How to cope with a family break-up, separation or divorce
For those who are going through a family break-up, separation, or divorce, the experience can be intense, extremely difficult and even traumatic. It takes a lot from a person to manage and maintain an intimate relationship, and if it doesn’t work one way or the other, then the thought of having to recalibrate life and carry on can be very overwhelming. A relationship that falls apart takes a toll on everyone around, not just on the couple, but on those close to them as well, who have invested time, energy and emotions in it, either at continuous attempts to fix it or being a part of the collateral damage that occurs as a result of this break-up. Life as they know it changes, and coming to terms with this change can be tough, especially for children who are in the middle of this separation/falling-out.
While with time and deliberate effort, the hurt reduces and both the couple and their families learn to move on, the immediate impact of divorce/separation and a family break-up can be devastating, if not handled well. Remember that recovering from a family separation or divorce is a process that requires time. A couple who go through this can experience very different, yet equally intense emotional responses, depending on the facets leading to the separation/divorce. It is common to go through a cycle of feelings from relief, to anger, guilt, resentment, to sadness and even desperation. Some people even experience celebratory responses to obtaining a divorce from an abusive, painful relationship.
Be patient with yourself and seek support when necessary. Identify the changes in your everyday thoughts and behaviour and reach out if it becomes too chaotic and disruptive. It is common to feel all the emotions strongly during the initial stages of the relationship break-up/divorce; thus affecting one’s physical wellbeing as well (like insomnia, mood swings, dependence on depressants to cope etc.) but beware if this becomes a recurrent pattern and cynicism takes over. Individuals and families can navigate this difficult time and emerge stronger if they receive emotional support and practice self-care during the process.
Here are some tips to cope with this situation if you are in the middle of a divorce or family break-up or are considering it:
1. Allow yourself to feel your emotions: It is important to acknowledge and accept your feelings, whether they are anger, sadness, relief or confusion. Permit yourself to lament and effectively process your emotions.
2. Seek emotional support from close family and acquaintances : Talking to someone you trust, without the fear or judgement about your actions and emotions can help you process your feelings and make you feel less isolated.
3. Talk to your lawyer: Speaking to a lawyer right from the start gives you the legal perspective, helps familiarise you with the laws of the land and the processes involved and allows you to make well-informed decisions without assuming anything.
4. Consider Professional Counselling Help: Speaking to a therapist can provide a secure space for working through the emotional effects of a family breakup or divorce, thus leading to a path of self-discovery and progress.
5. Prioritise taking care of yourself: Participate in self-care activities such as exercise, healthy eating, and adequate relaxation. These activities can help you feel more energised and better equipped to deal with the situation’s emotional tension.
If, there are children involved in this break-up then here are some tips on what to watch out for and how to support them:
1. No blame game or bad mouthing: Irrespective of how ugly your divorce may be, or however painful, spare your young children from this at least till they are ready… always refer to your ex respectfully and do not drag your children in the middle of nastiness. They should never be forced to choose or go in-between
2. Hear them out: Children irrespective of age feel insecure, can indulge in self-blame and crave reassurance that this family break-up doesn’t lead to abandonment. They will worry about their future and as parents you owe them an explanation and continued comfort. Be honest but go easy on the disclosure and be selective about what you share.
3. Maintain healthy channel of communication: Have an open communication channel with your ex whenever possible so that you can work out a healthy routine and life-plan for your children, with both parents being equal contributors in their growth and development.
4. Provide continuous reassurance and love: Focus on happiness and stability, despite the huge life changes, try and minimise the variables of change for them. Take care of yourself and show the way.
5. Seek Professional Help: Encourage them and arrange for them to speak to a mental health professional by setting an example and sharing your own experiences of seeking help and normalising the process.
Finally, it is essential to allow yourself time and space to process the emotions and difficulties that accompany the end of a relationship or marriage, as they can be intense and long-lasting. Healing requires coming to terms with what has occurred, embracing the changes that are occurring, and regaining a sense of normalcy in one’s life. In addition, it is essential to address any legal or logistical issues that may arise as a result of the family breakup, separation, or divorce. While healing can take time, it is possible to come out of this experience stronger, wiser, and more resilient.