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Are You “Stuck” in the Rejection Phase on the Road Through Recovery After Divorce?

By Donna McGoff November 04, 2022 Family

When I was faced with the difficulty of creating a new, purposeful life after divorce, I tried different options, struggling to find one that would achieve my goals. As an older woman, I faced specific challenges not experienced by my younger counterparts.

Because of the continuous frustration, longing, and discontent, I came up with my own plan of action. I called it The Road Through Recovery. During my research, I found there is indeed a progression to divorce recovery.

Divorce recovery comes with a cycle of feelings and emotions not unlike the Kubler Ross model of grief. I learned those back in graduate school.

Connecting divorce with grief, I created my own model of five phases of emotions and feelings specifically related to divorce recovery. This is how The Road Through Recovery came to be.

What Is the Road Through Recovery?

The Road Through Recovery has five phases of feelings and emotions one may experience after transitioning to the other side of divorce. The five phases are Rejection, Resentment, Renegotiation, Remorse, and Reality. Some may encounter all the phases, skip over others, or only experience one.

I thought to myself, “Because recovering and healing is an inside job; if I can become aware of what emotions and feelings I am experiencing the most, I will get a clue of where to begin the process of moving forward.“

In this blog, you’ll learn about the first of five phases on the Road Through Recovery. I’ll give you a real-life example of someone who experiences the first phase, Rejection. Then, you’ll see how she overcomes her obstacles. Finally, as a bonus, I have included a survey with action steps. If this phase strikes a chord within you, there’s a plan of action to guide you in moving forward.

What Is the Rejection Phase?

Not everyone is stuck or in pain in this first phase called the Rejection phase. When experiencing the Rejection phase, you are rejecting the trauma of the situation as it helps you to survive the loss. It gives you the ability to pace your feelings and emotions until you are ready in mind and body to manage them.

Simply put, your psyche is just not ready to handle all the conflicted emotions. At this point, you’re using rejection as your coping mechanism.

You will notice in the example that there is no groveling around in the past. The past is gone, and you can’t go back and change it. Looking for solutions to help you move forward, instead of continuing to be all caught up in the problem, it is the “key” to getting on the Road to creating a new life you would love living.

Meet Evelyn

Our example, Evelyn, was stuck in the Rejection phase. At the time she said, “Now that the divorce is over. I have no life. I don’t have a clue where to start to rebuild it.”

Evelyn got divorced after 39 years of marriage. She and her ex-spouse, Bruce, have four children that are grown and live in various parts of the country.

Having been married for all those years, the emotional upset became more pronounced as Evelyn remembered the years – the time, the investment, her heart, her soul – that she dedicated to the marriage.

All her hopes and dreams were shattered and swept away.

Long after the divorce, Evelyn continued to leave the outside light on at night like she used to for times when he would come home late from work.

Bruce’s shared area of the walk-in closet remained empty, and she continued to cook some of his favorite meals for dinner.

Evelyn is a small person and gained close to 35 pounds. She felt out of control. Unfortunately, emotional eating was her coping mechanism. It was her way of dealing with the situation instead of allowing the uncomfortable, painful feelings to hit, and then deal with them.

She Ate Them Away

Evelyn couldn’t recognize herself, physically or emotionally. She lost her sense of self and well-being.

Emotional eating is a crutch. It becomes a habit. The good news is, habits can be broken.

Here Are Some Steps Evelyn Took

Using the free REJECTION PHASE SURVEY, here are some action steps Evelyn created to move out of the Rejection phase on The Road Through Recovery.

  • Along with filling up what used to be Bruce’s side of the closet with her new wardrobe as she lost the extra weight, Evelyn began to cook her favorite meals that are nutritious and healthy.
  • She became aware of her “trigger thoughts” associated with overeating and wrote the most frequent ones down as the thoughts popped into her head.
  • She made a list of alternative behaviors that she could readily use in place of overeating triggers. Then she taped them to the refrigerator. (Instead of diving into the refrigerator, she could dive out the door and go for a walk, call a friend, read a book, or focus on any activity outside of the kitchen area.)
  • When the uncomfortable feeling snuck in, she learned to take a pause and allow herself to feel it and breathe through it. The breathing took away some of the power of discomfort. This way, Evelyn controlled her feelings instead of her feelings controlling her.

What Are the Positive Takeaways?

This experience has changed Evelyn. She is a different person now as she works through the steps and achieves her goals. As she begins to respect and love the person she is now, she will rise up after divorce, moving past the Road Through Recovery.

As she moves out of the past, Evelyn makes space inside of herself to allow for the present and what is possible for the future.

Part of living in the present is acknowledging the thoughts and feelings when they show up and recognizing some of them are no longer relevant. Learning to respond instead of react to negative feelings and emotions, allowed Evelyn to make new choices and decisions for the future coming from her higher self.

If you feel you may be stuck in the Rejection phase after divorce, I encourage you to take the REJECTION PHASE SURVEY which includes action steps for each of the five statements.

Let’s Have a Conversation:

Where are you on your post-divorce journey? Are you in the rejection phase, or have you moved on? What does/did your rejection phase look like? Do any of the statements resonate with you? If so, what actions will you take to overcome the challenge of them? I encourage you to share your action steps in writing as you’ll feel more accountable.

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Jan Borgman

How about married on paper but divorced living? How to live accordingly?

Donna McGoff

Good morning, Jan,

Divorced living is not the same as legally divorced, although you may have particular agreements to this arrangement that are suitable to each of you.

We always have a choice no matter what the situation is. By that, I mean we have a choice on how we look at any situation, condition, or circumstance. Perhaps there is longing and discontent in your choice of divorced living? In your heart, do you envision it to be another way? Are you happy with this choice?

One point I will make is this: Think about the way you live now. Notice your feelings and emotions regarding it. Are they expansive or are they contractive?

Whatever the feelings and emotions are with your arrangement, how you live is determined by the parameters you both have set, and you live according to them. It all is a matter of what you would love for your life going forward.

I would love to further comment if you share more information.

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.

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