A peak at my latest book:
Divorce or separation can be a challenging and emotionally trying time in anyone’s life. Your world is turned upside down as relationships change, living and financial situations change, and your vision for the future changes. This book is a comprehensive, step-by-step guide to navigating all aspects of divorce and separation, offering practical advice and solutions at every step.
I cover all facets of managing life during and after divorce or separation. We’ll tackle the emotional aspects and mental health considerations, including coping with grief, loneliness, anger, depression, and more. We’ll dive into the legal process, ensuring you understand your rights and obligations. We’ll explore the financial changes and budgeting effectively as income and expenses shift. We’ll discuss telling the kids and helping them transition as custody arrangements take shape. An entire section of the book focuses on building the structures and skills for moving forward in your new chapter of life.
Chapter 1: The Emotional Impact and Mental Health Considerations
Going through a divorce or separation turns your world upside down emotionally. Even when the decision is mutual and amicable, the grief feels profound. Relationships with not only your former spouse but often shared friends and family members suffer collateral damage. Your vision for the future shatters along with so much familiarity within your daily life.
It’s an understatement to say the experience provokes intense emotions like anger, loneliness, resentment, and deep sadness. You may cycle rapidly through these feelings, feeling totally out of control. The loss of stability can exacerbate or contribute to mental health struggles with depression, anxiety, PTSD symptoms, and more.
Know that ALL these emotional reactions are expected after a separation or divorce. There is no “right” way to feel – be compassionate with yourself as you navigate the turbulent waves. And utilize healthy strategies to cope with the challenging mental health elements so you can begin moving in a positive direction.
Coping with Grief
The grief parallels what someone may feel after the death of a loved one. That grief stems not only from the loss of the partner but also from the imagined future, the day-to-day familiarity, stability, and dreams that disappear. Allow yourself to grieve fully. Find supportive people with whom you can confide during this mournful transition.
Don’t criticize yourself for what you feel or when/how intensely the grief washes over you. Appreciate the stages of grief as part of the healing process:
• Denial – Numbed shock set in initially for me when I first heard my spouse say they wanted to separate. I pretzeled every which way to justify why it wasn’t over and over. But denying the reality only postpones the pain temporarily.
• Anger – When denial faded and the permanence set in, white-hot anger roared through me regularly. I felt so betrayed that they could upend my life. Journaling, exercise, counseling, screaming into pillows – find healthy releases for all that intense anger.
• Bargaining – I desperately sought any way to unwind time and save my marriage, willing to promise the moon if we could reconcile. But at some point, I had to accept there was no bargaining my way out of it.
• Depression – After exhausting myself, raging, and negotiating to no avail, I crashed HARD into depression. The extreme sadness, isolation, and regret washing over me felt endless. Counseling and medication to balance my brain chemistry kept me functioning.
• Acceptance – One baby step at a time, I made peace with my new abnormal. My marriage was over; this was my life now, and I had to keep walking forward. I still get pangs of grief, but predominately, I’ve embraced surrender.
Don’t get down on yourself for how long it takes to reach “acceptance” or if you cycle back through the stages. Healing grieving takes time and patience with yourself.
Coping with Loneliness
The loneliness of losing a life partner often overwhelms in those early days and weeks after separation. You may yearn physically and emotionally for their presence – falling asleep alone, waking up, and coming home to an empty house. Feelings of isolation can seem relentless.
Combat the tendency to withdraw entirely from others by proactively nurturing social connections. Reach out to loved ones routinely – not just when the angst becomes unbearable. Spend less time alone at home, ruminating over your thoughts and feelings. Push yourself gently to get out, do activities that generally lift your spirits, and participate in gatherings even if you don’t feel like it.
Also, consider seeking out divorce support groups in your local area. Connecting with others walking the same grieving journey can help normalize your experience and remind you that you will get through this. You may even build lasting friendships and networks from the groups. Knowing you are not alone makes a difference in combatting loneliness.
Anger Management Techniques
Anger often emerges front and center after the sadness of a separation surfaces. You may feel infuriated by perceived injustices regarding how the breakup played out or how your former partner treated you. Resentments can erupt like volcanoes over assets lost or the costs of divorce and rebuilding. Anger towers when you perceive your ex is speeding through the grief and moving on romantically well before you’re ready.
The key lies in expressing the anger in appropriate, not destructive ways. Yelling, throwing things, and plotting revenge will only breed more hurt and entrench you in negativity. Healthier strategies include:
• Vent to trusted friends/family who can empathize. Feeling listened to provides a healthy outlet.
• Journal extensively about your raw feelings. Getting them out on paper can help you process them.
• Engage in intense exercise like kickboxing classes or working out to sweat out the anger coursing through your body.
• See a counselor who can help constructively unpack the anger and hostility to find a resolution.
• Channel the passion into causes or activities fighting injustices that upset you in the culture.
• Allow the intensity to subside instead of reacting instantly when upset. Pause, breathe, and remove yourself from the situation, heating your anger until you respond calmly.
The goal lies not in squashing justified anger but appropriately channeling it so that it is a constructive force, not a destructive one.
Coping with Depression, Anxiety and More
The level of life disruption, uncertainty, and grief triggered by separation and divorce can readily spiral into psychological struggles like depression and anxiety disorders. Rates of both conditions skyrocket in the aftermath of a marital dissolution. Additionally, some develop symptoms of PTSD in response to the trauma and chaos that turned their lives upside down unexpectedly. Mental health struggles can paralyze you from effectively responding to the pressures and demands already besieging you during this challenging transitional time.
Thus, recognizing when to seek professional treatment proves essential. If you had no preexisting mental health conditions but battle the following symptoms for two or more weeks, reach out urgently to a psychologist or psychiatrist:
• Depression – Loss of interest/joy in activities once pleasurable, overwhelmed by hopelessness nearly every day, lethargic fatigue, sleeping too much or too little, noticeable unintentional weight changes, excessive tearfulness or crying spells, recurrent thoughts of dying or suicide.
• Anxiety Disorders – Constant nervous feelings that won’t subside, panic attacks, irrational worries about a host of everyday situations, obsessive thought patterns you cannot control, uncontrollable compulsive behaviors.
• PTSD – Reliving the traumatic event through intrusive memories/flashbacks/nightmares, avoiding reminders of the event, emotional numbness/withdrawal from life, feeling perpetually on edge or jumpy, negative sense of self or the world, difficulty recalling specifics of the trauma.
Counseling, medication from a psychiatrist, group therapy, or often a combination of these interventions tend to work best in combatting divorce/separation-related mental health conditions. As symptoms improve, usually you can reduce or phase out the treatment supports in place. Prioritize finding this help ASAP – you shouldn’t have to live feeling miserable, anxious, or emotionally paralyzed in the wake of losing your marriage or partner. The right interventions can help encourage significant emotional healing.
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