift in the uncomfortable emotions she is experiencing.
  • Make an effort to cultivate a good support system – engaging with family and friends instead of wallowing around in negative emotions and isolating herself.
  • Accept her feelings and forgive herself because she realizes that internally, her guilt is doing more harm than good.

What Are Some Simple Steps Lisa Can Take?

Lisa does some research and comes up with these action steps. (The research is a learning experience and empowers her to help herself with finding solutions.)

  • Confront her feelings and what triggers them because then she can create action steps that are in line with her values.
  • Find and join a group of like-minded women who can be supportive during this time.
  • Learn the value of forgiving herself as it increases her personal accountability and makes it easier to take the next step forward.

Find Out If You Are Stuck Here

If this phase on the Road Through Recovery resonates with you, I encourage you to take the free REMORSE PHASE SURVEY. It will guide you to pinpoint where you may be stuck. There are specific statements to answer. If they ring true for you, then you’ll receive ideas and suggestions you can implement right now. You can overcome the challenges you are facing.

Learning to change your thinking and focusing on the positive aspects of your situation will help you to move forward. Creating the right action steps to take right now will empower you to take back control over your life.

Learn the three secrets to break free from the past – watch this free webinar. Learn how to RISE UP AFTER DIVORCE and create a life you would love living. Learn how to change your thinking, your attitude, and your perspective.

Let’s Have a Chat:

Does wallowing around in regret, blame, shame, or guilt empower you in a healthy way? Is it going to change your situation, circumstance, or the condition of your present life? Which action steps do you feel will help you to create a more positive, purposeful life going forward?

Notify of

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

I found this article very helpful. I asked for a legal separation due to addiction in the marriage for the last 10 years of a 44 year marriage. I believe he preferred living alone so he did not have to hide or lie anymore. The divorce impacting my three adult children has changed all our relationships and not always for the better. I am maintaining boundaries but often feel isolated. I attend Al-Anon and that helps tremendously but my emotions are up and down. I hope time helps!!


I can definitely see myself as I went through each of the stages above, even though I was the one who was left by my husband of 34 years. What is encouraging is reading about the phases, recognizing each one I moved through, and realizing that I am living with reality now and it is not only not bad, it is freedom! I don’t feel the need to find another man, though it may happen in the future. I am busy opening my eyes and seeing beauty all around me again and realizing that living without someone else’s ego to stroke frees me up to do all the things I have not had energy or time for, including making friends with other women.

Donna McGoff

Hi Marian,
I love your comment. It sounds like you have accomplished just that—freedom to be who you truly are and rejoice in it.

Nothing is more rewarding and joyful than to know that we have stepped into our power to explore what’s next.

Like you, I went through each of the phases myself and how I came to create the Road Through Recovery.


Marian…I too went through all those phases, like you. It took awhile to stop blaming myself, despite all the support I received from close friends. It did happen. I’m in a better place, like you. Looking back never changes anything. Loved your statement “….living without someone else’s ego to stroke…” Perfect!!

The Author

Donna McGoff is the founder of Living Above The Ordinary. She holds a Master’s degree in human development, counseling, and family studies and is a certified life coach specializing in divorce recovery. Donna’s passion is helping women move beyond divorce empowering them to embrace a new beginning creating a new, purposeful life.

You Might Also Like