Dealing with marital separation and divorce

The ‘D’ word…. It sure isn’t something that you would fathom when you decide to marry. Yet it happens so frequently. Many believe that marriage is forever and for some, it is quite stigmatising to end a committed relationship. It can be scary. 

What will people think? 

How will I rebuild? 

Not only do you have to deal with the emotional pain, grief and anxiety, but then comes the challenges of financial separation, dealing with lawyers and when children are involved, family orders. All too quickly things can turn nasty, and the person who you thought you knew so well, soon seems like a stranger. And you may ask yourself, “how did I not see this?”. Unfortunately, divorce can bring out the worst in people. 

Many may ask “what is the best way to deal with separation and divorce?” but there isn’t just ‘one’ answer or ‘one’ way to cope. Everyone is an individual, so people will find different ways to deal with the emotional turmoil that separation brings. Here are some tips that may help you to establish your own ‘survival guide’:

  • Take one day at a time. It’s difficult not to think ahead to the days, weeks, and months to come. Remain focused on one day at a time and ways to get through each day. It helps to plan out each day and schedule at least one activity to focus on. This may include exercise, engaging in an activity or hobby that you enjoy and any form of self-care. 
  • Be informed. Speak to a family lawyer about the process involved in separation. It may help to bring a support person along as this process can be very overwhelming. If you have any friends who have been through a divorce, see if they have a lawyer they would recommend.  
  • Be kind to yourself. You will have a lot to deal with in the initial stages, and this can include sorting your belongings, moving, selling your home and if you have children, deciding whom the children will live with initially whilst custody and visitation arrangements are being organised. I can’t stress enough just how vital it is to be kind to yourself during this difficult time. You are going through a lot and offering yourself some compassion during this process can be so beneficial. Kristin Neff has some great resources available on her website, which you may find helpful: 
  • Reach out to your supports. It helps to share with your support network how you are feeling and where you are at. If you find you are feeling too overwhelmed and don’t want to talk about the situation, be sure to communicate this to your support system. Often people will isolate themselves because they don’t want to talk – tell your friends and family what you need. Isolating yourself at this point can cause a lot more anxiety and grief.
  • Take some time off from work. Speak to your boss about what has happened and whether it is possible to take some time off. Often a couple of days to a week can help just to get your mind around what is happening. Some people find that they just want to immerse themselves in work. Whilst work can be a good distraction for some, it doesn’t work for everyone, and you may not be performing at your optimal level. Confiding in a trusted colleague can help, so that you have support within your workplace.  
  • Avoid alcohol and drugs. It is totally understandable that you want to numb out the pain, escape, and have an emotional break from what is happening. However, alcohol and drugs aren’t the answer. It can be really easy to fall into a trap and develop a dependency, which can lead to other challenges down the track. Instead, it helps to focus on maintaining a healthy diet, drinking plenty of water, engaging in exercise and regular self-care.  
  • Start a hobby. It’s useful to start a new hobby or reconnect with hobbies that you enjoyed in the past. All too often, one can feel like they lose a part of themselves through the process of separation and being able to find a way to focus on your interests can help.
  • Reach out to counselling support lines. If you are feeling very low and are experiencing suicidal ideation, or just need to speak to someone that isn’t a family member or friend, there are counselling support lines that you can reach out to. This includes Lifeline Ph: 13 11 14, Beyond Blue Ph: 1300 224 636, and Suicide Call back Service Ph: 1300 659 467. Relationships Australia Ph: 1300 364 277 can also help to link you in with various support services.

Some days may seem dark, but I feel the saying “it’s always darkest before dawn” is so appropriate here. There will always be a light. Reconnect with yourself, your values and what truly matters. And above all, never lose hope. 

maria This blog was written by Maria Kampantais, psychologist at Your Mind Matters Psychology Services. She works with us 4 days per week (day and evening sessions) and is passionate about working with clients suffering from various anxiety disorders.