colleen hurll counselling

A Guide for Dealing with Separation and Divorce

Dealing with Separation and DivorceRelationships are intensely emotional connections. When a relationship comes to an end, you are going to experience physical and emotional pain. For those who are married and facing separation or divorce, you are probably wondering how to cope with everything that is happening. Divorce and separation are difficult because these acts not only represent the loss of emotional and physical love, but also have an impact on other areas of your life.

As you go through the process of separation or divorce, you’ll find yourself worrying about a number of factors. These factors include, but are not limited to, financial concerns, how family will react, who your friends will side with, and (if applicable) the impact on children. When all of this is taken into consideration, separation and divorce seem overwhelming.

Coping with the loss of a relationship doesn’t have to be an emotionally draining and devastating process. There are a number of important things you should keep in mind, and tactics you should employ, as you go through this period of change that will prepare you to cope with the day-to-day flood of emotions.

Allow Yourself to Grieve

In many ways, the loss of a relationship is emotionally consistent with losing a family member to death. Grief is a natural reaction to any loss, including a marriage or long-term relationship. When a marriage comes to an end, it is possible that you will feel a number of different emotions. These include:

  • Loss of companionship: For the duration of your relationship, you had that one person you could count on; that one person you shared many of your life experiences with.
  • Loss of support: Financial, intellectual, social, spiritual, emotional, etc.
  • Loss of hopes: The plans and dreams you made as a couple for the future are now gone

As you take your first steps down the road to recovery, your greatest coping mechanism will be acceptance. Allow yourself time to grieve the losses mentioned above, and any other losses you feel in your life. You need to recognise the fact that it is OK to have varied feelings about these losses. You may feel sad, angry, frustrated, confused, and/or exhausted. These feelings will vary in intensity, but you need to recognize and deal with them. Accept the fact that you are dealing with these emotions and know that the intensity of each emotion will lessen with time.

Additionally, give yourself a break. It is important not to beat yourself up for feeling the emotions mentioned above. Allow yourself to experience those emotions, accept that you may function at a lesser capacity as you cope, and take time to heal. You are not superman (or superwoman), but you will eventually regroup and rebuild.

Care for Yourself

The emotional and physical loss experienced during separation or divorce will, at times, take a heavy toll on your body. The strain and stress of the experience can leave you feeling emotionally vulnerable and physically exhausted. At this point, it is critical that you set aside time to care for yourself.

A healthy way to approach this period of coping is to act as though you are getting over the flue. You should get lots of rest, reduce your workload (at home and at work, if possible), and try your best to minimise other stressors in your life.

How you employ this coping mechanism varies based upon the individual. The following tips can help guide your self-care routine and provide a good starting point:

  • Nurture joy in your life: What activities and adventures bring joy to your life? Perhaps you enjoy the outdoors, love music, are easily immersed in reading, or simply enjoy a hot bubble bath. Whatever it is that brings you joy, you should work to nurture that joy. Set aside time to pursue these activities and adventures.
  • Develop a routine: Separation and divorce throw your world out of sorts. The range of emotions you feel during the day, and your reaction to them, is going to be amplified as you begin to cope. As you start off down this path, try to develop a routine (or return to a previous one) as soon as possible. The sense of normalcy and structure will help you focus and regroup.
  • Take a break: While you are coping with your loss, there are things you should avoid as well. In your heightened emotional state, it is not a good idea to make any major decisions. Avoid making a career change or moving to a new city until you have had time to begin coping and allow your emotions to balance out. Try to avoid excessive alcohol consumption, drugs, and binge eating as well as these factors will only add to the chaos.

A helpful tip when it comes to self-care: consider exploring new interests. One of the toughest facets of divorce is the loss of shared experiences and memories. As you being to cope, consider exploring different interests. These could be interests that your ex blocked in the past, or simply brand-new interests that did not exist previously. Pursuing these new interests will create new memories for you that help refocus your mind on the here-and-now, rather than allowing it to become occupied by thoughts of the past.

Reach Out for Support

Finally, it is important that you realise you do not have to do this alone. You might feel as though you are alone in the world after losing your relationship, but you are never alone. Support from other people in your live is critical as you being to heal. The natural reaction of many is to seek isolation and try to cope alone. Instead, seek out trusted friends and family members for support. You neither have to, nor should, go through a separation or divorce alone. Follow these helpful tips for support:

  • Spend time with supportive people: Try to spend time with the friends and family members that you feel most comfortable around. You should feel free to be open and honest with them about the process (and your coping), and not worry about being judged or criticized.
  • Cultivate new friendships: Navigating the social network you had as a couple can become choppy waters following a divorce. Ideally, those individuals won’t take sides and will remain open to both parties. However, you shouldn’t expect that. Take this opportunity to cultivate friendships with new people. Become active in your church or community, volunteer at your children’s school (if applicable). This allows you to meet people that have no idea what you’re going through and gives you the chance to just be you.

Last, but certainly not least, seek professional guidance. Far too many people view counselling as a sign of weakness. The reasons for this vary, but there are those who believe counselling is an admission of failure; a sign that they cannot solve their own problems. This couldn’t be further from the truth.

Spending time with a counsellor can provide you with a neutral, outside view on the emotional trauma you are experiencing as you cope with separation or divorce. Counsellors are trained to help people identify emotional struggles and develop a game plan for facing those issues. A counsellor can help you by offering tips and guidance on coping that you may not have identified (or succeeded in identifying) on your own. Counsellors can offer the following assistance with grieving:

  • An outlet for feelings: If it is difficult to speak about your separation or divorce with friends and family, a counsellor offers a safe environment in which you can discuss your feelings. Just knowing that someone else is aware of your feelings can lessen your pain and provide a sense of support.
  • Identify emotions: It is common for people to fight their emotions during a breakup. Your counsellor can help you identify the various conflicting emotions you feel. Acknowledging and coping with those feelings helps hasten your coping period.
  • Guidance on the path to acceptance: Many people successfully identify their emotions and develop proper coping methods, but allow themselves to become sidetracked along the way to a healthy future. Counsellors serve as a trail guide of sorts, helping you express and confront your emotions without dwelling on them. Your counselor can help refocus your energy on the end goal, moving on with life.

Whether your marriage or relationship has ended by your choice or the choice of your partner, there are going to be emotions to identify and confront. Both parties should follow the advice covered in this article to ensure that they move on in a healthy manner with the rest of their lives. From grieving to coping, and seeking help from others, the path to healing will vary for everyone. The important thing to remember is that there will be a tomorrow. What you do with that tomorrow is up to you.

If you’re going through divorce or separation and would like to talk to someone, please contact me on 0413 181 320 for a FREE 15-minute phone consultation on how I can help you.

Colleen Hurll, Counsellor and Psychotherapist

  • Sydney Health Connections,
    Level 3, Suite 304,
    12 Century Circuit,
    Norwest NSW 2153
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