Separation and divorce are among the toughest experiences you will ever have
Separation is complex and can involve feelings around the loss of:
- your partner
- family structure and routines you’ve been used to
- friends and the social life you had
- support and approval from your family and community
- meaning and identity
- the family home
- a dream
- financial security
- involvement or reduced contact with your children.
These losses are particularly difficult if:
- you didn’t want the separation in the first place
- the separation is sudden or unexpected
- you feel betrayed by your former partner
- you are still hanging on hoping it will all go back to how it was
- you don’t have a support network or are ostracised by your friends and/or other people in the community
- you fear a future of living alone
- you have reduced or limited time with your children.
In addition, separation means:
- practical issues can become more difficult, for example full-time responsibility for your children
- changes in the nature of some of your social networks and friends.
Separation is extremely difficult and you can expect to experience intense emotions as well as sometimes thinking that you are not coping.
Women may be feeling:
- scared about the responsibility for the economic future of themselves and their children
- sad about the break-up of the family unit
- nervous about how they will juggle work and home commitments
- resentful about career sacrifices they may have made in their role of homemaker
- hateful towards their former partner
- bitter about their new circumstances
- worried about dealing with bureaucracies and the legal system
- fearful of making the same mistakes in another relationship
- concerned that the relationship with the former partner may remain in conflict
- relief that things are out in the open.
Men may be feeling:
- frustration, powerlessness and anger
- relief that differences are out in the open
- dizziness, with thoughts spinning in circles
- desperation, ready to drop off the planet
- determination to stand ground and battle to the bitter end
- awareness of some hard choices having to be made
- loneliness and sadness
- shock, bewilderment and hurt.
These responses, although painful and distressing, are perfectly normal. The good news is that most people who face these intense feelings go on to live fulfilling and happy lives. However, it does take time.
Relationships Australia has produced two booklets for men and women going through separation or divorce. The booklets will:
- show you are not alone
- help you make sense of your feelings
- help guide you through some constructive choices
- provide options that may be useful
- raise your awareness of some services that may help
Source: Beyond Blue
There are things you can do to get through this difficult adjustment:
Recognize that it’s Ok to have different feelings
It’s normal to feel sad, angry, exhausted, frustrated and confused—and these feelings can be intense. You also may feel anxious about the future. Accept that reactions like these will lessen over time. Even if the marriage was unhealthy, venturing into the unknown is frightening.
Give yourself a break
Give yourself permission to feel and to function at a less than optimal level for a period of time. You may not be able to be quite as productive on the job or care for others in exactly the way you’re accustomed to for a little while. No one is superman or superwoman; take time to heal, regroup and re-energize.
Don’t go through this alone
Sharing your feelings with friends and family can help you get through this period. Consider joining a support group where you can talk to others in similar situations. Isolating yourself can raise your stress levels, reduce your concentration, and get in the way of your work, relationships and overall health. Don’t be afraid to get outside help if you need it.
Take care of yourself emotionally and physically
Be good to yourself and to your body. Take time out to exercise, eat well and relax. Keep to your normal routines as much as possible. Try to avoid making major decisions or changes in life plans. Don’t use alcohol, drugs or cigarettes as a way to cope; they only lead to more problems.
Avoid power struggles and arguments with your spouse or former spouse
If a discussion begins to turn into a fight, calmly suggest that you both try talking again later and either walk away or hang up the phone.
Take time to explore your interests
Reconnect with things you enjoy doing apart from your spouse. Have you always wanted to take up painting or play on an intramural softball team? Sign up for a class, invest time in your hobbies, volunteer, and take time to enjoy life and make new friends.
(Check out Meetup for a huge range of activities in your area)
Easier said than done, right? Things may not be the same, but finding new activities and friends, and moving forward with reasonable expectations will make this transition easier. Be flexible. If you have children, family traditions will still be important but some of them may need to be adjusted. Help create new family activities.
Life will get back to normal
although “normal” may be different from what you had originally hoped.
Tips for talking to kids …
If you have children, here’s a short list of tips that can help your young children and teens cope.
Reassure and listen
Make sure your kids know that your divorce is not their fault. Listen to and ease their concerns, and be compassionate but direct in your responses.
Maintain stability and routines
Try to keep your kids’ daily and weekly routines as familiar and stable as possible.
Offer consistent discipline
Now that your kids may share time with both parents separately, make sure to agree in advance on bedtimes, curfews and other everyday decisions, as well as any punishments.
Let your children know they can rely on you
Make and keep realistic promises. And don’t overly confide in them about your feelings about the divorce.
Don’t involve your children in the conflict
Avoid arguing with or talking negatively about the other parent in front of your kids. Don’t use them as spies or messengers, or make them take sides.
Source: Mental Health America