People going through a divorce are surprised to find they feel depressed when it’s finally over. Even those whose marriages were truly terrible sometimes feel a strange and nameless sadness sweep through them. Getting up is a little harder. Going to the gym seems a little more pointless. Often, they’ve never experienced depression, and they struggle to understand what it is they’re dealing with—why they feel so zapped all the time.

Would it surprise you to learn that almost half of all people experience a period of depression after divorce? It isn’t merely normal; it’s almost expected. In today’s article, we’ll explore how to recognize depression after a divorce and why the two are linked.

Signs of Depression

Because depression is a new experience for many people going through a divorce, they don’t always know how to recognize the signs. Here are some changes to look for to determine whether or not you may be struggling with depression without realizing it:

  • Changes in sleeping habits.
  • Weight gain or weight loss.
  • Inability to focus at work.
  • Lack of motivation and interest in activities.
  • Anxiety about social situations.
  • Persistent feelings of sadness.
  • Desire to isolate from others.

Especially if these changes are unusual for you, paying attention to them is important. Untreated, depression can become a self-fulfilling prophecy of sorts. It’s a time when you must be especially kind to yourself and give yourself proper self-care.

An Uncertain Future

Divorce is an ending. As it ends, we find ourselves looking forward toward an uncertain future. There may be financial hardship—the thought of dating may be overwhelming—we remember all the traditions we’ve lost. For those invested in their marriage, its end may represent a loss of self and identity that can be difficult to process. Big questions get asked in that empty space. Questions like:

  • What comes next?
  • Will anyone love me?
  • How am I going to do this alone?
  • Have I made a mistake?
  • Who am I without them?

It’s not uncommon for people to feel a shock of despair at such a moment. Even if the marriage made you unhappy, you may feel sharp regret without a clear future ahead. It is important at times like these to remember that endings are also beginning. It’s okay for that to feel scary, overwhelming, and hopeless. Just know that it won’t always feel that way.

Grief is Natural

 You may be familiar with the five stages of grief—denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. We think of grief as something reserved for the loss of a loved one. It’s part of our human landscape and may accompany any major change. Grief is the process by which we make sense of what has come before to prepare for what comes next.

When a marriage ends, whether better or worse, it is a crossroads in our lives. Community, family—for many people, our very identity—is tangled up in our relationships, and when we finally close the book on that chapter, it demands a period of grief.

Look closely at those stages of grief, and you will find depression comes toward the end of that process. When divorce is finalized, it’s after we’ve given up hope on reconciliation. With bargaining is done, it’s on to depression.

So…the short answer is yes. It’s normal to be depressed after a divorce. Allow yourself time and space to grieve properly. Let those memories linger. Explore them—but remember that what comes next is acceptance and a new beginning.

Schedule a Consultation

My greatest privilege as a therapist is helping people process their pain and find the strength to begin anew. Please reach out if you’re struggling to manage a period of post-divorce depression. My practice is a safe place to explore your feelings, gain a new perspective, and recover your strength to begin again.

Reach out to learn more about divorce counseling or life transition therapy and how they can help you in this next chapter.