Going through a separation or divorce can be an incredibly stressful and overwhelming experience. If you find yourself feeling like you can’t manage the upheaval and stress, it’s important to know that you’re not alone.
Figuring out how to cope with and manage stress is an important step towards finding solace and navigating the complexities of a break up. We’ll guide you through how to handle the stress of a separation, the normal range of emotions that come with a separation, common challenges faced during this time and who to reach out to for support.
Normalise your emotions
Going through a separation is undeniably one of the most challenging and stressful experiences you can face. A separation affects almost every aspect of your life, from your living situation, to your social networks, and can also shake your core identity and sense of self.
It’s important to normalise the range of emotions that come with this enormous life transition. Feeling overwhelmed, anxious, and uncertain is completely normal and expected during this time.
Remind yourself that countless others have walked this path before and have come out on the other side to live fulfilling and happy lives. By acknowledging the commonality of these emotions, you can find solace in knowing that you are not alone on your journey. Reach out to others who have similar stories, and find support from your community, whether in person or online. This can help validate what you’re feeling and remind you of the universality of this experience.
It’s okay to feel what you’re feeling, and experience a wide range of fluctuating emotions. Know that with time and support, you can find your way through this difficult period.
Common challenges after a separation
After a separation, it’s not uncommon to face a variety of challenges that can significantly impact your wellbeing.
One common challenge is a loss of identity. A break up often brings about a shift in roles and a re-evaluation of who we are as individuals. As relationships change and support networks shift, we might experience social isolation or former friendships shared as a couple may feel strained.
It’s common to fall into a pattern of not taking care of yourself when undergoing a stressful situation such as a separation. It can often feel like too much effort or work to prioritise yourself in the midst of so much turmoil. However, it’s actually the most important time to prioritise your physical and mental health, to prevent burnout, and help manage stress. Physical activity has a range of benefits for body and mind, and can be a wonderful outlet for stress. Find an activity you enjoy, such as running or walking, or consider trying something social such as dancing, pilates or yoga, that gets you into a new environment with new people.
This can also be a fantastic avenue for rediscovering your passions and interests, as well as seeking out new communities and connections that align with your values and goals. Were there any hobbies you enjoyed that you may have let fall to the wayside during your relationship? Now is the perfect time to hone a new craft (or re-engage with an old one) and take part in something you find fun and absorbing.
Reach out to friends, family, or support groups to combat social isolation and foster a sense of belonging.
Remember, you are not alone in facing the challenges that a break up brings, and by proactively seeking solutions, you can navigate this stressful stage with strength and resilience.
Common responses to a separation
A divorce or separation is an emotionally complex journey, and it’s common to experience a range of emotions throughout the process.
Understanding the common emotional stages most people experience can help you navigate the stages and move towards healing.
Initially, shock and denial may leave you feeling disoriented and unable to accept the reality of the situation. As the shock subsides, anger and blame may arise, directed towards your spouse or even yourself. Bargaining is another stage where you may desperately seek ways to salvage the relationship. However, if reconciliation isn’t possible, feelings of depression and sadness may set in, accompanied by a sense of loss and uncertainty. Ultimately, acceptance emerges as you come to terms with the new chapter of your life.
It’s important to remember that these stages may not follow a linear progression and can vary from person to person. Seek support from loved ones or a therapist to help you navigate these emotional stages during this challenging time.
Know the difference between a normal reaction to a breakup vs depression
Experiencing a range of emotions after a breakup is normal, but it’s crucial to distinguish between a normal reaction and the onset of depression. While feelings of sadness, anger, and loneliness are expected, depression entails more severe and persistent symptoms.
Depression is characterised by a number of symptoms that can include an overwhelming sense of sadness, a loss of interest in previously enjoyable activities, fatigue, changes in sleep and appetite patterns, feelings of worthlessness or guilt, difficulty concentrating, and sometimes thoughts of death or suicide. If you find yourself experiencing some of these symptoms or that your feelings significantly impact your daily life, including your ability to work, sleep or take care of yourself, it’s essential to reach out to a mental health professional for support and guidance.
Seeking help is a sign of strength and can provide the necessary tools to navigate this challenging time.
Ask for help
Dealing with the stress of separation is not something you have to face alone, in fact, reaching out for support can be a fantastic way to manage the stress associated with a separation.
Therapists or counsellors can provide emotional support and practical tools for dealing with the complex emotions that arise from a separation. Joining a support group can provide a sense of community and offer advice from those who understand your experiences.
In regards to navigating the legalities and finances of a separation, mediators and financial advisors can be a good resource. Mediators can facilitate discussions between you and your ex-partner, promoting collaboration and compromise. Financial advisors can help you make informed decisions about your finances and plan for the future.
Looking after yourself
Taking care of yourself is essential when going through a breakup. Practising self-care activities can have a positive impact on your emotional wellbeing and help regulate stress.
While it may be tempting to hide away, don’t neglect your friendships. Friends and family most likely want to be there for you, even if they don’t exactly know what to do or say. It’s OK to let them know how to best support you – whether that’s by having a conversation or simply spending time together, or perhaps helping you out with kids while you take some extra time for yourself.
Joining and attending a support group can provide a strong network of understanding individuals who have experienced exactly what you’re going through and may be better able to understand and sympathise than others in your life.
Be gentle with yourself. Give yourself time and space to process your emotions and take breaks from social media if needed. Prioritising rest and relaxation can also contribute to your overall well being. Engaging in mindfulness practices such as meditation or yoga can help manage stress and improve your emotional state.
If you need extra support to cope with the stress, seeking professional help from a therapist or counsellor can provide the guidance you need. Be patient with yourself and allow yourself the opportunity to heal and embrace a new chapter in life.
- Beyond Blue online forums – connect to others experiencing similar events
- Family Relationships Online – information for families, especially about arrangements with children
- Relationships Australia – relationship support services, counselling and family dispute resolution (mediation)
- Call the Family Relationship Advice Line on 1800 050 321
How do I survive a divorce if I don’t want it?
Going through a divorce can be a challenging and emotionally difficult experience, especially if it’s not what you want. Here are some strategies that can help you survive a divorce:
- Seek support: reach out to friends and family members who can provide you with emotional support during this difficult time. Consider joining a support group or seeking the help of a therapist or counsellor to help you work through your emotions.
- Take care of yourself: focus on your physical and emotional wellbeing by eating well, getting regular exercise, and getting enough rest. Take time to do things you enjoy and prioritise self-care activities that make you feel good.
- Focus on what you can control: while you may not be able to control the decision to get divorced, you can control your response to the situation. Focus on what you can control, such as your own actions and reactions.
- Allow yourself to grieve: it’s normal to experience feelings of sadness, anger, and loss during a divorce. Allow yourself to feel these emotions and process them in a healthy way.
- Find meaning and purpose: try to find ways to create meaning and purpose in your life, such as by volunteering or pursuing a new hobby or interest.
- Consider the future: while it may be difficult to think about the future during a divorce, try to stay hopeful about what lies ahead. Consider setting new goals and making plans for your life after the divorce.
Who can I talk to after a divorce?
After a divorce, it can be helpful to talk to a variety of people to get the support you need. Here are some people you might consider talking to:
- Friends and family: reach out to trusted friends and family members who can provide emotional support and a listening ear.
- Support groups: consider joining a support group for people going through a divorce. This can provide you with a safe space to share your experiences and connect with others who are going through a similar experience.
- Therapists or counsellors: a therapist or counsellor can provide you with professional support and guidance as you navigate the challenges of divorce. They can help you work through your emotions and develop coping strategies to manage stress and anxiety.
- Legal professionals: if you are still in the process of divorce, you may need to talk to a lawyer or other legal professional to get advice on legal issues such as child custody and property division.
- Financial advisors: if your divorce has financial implications, you may need to talk to a financial advisor to help you make informed decisions about your finances.
Why am I so upset about my divorce?
Divorce is a major life event that can bring up a range of emotions. It’s normal to feel upset and emotional after a divorce, and there are many reasons why this may be the case. Here are some common reasons:
- Loss of a relationship: divorce means the end of a significant relationship, and it’s normal to grieve the loss of that relationship.
- Fear of the unknown: divorce often involves a lot of uncertainty, particularly when it comes to the future. This can be scary and unsettling.
- Change: divorce often involves significant changes to one’s living situation, social life, and financial situation. Change can be difficult to adjust to.
- Feelings of failure: many people who go through a divorce experience feelings of failure, particularly if they feel that the marriage ended due to their own actions or shortcomings.
- Financial stress: divorce can be expensive and often involves significant financial changes. This can be a major source of stress.
- Social stigma: despite the fact that divorce is relatively common, there is still often a stigma associated with it. This can make people feel ashamed or embarrassed about their divorce.
Remember that everyone’s experience with divorce is different, and it’s okay to feel upset or emotional. Give yourself time and space to process your emotions, and consider seeking the help of a therapist or counsellor if you are struggling to cope.
How do I get over a divorce after a long marriage with children?
Getting over a divorce after a long marriage with children can be especially challenging. Here are some strategies that may be helpful:
- Communicate with your children: let your children know that they are loved and that the divorce is not their fault. Encourage them to express their feelings and concerns, and listen to them with empathy and understanding.
- Seek support: consider seeking the support of friends, family, or a therapist or counsellor who has experience working with families going through divorce. Support can help you work through your emotions and provide a sense of comfort and understanding.
- Prioritise co-parenting: co-parenting can be challenging, but it’s important to prioritise the needs of your children and work together with your ex-partner to create a co-parenting plan that works for everyone.
- Take care of yourself: make self-care a priority during this time. This may involve eating well, getting enough sleep, exercising, and engaging in activities that bring you joy.
- Let go of anger and resentment: holding onto anger and resentment towards your ex-partner can prevent you from moving on and healing. Try to let go of these negative emotions and focus on forgiveness and acceptance.
- Create a new routine: after a divorce, it’s important to create a new routine for yourself and your children. This can provide a sense of stability and predictability during a time of change.
Remember that getting over a divorce is a process, and it may take time to fully heal. Be patient with yourself and your children, and prioritise their wellbeing as you navigate this transition.