You’ve spent years creating that happy family you dreamed about, and now it has fallen apart. It hurts so much you refuse to believe it is happening. Your friends may not understand the pain you’re living through, and you may feel unsupported and alone. You are experiencing separation grief.
In “A Helpful Guide To The Stages Of Grief Post Separation”, you can read about how each stage of grief presents itself and how it relates to separation or divorce. The most significant message in that article is that while the grieving process can be complex, it is natural. It’s key to remember that you will eventually find a way forward and that healing is possible.
You may not be able to see it yet, but trust me when I say, “You are not alone.” According to family lawyer Damien Greer, the most recent divorce rates are 2.2 per 1,000 Australian residents. In addition, 56,244 divorces were granted in 2021, with 48,432 involving children. This statistic is not intended to frighten you but to fill you with hope.
Hope that, indeed, you are not alone. Many mothers are navigating through this loss journey with you. But more importantly, there have been countless before you who have survived. As their grieving process came to an end, they flourished.
You can and will flourish too. Anything can be achieved with a plan that consists of easy-to-follow practical steps. Alone they may not seem like much, as neither does one stair when looking at a few flights. Yet by taking one step at a time, you will eventually reach the top.
Step 1 of Separation Grief – Managing Denial
Denial is often described as the first stage of the grieving process. This is where you may feel like you are in a fog and struggling to understand what has happened. Surrounding yourself with supportive friends and family is helpful. Sometimes just saying the words out loud can help you come to terms with the loss.
However, you may find yourself unable to express your feelings to others. You may benefit more from writing down your feelings in a journal in this situation. This can help you process your emotions and make them feel more real. Dr Jeremy Sutton from positivepsychology.com provides us with very constructive and helpful worksheets. Geared towards supporting the grieving process by reflecting on your fears, needs and new future. They can be downloaded from the freebies page for all Single Mama Way members. Become a member here…
Step 2 – Managing Anger
Anger is an emotion that is easy to see. Sometimes anger is just that, anger. However, anger is often merely the tip of the iceberg. It is fueled by many emotions hidden beneath the surface. It’s also worth noting that anger is a normal part of grieving. Best handled by engaging in healthy ways to express our many complex emotions.
One way to express your anger is to write a letter to your ex. You do not have to send it. You can burn it or bury it. Just venting your frustration, hurt and pain in this manner can bring some relief. Exercise can be an effective way to release pent-up anger and frustration. Make time for a run, hit the gym, or take a kickboxing class. Screaming or punching a pillow is highly cathartic.
Exercise releases happy hormones and keeps you fit and healthy. If you have trouble deciding on an activity for your workout, consider yoga. Yoga can be a gentle and inviting way to get moving. An invaluable part of yoga is nurturing the connection between your body and spirit.
Conversely, you can practice mindfulness by being present in the moment and focusing on your breath. This can help you stay calm and centred when emotions overwhelm you.
Step 3 of Separation Grief – Dealing with Bargaining
When attempting to cope with bargaining, it’s helpful to recognise that some things are beyond our control. It’s also beneficial to focus on the present moment and take action towards acceptance. As opposed to wishing things were different, we can begin planning for how they can be positively changed in the future.
Instead of becoming overwhelmed by the desperate need to change the circumstances we find ourselves in, concentrate on creating a routine or setting small goals. This will help you move forward and regain a sense of control.
Acknowledge your thoughts and feelings: It’s okay to have these thoughts and feelings but try to remind yourself that bargaining won’t change the reality of the situation. Rather than focusing on what you can’t change, focus on what you can control. This might include taking care of yourself, setting boundaries with others, or making positive changes in your life.
Step 4 – Managing Depression
At this point, we will likely blame ourselves for the relationship breakdown. The desire to withdraw from life and everyday activities can become overwhelming. We may find it challenging to find joy in anything at all. As a result, caring for ourselves and our children may suffer. At this stage, connecting with others and seeking support from family and friends is imperative.
If you find yourself in a situation where you do not have anyone close, seek professional help from a therapist or counsellor. Here at Single Mama Way, receiving support has been made so easy. No referrals or lengthy waiting periods. Just click, book and talk right from your couch without needing to travel or the hassle of finding babysitters.
You can, of course, reach out via phone to mental health organisations like ‘Beyond Blue‘ or ‘Black Dog Institute‘. These are not face-to-face meetings, but they can offer valuable assistance when you need it most.
Taking care of yourself may be the last thing on your mind, but maintaining self-care is paramount. Activities such as exercise, eating well and getting enough sleep offer mental clarity and strength. In addition, simple small acts of love and compassion will make a world of difference long term.
Allow yourself some time to heal from the pain and grief of your divorce. Healing may take some time, but it will come. Take positive steps in the right direction, but allow yourself to feel the hurt. Over time, you’ll notice the pain becoming less and less as you act toward a new direction and a brighter future.