6 Strategies for Dealing with Divorce

Divorce not only signifies starting a new life for both the individuals but is also accompanied with a constellation of hurdles that are strategically placed once they embark on the journey towards single-hood. At the very bottom of the ladder lies the acceptance of ending a major relationship and fashioning new routines to cope with the new life style. Making matters worse are the legal complications that serve as a reminder, making volatile emotions arouse more often, worsening the pain of the unwelcome freedom.

Recognising the emotional instability

Every marriage comprises of a bond with the spouses that survives on feelings of mutual trust and affection. So filing a divorce can mean battling with feelings of hatred, disappointment and insecurity while simultaneously making way for changes that change your life drastically.

Every person seeks a happier existence when they muster the courage to separate paths. While they are together, both spouses develop an unconscious attachment to each other that becomes integrated in their personality as a habitual behaviour. Hence it is only natural for some of them to crack under the pressure of the emotional and social stress and develop symptoms of depression, aggressiveness or anxiety as a response to their internal turmoil.

Divorce is a package of unsettling emotions that don’t seem to heal long after the process is over. You could be anger over your partner’s insensitivity, betrayal or pride. Guilt over making the relationship take the wrong course because of wrong choices on your part may serve as being equally troubling.

More frequently a wave of grief over losing a major relationship makes the restorative course difficult. These emotions open the windows for psychological chaos such that depression and bitterness that can seem to dominate your personality.

Coping with the emotional instability

But it should always be remembered that painful as these emotions may seem, they are only natural responses to a life-altering situation. Therefore, it is essential to cope with the phase of separation in a gentle fashion. To makes the feelings easier to pass during divorce or relationship breakdown, the following measures may prove to be of assistance:

  1. Grieve: Grief is our body’s natural retaliation to tragedy. It is an instinctual internal course that mounts a multitude of emotions till the point where it eventually becomes irrelevant enough to give way for healing. Fighting grief is generally considered counterproductive. Responses may vary from feeling numbness in denial to outrageous anger, fear or vulnerability. The best way is to allow nature to take its course and let our body grieve till it accepts the loss. But people who find themselves a victim of grief for over a year should consider seeking the help of a professional therapist.
  2. Prioritise: Divorce might seem to immobilise your life momentarily. But it must always be remember that even in the midst of a turmoil of emotions, there will be chores to complete and jobs to be done. So don’t keep your bills pending or delay finding a new apartment just because you are in transition. Make a list of your chores and prioritise your responsibilities to adjust in your new life style. The simple act of checking duties off your list will help you establish self-control at tasks that you previously deemed unmanageable.
  3. Putting things away: Making simple attempts at moving on should be a part of your daily routine. Putting things away that act as painful reminders of your past should be removed from your daily encounters. As soon as you consider it practical, start living life like a single person. Old photographs and mementos may serve as pinching flashbacks and hence should be stacked away at the earliest opportunity. Start performing roles that were previously done by your ex-spouse like paying bills or cleaning the house. Pave a way for an independent future rather than glancing miserably back at your divorce.
  4. Sharing the emotional baggage: Pouring your heart out to trusted confidants has proven to work wonders at lessening your suffering. It is generally preferred if a few helpful friends and family members are taken into confidence before proceeding with the divorce. Support groups are another alternative to vent your anger and hurt. If you believe that you need professional help, a therapist or counsellor can help you deal with your fears and turmoil. Sharing enables you to face your feelings through expression and combat them. Finding someone who can offer comforting advice accelerates the process of healing.
  5. Maintain a journal: Sometimes the process of self-realising can be promoted by self-healing techniques like maintaining a personal diary, which will let you decipher your internal commotion so that your mind can deal with it. It allows an outlet for emotional upset so that you have a grip and perspective over the feelings that you express in writing. Furthermore, recognising how you cope with difficult situations everyday will give you a renewed self-confidence.
  6. Explore latent interests: Most people perceive divorce in a pessimistic light as one door shutting on you. They should infact realise that instead of wasting time adjusting to that closure, divorce opens several other doors that were previously unexplored. Finding your hobbies, indulging in social causes or spending time meeting your friends will help provide a useful distraction and make your life feel constructive. This way you feel like an explorer and decision maker rather than victim of a tragic situation. Developing new interests will also pull you in the present and remove your focus from the past.

Divorce is both a beginning and an ending. You have to recognise that you made a life changing decision to feel happier. Once this realisation sets in, it can be much smoother sailing after that and dealing with divorce becomes much easier.

Are you struggling with dealing with divorce or separation? If so, contact the Centre for Relationship Development to receive support at this difficult time.  We have offices in Sydney, Newtown, Mona Vale on the Northern Beaches and Nowra and Kiama on the NSW South Coast.


Relationship Breakups: The Grief Stages of Couple Separation

Couple separation is a painful and devastating experience. It can be extremely distressing especially when a long time has been spent with the person. The end of any long-term relationship such as that shared by a married couple or de facto relationship can be traumatising and stressful. In fact, people mourn and grieve over the lost love.

Couples who have experienced a painful relationship breakup will often go through several stages as they cope with their loss. As the acclaimed psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross puts it, the stages of grieving chronicles how a person feels and copes during a relationship breakup.

As you read these stages, it’s important to remember that this is not a linear process where a person will go through one stage at a time. Human beings are complex and can experience many feelings at the same time or not feel some of these things at all. Think of these stages as possible feelings that may come up for you when you end a relationship.

First Stage: Denial

The feeling:

At this point, you may block unwanted feelings or turn off their emotions.  There is a strong feeling of refutation that the relationship has ended, and you unwillingly hold on to the thought that the separation is just a phase. You may do everything possible to bring the relationship back to the way it was.

How to cope:

Denial is a stage that may or may not come again even after being able to move on to the succeeding stages. It is important that there is a mutual acknowledgement between both parties about the separation. After all, acknowledging that a problem exists is the first helpful step to properly cope with the breakup. As such, it is important to convince yourself that in spite of the relationship breakup, there are other things that you need to prioritise like school, work or leisure.

Second Stage: Anger

The feeling:

This occurs when you finally understand that the breakup is real. Whether you are angry with yourself or furious at your ex-partner for not keeping the relationship strong, anger is a normal feeling in emotionally stressful experiences. Although sometimes people refuse to acknowledge their anger, it is necessary to release all angry emotions.

How to deal:

It is important to let all your emotions go, rather than keeping all negative feelings inside. Bottling them up will make you burst into rage at any time when there is a trigger. Channel your anger through different recreational activities, such as exercising, painting and singing. Counselling or therapy is another anger management strategy that you can employ. By doing counselling, you are able to truly recognise your feelings and maybe even trace the roots of your anger.

Third Stage: Bargaining

The feeling:

Feelings of bargaining are easily assessed during a relationship breakup. This happens when compromises are made for the benefit of rebuilding the relationship. The affected person may think about making a deal with a supernatural being, or may consider talking with the ex-partner to make promises so that things can go back to how they were before. There is a strong tendency to converse with the ex-partner about working out the many issues and concerns that led to the breakup. Oftentimes, bargaining gives a reassuring feeling that the relationship can still be mended.

How to deal:

Find new activities to keep yourself busy. Being preoccupied with other things will keep your mind from the breakup. Instead of bargaining, try to rationalise the situation and explore why the relationship did not work out in some aspects. Recognising the reality of the problem is the key to proper coping.

Fourth Stage: Depression

The feeling:

Oftentimes when the bargaining does not work, you can fall into despair with the realisation that the relationship cannot be fixed. This stage sets in when there is a clear understanding that the relationship is indeed “over”. Extreme feelings of sadness and loneliness consume the affected person, as well as a general loss of interest in many activities of daily living.

How to deal:

Depression is the best time to use all the effective coping mechanisms, as it is during this time that you may feel extremely down. It is important to reflect on why the breakup has happened, and noting the aspects that led to the separation.

Doing something new and continuing usual activities are recommended to maintain a normal living. Withdrawing yourself from the world is generally not advised, as it’s important to spend time with your loved ones to reinforce social coping. Counselling or therapy is also an effective way to express your depressed feelings.

Fifth Stage: Acceptance

The feeling:

In this final stage, there is a willingness to finally let go and move on with life. You have fully comprehended that it is normal to feel hurt, and that the relationship breakup brings a whole new meaning for you.

How to deal:

By finally accepting the whole experience, you can now be the best person you can be. This is the best time to meet new friends and to mingle with a new crowd. Nevertheless, it’s wise to know your limits and enjoy new experiences one step at a time. After all, one painful relationship breakup should not stop you to feel happy with the next.

Couple separation happens all the time to many people. Learning the stages of grief and how they apply during a relationship breakup will indeed help any person cope with a painful experience.

Are you experiencing a relationship breakup and need help? Contact the counsellors at the Centre for Relationship Development for support with your separation or breakup.