Dealing with Separation

A marriage or significant relationship breakup launches us into uncharted seas. It may seem as if nothing in your life is stable: your home, your finances, your routines can all be turned upside down. You may feel as if you don’t even know yourself any more and you may be worrying about the impacts of the breakup on your children, extended family members and your friendships.

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Experiencing a mixture of emotions including profound disappointment, grief, anxiety or guilt is common. But it’s important to know that you can move on and you will move on. Of course, it’s natural when the separation is new, to feel vulnerable about the future and to have many questions. These can include “will I meet anyone else?”, “how will I cope by myself?”, and “what will my life be like without my partner?”

Tips for coping at the time of separation:

1. It is normal to have a range of strong emotions. Try to accept your feelings, even if you don’t like them. You will not have all the answers and how you actually feel may not be very clear at times. Sometimes just observing what your emotions are can help to take the sting out of them. For example, saying to yourself “I notice I feel guilty” is more helpful than “I am guilty”.

2. Don’t expect to manage your normal daily load as efficiently during this time. When we are stressed, we do not retain information as well, nor do we cope well with high demands. We can be irritable, prone to forgetfulness and experience feelings of confusion and doubt. During a separation you may also feel tired or exhausted and your sleep patterns may change. It is normal to feel as if you are struggling, so it’s important to give yourself a break. No one is Superman or Superwoman at this time.

3. Talk to friends and family members you can confide in. Don’t go it alone. Many people (men and women) work through relationship breakdowns much more effectively if they attend courses to learn about managing emotions, parenting after separation or about positive ways to move on to be a healthier, wiser and stronger person. You may also like to attend personal counselling to help you come to terms with the breakdown. There are people out there who are trained to help – take advantage of this wherever you can.

4. Eat healthy foods, drink plenty of water, establish routines as much as possible and exercise every day. These activities will help your body manage the emotional upheaval and ease feelings of stress.

5. Avoid using alcohol, drugs or food to help you cope. Trying to dull the pain this way can lead to more problems. It is far better to reach out to others for help at this time. Take notice of your habits and ensure you are not slipping into any destructive patterns.

6. If you suspect your grief or sadness is not improving over time, don’t hesitate to discuss your emotional state with your doctor. He or she may not prescribe anything for you, but it’s always a good idea to have your doctor informed if you are in doubt about your mental health.

7. When things begin to settle, find new interests and outlets for friendships. A relationship breakdown can often mean that you lose connections and friendships (even if sometimes only for the short term). This is an opportunity for you to finally go to that art class, take up a new interest and find some new faces to be around. Often it’s hard to get the motivation, but if you can push through any resistance you might feel and do it anyway, you may be well rewarded!

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