Separation and divorce can be a devastating time of your life, it is distressing and challenging to say the least. From my own experience and those of my client’s, it is safe to say that the first year is by far the most difficult. Everyone separates for different reasons, whatever that is for you, nothing can prepare you for the roller coaster that awaits you in the first year of separation. Even as a person who had been through it before and someone who helps others through it every day as a family law solicitor, the second time I went through it was nothing short of the worst year of my life.
It is natural to question your life, marriage, relationships and the meaning of it all when you go through a separation from a long term life partner. You are thrown into a world of uncertainty and while you are in turmoil you are put in a position where you have to make huge life decisions, all while grieving your loss. For some that loss is of a the person, family as you imagined, the marriage itself, financial security, time with your children or all of that. It is no small feat getting through to the other side and transforming into a better version of yourself, but it is totally possible!
The first year is the most difficult as you are required to face a new reality, face many firsts, make a lot of decisions, deal with conflict and figure out who you are and what your new life is going to look like. It can feel overwhelming and you may be wondering if you will even survive. Trust me you will survive and I hope that you will do even better than survive and also thrive….. but it does take time.
In my first year of separation I felt hurt and rejected, I was angry and had poor me moments where I really thought that life was not fair. Of course I got through it in the end, looking back I probably wouldn’t have wasted so much time feeling sad, but you have to go through it in your own way in your own time. I want to share with you my tips on how I survived the first year of separation.
1. Spend Time Doing You
When there is so much drama in your life, it can be all consuming and take up all of your time, thought and conversation. It is important that you remember to reboot, recharge and spend some time doing you. My best friend would say to me ‘Do you Boo!’ She was so right. And now I am saying to you…. ‘Do you Boo!’
Make yourself a priority. Spend some time doing the things that you love, go for walks, go to yoga, have some time with your friends and consciously spend entire an day every week where you do not talk about your separation and divorce. It is really important when there is so much going on that you focus on looking after yourself.
2. Join A Community
Going through the separation and divorce process can be a lonely time. Our family and friends sometimes shy away from the drama because they don’t want to get involved. Or they may get too involved and because they love you, they can get a little pushy. Also it is common that you loose friends during this process too. It is great to have a network of people around you that are going through the same thing as you and now is a great time to find a few new friends. There may be a great community group in your area where people just like you are going through the same thing. They can lend an ear or offer helpful unbiased advice. If there is not a support group where you live, there are loads of great support groups on Facebook. They are full of positive people who can support you with any questions you may have.
3. Let The Sadness & Grief Flow
When you go through trauma, it is important that you let the stages flow through you, even if you want to squash them away. This is different for everyone, but if you don’t let it happen, it will just keep popping up in your life until you deal with it only prolonging the grief. If you need to cry, stay in your pj’s for a day, eat a bar of chocolate, watch Netflix and drink wine then let it happen. It is OK and to be expected that you will feel sad.
In my own situation I kept going, working and doing everyday things and I didn’t give myself time to grieve. I had heart wrenching moments in my quiet times of gasping for breath tears, but then I would just try and get on with my day.
Because I chose to do it this way, I believe now that I delayed the process and actually made it last longer. Sometimes out of the blue I would be struck by grief when I would least expect it, even a long time afterwards. Maybe if I had allowed myself to feel that pain more earlier, I would have been able to move through it a bit faster. Everyone is different, but we are all human and the only way to get to the other side is to go through it.
4. Find A Wise Owl
It is a great idea to find a wise old owl or a mentor who has ‘been there done that’ to talk to. Divorce can feel like a lonely time, but you are not alone. Reaching out for help is not a weakness, it is a strength and you are stronger when you have someone to lean on. It is amazing how many people have been through separation and divorce, people that you know of and admire but you may not even know. So open up and learn from others.
5. Be Calm & Cool
When you are dealing with confronting and life changing situations that divorce and separation bring, it is easy to be reactive and lose your cool. Most things in a separation and divorce sense are not urgent. You do have time to think about your next move and response. It doesn’t have to be done with haste. In the heat of the moment when things are not going our way, it is easy to lose it, say or agree to things that we may regret later. Just remember to breath and you do have time to make decisions.
Staying calm, cool and in-control is where you want to be. It will bring clarity and peace to your life.
6. Reconnect With Friends
When going through a difficult time, it can be natural to choose to isolate and bury our heads in the sand. I did it myself. In the time that I needed my friends the most I didn’t tell anyone what was happening in my life and it was the worst thing that I could have done for myself. I was embarrassed that my husband had left me, I felt that I would be judged and I didn’t want to have to explain it. I dreaded people asking me where my spouse was, so it was easier just to avoid people. This is not healthy, or at least it wasn’t for me because I am social and need my friends. Your friends want to be there for you and this is the perfect time to strengthen your friendships and be supported and uplifted by them.
7. Be Kind To The Most Important Person
More than anything, be kind and gentle with yourself as you go through this transition in your life. Be your own compassionate and caring friend, rather than your own harshest critic. We tend to be harder on ourselves than anyone else could ever be and forget that we are truly just doing our best in the situation that is in front of us. Look at yourself in the mirror each morning, give yourself some love, and remind yourself that you are doing the can. Like all else, this too shall pass and this first twelve months will one day only be a small part of your amazing life story.