How To Manage Your Emotions Through Separation & Divorce
For many of us, the end of a relationship is often an unhappy experience. When it comes to stress and the ten most stressful events that we can experience as humans, divorce ranks at #2 out of ten and scores a 73 out of 100 points on the Holmes & Rhae stress scale. It can undoubtedly be a difficult experience to navigate.
The experience of separation or divorce is significant and it’s important to understand the impact of emotional pain that we can experience during this time.The truth is, separation and divorce are endings, and as such, they represent a symbolic death of a relationship. Attending to our feelings and emotions that we feel during this time is an important part of being able to navigate and successfully move through this life transition.
Despite the fact that our emotional pain is just as significant as physical pain and that our brains register our emotional pain in the same way, we don’t always acknowledge the signifigance of our pain when it comes to separation and divorce. Whilst we cannot “see” emotional pain in the same way as we would see a physical injury, we need to ensure we are not overlooking or ignoring the pain we feel during this time. Prioritizing our emotional health and wellbeing is not a ‘should do’ rather, it’s a must do.
Being able to effectively navigate separation and divorce, along with the changes that come with it requires support. Despite the temptation we might feel to isolate ourselves or withdraw, this is not a time try to manage everything on our own. When it comes to the grief we feel around the loss of a relationship we need the support of others.
Whilst Grief is part of the natural process of loss and the ending of a relationship. It is often accompanied by other powerful and overwhelming emotions like anger, denial, disappointment and depression. When it comes to our grief and all the emotions that come with it, we can never be fully prepared, even if we have experienced grief before.
It’s normal in a divorce or separation, to want to move away from our pain. However, trying to supress bypass or ignore our emotions comes with great cost to our overall wellbeing. If we neglect the emotions we feel and the grieving, we are often left with unresolved feelings and emotions, a sense of not being able to achieve closure and an inability to move forward and create a new life.
So how can we support ourselves emotionally during a separation divorce?
One way we can support ourselves through separation and divorce is by having a safe and non-judgemental space to be able to process our emotions and grieve. Having the guidance of a qualified therapist means we can safely explore and work through our feelings and emotions with someone who is objective.
As we start to work through our emotions means we are able to make supportive decisions from a place of emotional stability rather than reacting or being triggered by powerful feelings about the divorce or separation. The result is being able to feel more grounded and in control, which is important because as well as contending with emotional challenges, there are often legal, financial, parental, and practical aspects of separation and divorce that also require our attention.
Another reason that emotional support is crucial when it comes to separation and divorce is that we can be left without closure.
By working with a therapist, we can take a constructive approach to address and resolve the feelings and emotions that are “unfinished” for us, even if we are not able to get closure directly from the other person. By attending to our own emotional needs, we can begin to make meaning of what has happened, instead of going over and over the thoughts in our heads or trying to process them alone.
Some of the most common feelings we experience after the loss of a relationship are shame and fear. If we don’t attend to these feeling they can develop into unsupportive beliefs like “I’m not good enough, this was all my fault or no one will ever love me again etc. These beliefs can impact on our self-esteem and wellbeing day to day.
Having someone to help us overcome these beliefs can help us to move through the journey of separation and grief. By dealing with these beliefs as well as any residue feelings we might have, we can begin to take proactive next steps towards closure as and creating new and healthy relationships in our lives.
What are some ways to reduce stress and practise self-love during separation?
Firstly, I want you to take a moment and acknowledge that the end of your or any relationship is not a personal failure.
When a relationship ends we may start to blame or and judge ourselves harshly. Yet, despite how we might feel nothing productive can come from sitting in a place of blame and judgement. Criticizing ourselves only serves to deepen our emotional pain. Strong feelings and emotions are also not facts about who we are. Just as we would not take a knife to an open wound we do not want to blame or criticize ourselves. Instead this is a time to be kind, loving and compassionate with ourselves.
Practicing self -love and reducing stress means we have to choose to do so.
There are different ways that we can practice self-love and work on self-care activities and behaviours that are supportive of us when we are in the process of a separation or divorce. These might include getting out into nature, making time to rest or meditate, exercising, taking up a new hobby, listening to music or reading. What feels good will be different for everyone, the important thing to focus on are activities and behaviours that a nurturing.
Practicing self-love is also about getting to know ourselves again. Think back to who you were before the relationship. Use this time to reconnect and get in touch with yourself. You might ask questions like What were my hopes and dreams? What was I passionate about and what did I enjoy doing on my own? This is a time that we have the freedom to be able to fall in love with ourselves again and explore what makes us happy as an individual.
Support from loved ones is important
In addition to seeking our professional emotional support during a separation or divorce, we call need to call on the love and support from close friends and family.
Part of good self-care is allowing others to care for us. Seek out friends and family who are supportive, encouraging, positive and loving. It’s our close personal relationships that can be a real source of comfort during this time. Formost of us, sharing feelings with a close friendor family member is often an important way to feel a sense of relief and be comforted by those who love us.
As time goes by and things change, so too will your feelings.
The journey through separation and divorce is an individual one that we all move through at our own pace. There is no right or wrong time frame, when it comes to processing the changes that come with separation or divorce. Nor is there a timeline when it comes to starting a new romanceor feeling as though you have moved on. Whilst time does heal some wounds, other wounds from an unwanted divorce can stay with us. However, time does soften the original hurt of. With time, good support and some inner work, we can move through the pain of divorce.
Often times our most challenging moments in life can even lead to more positive changes in our lives. Separation and divorce can be one of these times. Instead of judgement we can begin to look at our own strengths, shift perspective and eventually focus not on what we have lost but what we may have gained. One we have worked through our grief and the emotions that come with it, we can begin to look at creating a new and fulfilling life. This may also be a time to seek out new community groups, hobbies and activities that can serve to give us a sense of purpose and reconnect us to others in the community.
As we start to experience these small shifts we build on our resilience. We can learn to create more positive emotions that help us feel happier. Over time and as we experience more moments of joy and gratitude, we can work to widen those joyful moments that remind us of who we are.
In remembering who we can appreciate what is important to us. As we focus on the positive moments and feelings we have, we can begin to more easily combat the negative emotions that come up.
Undoubtedly, whilst the experience of separation and divorce is challenging, it is possible, with the right supports to navigate. In many cases, theymajority of people are able to find a new level of happiness as they reconnect with themselves and the creation of a new life full of possibility.
Natajsa Wagner is a Clinical Psychotherapist based in Ashgrove Brisbane. Natajsa believes that the relationship we have with ourselves and others is the essential ingredient to our emotional health, happiness and wellbeing. Her approach is collaborative, trauma informed, experiential and focused on relationship. She has been featured as an expert both locally and internationally and contributed to a number of media outlets including: Women’s Health and Fitness Magazine, Cosmopolitan Magazine & ABC Online.