Separation & Divorce - Everything I Wish I'd Known
If, like countless other wonderful women before you, you have found yourself going through the trials of Separation or Divorce - unexpected or otherwise - welcome.
You are about to begin a journey, a journey which will at times test every fibre of your being, and which you may find lonely, painful, exasperating and even frightening at times.
You may feel as though the carpet has been ripped from under your feet, and your world turned around and upside down as you go through massive levels of change and the uncertainty that naturally comes with this.
So what brought you to this point? Not so long ago, life seemed good. Things certainly could have been a lot worse. But then at some point you realised that things weren’t quite as good, or as easy, as they once were.
So you decided to end the partnership with the small hope of a better life on the other side. Or maybe, like myself, you were the one who was ‘left’ and you are still reeling from the shock.
Now you are facing life as a singleton and perhaps wondering how the hell you are going to get through each new day and night with everything that needs to be done, on your own, all whilst coping with the myriad of emotions that have come along with you for the ride.
Truth is, change is a tough process for all of us. This applies to both expected and unexpected change. MAJOR life changes, such as Separation & Divorce, can lead to high levels of uncertainty about the present and future… and the stress and worry that naturally comes with this uncertainty.
Let’s face it - it doesn't matter what age you were when you walked down the aisle or set up house with your significant other, or how long you were in the partnership for - fact is, once we are responsible, mature adults none of us really enter into a serious love partnership with the knowledge or hope that it will one day come to a screaming end.
So when it DOES end, we are left to pick up the pieces and do our best to adapt to all of the changes to our life on our own. There is a lot to be done and at times we don’t feel like doing anything at all.
I want to help you to simplify matters so you can look at what needs to be done, and gain some clarity, starting with where you are at right now.
PS. This is an edited excerpt from Shona Dee’s eBook Separation & Divorce - Everything I Wish I'd Known as a Woman Going Through it. The book can be purchased HERE.
FIRST THINGS FIRST:
It is not nice to think that the person we've spent a good portion of our lives with may not have our best interests at heart. But sadly, this is sometimes the case. Separation and divorce can bring out the worst in some people, and previously undetected behaviours or even potentially dangerous personality disorders may now be on full display.
If there are issues of violence, your safety and the safety of those you care for such as your children is of utmost priority. Violence and at-risk behaviours can take many forms, including physical, sexual and mental abuse. If you and/or your children are at risk of being exposed to any violent behaviour by your ex-partner or anyone associated with them, seek help and assistance NOW. Do not wait until the at-risk behaviours have occurred.
Contact friends and relatives to put safety systems in place wherever needed. Ensure that you have rapid access to emergency assistance to ensure that you (and your children) are safe. And if violence has or is occurring, contact the Police in your local area immediately. Domestic violence in any form is not acceptable and you do not have to tolerate it. Help is available.
You also need to take action to protect yourself from such forms of abuse as harassment, manipulation and control. You, like everyone else, have a right to feel safe, and a right to basic privacy. Ensure nobody has access to any personal or personal financial information, online accounts or money. These are all aspects of ensuring that you are safe - and aspects you need to pay attention to.
Accepting what has happened
Now for the good news, and yes there is always good news if you look closely enough!
The good news is this: humans are actually pretty darn good at adapting. You may not recognise it as yet, but there IS light at the end of that long dark tunnel you are currently scrambling through.
Accepting this change to your circumstances, rather than resisting it is extremely important in helping you navigate the change. If the decision to separate or divorce is final – whether it was your choice or not - stop wishing it otherwise. You will only prolong the pain, and delay your progress in moving through the grief, if you spend time and energy wishing and hoping for things to be different.
Nothing is permanent in life – good or bad. Situations and people naturally evolve and change over the course of time, and you will find that once you accept this life becomes a lot less daunting. And, change of any sort is nowhere near as scary as it potentially could be.
One of your biggest obstacles right now may be how to get over some pre-conceived ideas of how your life was 'supposed' to be. If you have children, you may feel that you never signed up to be a ‘part-time parent’ and consequently feel miserable when your child visits your ex-partner.
If you don’t have children, but previously enjoyed a booming social life with other married or partnered couples, you may fear these people’s judgements of you as a newly single woman. Or, you may feel that you just can’t relate to this group of people now.
You may be thinking - or actually SCREAMING inside – ‘Noooo!! This is not how it's supposed to be!!’
The good thing is, you can learn to change your thought processes, and as a result let go of these pre-conceived expectations, as well as any stigma you may have attached to the idea of being ‘single’ or a ‘single mum’.
You can also learn to adjust to the attitudes of others, whether it is your family, friends, acquaintances, or the community in general. You can’t control how others will perceive you, but you can work to create a powerful sense of pride for yourself and/or your children.
Here are some practical things you can do to help yourself survive the current maze of uncertainty, and find acceptance:
Stop for a moment and sit down. Just observe your surroundings, wherever you are, and breathe. Breathe in and breathe out, slowly and deliberately. Notice after a few moments that the world is still going on around you, and you are still here, breathing. Although it may seem so, the world hasn’t stopped turning. There has been a pretty major shift in your world, but the world at large is still OK.
Once you are feeling a little more grounded (from sitting, breathing and observing), you can start to look at this thing, demystify it and then begin the process of managing it. Grounding yourself in this way - and do this as often as is needed - will help you enormously in seeing a situation for exactly what it is, at this moment in time. NOT what your mind may be projecting it to be.
As we go through a loss of any type, it is normal to experience a myriad of emotions. This is part of the grieving process and it is OK. Feel them. Whatever you do, don’t suppress or block what you are feeling. Sitting with uncomfortable emotions for a time (rather than constantly distracting yourself) is hard, but if you can manage to do this, even for short periods of time, you will be helping yourself immensely.
This is because suppressed emotions can resurface at a later time, often worse than they originally were. Processed emotions - emotions that you have allowed yourself to sit with and feel - are able to pass through you at a natural pace, and eventually evaporate of their own accord.
So, you feel like crying. Cry. Cry for a few moments, then wipe your tears and move on. You feel like screaming? Go into your bedroom, close the door, and SCREAM!
Punch a pillow, throw something at the wall, stomp your feet loudly, wail. Do this until it is out of your system, then move on. If the need arises again tomorrow, do it all over. Just make sure you don’t stay too long in this space. Do it. Get it out of your system. Move on.
You may find for a time (hopefully a short time only) that you find it hard to connect with your current circle of friends, particularly if they are living the life that you feel you have just lost. Don’t, whatever you do, lose touch with these people - they will be feeling a deep level of concern for you. But do reach out to new people, people who have been through and survived a similar situation. Other people can offer you courage and hope.
Be careful, however, not to take on board too much well-meaning advice, particularly whilst you’re in a vulnerable state. What you need now is hope and reassurance that things will get better. Because they will.
There will always be some - well-meaning as they are - who will not hesitate in telling you what a horrendous ride you have ahead of you, because they have suffered, and are still in their place of suffering. Take any helpful advice on board and leave the rest.
If you find yourself feeling lost and anxious when contemplating what the hell lies ahead for you, don’t let your thoughts wander too far into the future. For now, make sure yours, and if applicable your children’s, immediate needs are taken care of. The rest will be sorted in time. Baby steps.
Remember, nothing – no thought or situation - is permanent. Although it may be near impossible for you believe right now, this life will one day be your new normal. Things will naturally settle as your situation evolves as it is meant to.
In time, the uncertain and confused thoughts currently whirling around in your head will be nothing more than a distant memory.
Adjust your thinking
Particularly if you have children, adjust your thinking on how a family ‘should be’. There are plenty of unhappy and dysfunctional two-parent families out there – a traditional family environment is no guarantee of a happy family life.
Ongoing violence, arguments, substance or alcohol abuse, or mental health issues will have a far greater impact on your children than being raised by a single parent will. Try to remind yourself that the molecular structure of your family is not the be-all and end-all of your existence.
With love and care, your kids will adjust to their new circumstances. In fact, they will not only adjust, they will be privy to some pretty amazing and valuable life lessons – patience, strength, resilience, and tolerance in the face of change are a few which come to mind.
STAGES OF GRIEF
The end of a marriage (or long-term partnership) is a death, of sorts. It is the end of the life you shared with your significant other, the conclusion of shared hopes and dreams, and of any and all visions of your future life together as a concrete couple. This is no small thing!
And, the end of this life needs to be grieved, just as any death is grieved. This grieving process cannot and must not be skipped. It can be painful, it can be uncomfortable, it can be a downright bloody agonising nuisance at times.
Make no mistake here - the temptation to simply block and numb the pain will strike! But for your own good, please ignore this temptation. Grieve, and do it well. You will be doing yourself and your future mental and emotional health a HUGE favour if you allow yourself the time and the energy to mourn your loss now, by allowing yourself to feel and process the emotions as they come along.
I have listed the five recognised stages of grief (tailored specifically for divorce) below. Please know however that grieving is a very individual process and there is no specific timetable or timeline to adhere to. It is okay to move through the stages of grief at your own pace, and in whatever order the stages present themselves to you.
I personally went through the grieving process in a topsy turvy manner, and this was okay. I still got through it.
The important thing is to not deny or block whatever feelings arise, or to try and numb the pain associated with the feeling with alcohol/drugs/sex/all night partying (examples only!).
When the feeling comes… sit with it, feel it, breathe into it, process it. Then let it go.
The Stages of Grief:
Denial: ‘This is not actually happening. He is not leaving me. He’ll come to his senses. He just needs time. There is no way he would walk out on our marriage’
Anger: ‘I don’t deserve this! Who the f@#% does he think he is?! Ohhh I am so ANGRY right now!!’
Bargaining: ‘Don’t leave. I promise I’ll do things your way. I’ll change. We’ll have more sex, I’ll lose weight, I’ll stop nagging’
Depression: ‘He is actually leaving. I can’t stop him. And I can’t bear this feeling of emptiness’
Acceptance: ‘Okay. It's over. So I’m going to work at moving on from this and making a new life for myself’
When you are in the very early stages of the grieving process (denial, anger, bargaining) it is very hard to clear your head enough to think coherently and understand clearly what is going on around you.
For this reason be extremely careful when making decisions on, or agreeing to, things which will have an impact on your (and if applicable, your children’s) future. If, at least, you can be aware that you are in a state of grief, and identify exactly where you’re at with it, you will be much better placed to stop and think before making or agreeing to any choices or decisions.
Grief makes it extremely difficult to make clear and rational decisions on anything - big or small, inconsequential or important. A lot of high-conflict (and bitter) divorce cases are instigated, I’m sure, when one or both parties are battling with grief.
But, just like anything else, grief passes. The implications of an acrimonious separation or divorce, however, may be long-lasting. So, be both careful and mindful when making decisions or agreeing to anything that could have a lasting impact.
This is an edited excerpt from Shona Dee’s eBook Separation & Divorce: Everything I Wish I'd Known As a Woman Going Through It
The book can be purchased HERE.
Want strategies to help you feel empowered, cope with challenge & heartbreak AND live a life that’s best for YOU?
SIGN UP TO GET:
It’s a collection of my BEST tips for living an empowered life AND thriving after heartbreak or change. They’re the strategies I use and I'm sharing them for FREE - let's do this Sista!!