Divorce, separation, breakup. Whether you're the one who initiated it, or the one on the receiving end, going through it remains a very difficult life transition.
The end of a relationship is not something we plan ahead or hope for usually, and there's often an element of surprise attached to it, whether you saw it coming or not.
If you are in the process of separating, or divorcing, my heart goes to you. If you are the one subjected to it, here are 5 things you should know about this stage that I hope will help you normalize your current experience and help you get through it with a little more ease.
1- You will go through a roller coaster of emotions
One moment you may feel enraged and you may want to destroy everything that reminds you of your partner. The next one, you may miss him/her/them incredibly. Then, you may try to bargain with yourself: "If I could talk to him again, if I hadn't done or said this or that to her, if only they gave me a real chance..." Sometimes all these emotions will hit you at the same time, which may feel very confusing. This is normal and to be expected. Your mind and your heart are fighting against the reality of the situation.
My advice to you is to let yourself feel whatever emotions come up, and stay away from the "should feel". You're not supposed to feel one way or another. Grief is a messy process and we all go through it in a unique way. So, next time a wave of emotions comes up, remember that it has a beginning and an end.
2- You will go through the stages of grief in no order
Grief is not a structured and organized process. Even though you may have heard of the Kübler-Ross stages of grief, these are just a road map, not a box in which everyone who goes through a loss fits. You may spend more time in the first stages (anger, denial, bargaining and depression) at the beginning, or you may not. You may go from one stage to the other within seconds or days. Acceptance may come in small bites here and there, or as the final piece of a long journey.
Also, not everyone who grieves goes through all of these stages, and that’s okay: you do not have to go through each stage to feel better.
Remind yourself that you are unique, and so is your process.
Sometimes it helps to write down what you're experiencing. Some people carry a small notebook everywhere to jot down a few thoughts or emotions as they come. There's something really cathartic in the old-fashioned writing process.
3- Your self-esteem and confidence may be down for a while
You may go through all the reasons why the relationship ended, and you may even blame yourself. “If I were smarter, prettier, more passionate, had a job…. He/she/they would have stayed with me” are common thoughts in this situation.
Your self-esteem may be temporary lower than usual and you will gain it back as you heal. Or maybe the separation brought to light the low self-esteem you had been experiencing for a long time that your relationship had helped cover up. For more details, you can read my blog posts on why your self-esteem goes in the dumps after a separation, and the 5 ways to boost your self-esteem.
4- High emotions and finances don't mix well together
While going through the grief and emotional roller coaster that a divorce or separation often brings up, you may be required to make major life decisions that may impact you long-term. Deciding how to divide assets and making sure you get what you need or want without feeling cheated or destitute may seem overwhelming from a financial perspective. Amy Mahlen, a Certified Financial Planner® and Certified Divorce Financial Analyst®, believes it is crucial to address these questions objectively before a divorce is finalized to create a healthy foundation for moving forward and rebuilding. Understandably, individuals tend to make emotional decisions regarding finances during this tumultuous time usually out of fear or anger. Often, choices made with emotions in the driver seat can lead to a bumpy ride, possibly laden with potholes and detours.
There is a way to answer financial worries that may emotionally consume you during the process such as ‘will I be okay?’ or ‘will I have what I need?’ before you settle. A financial analysis, in many cases can decrease conflict, speed up the process and provide clarity regarding decisions that will chart the next chapter of your life.
5- Don't bank everything on the power of time
Time will certainly be a major component to help you recover and heal. However, don't count only on time to heal in a healthy way. Going through a major life transition such as a divorce is an opportunity to know yourself better, become more self-aware of your limiting beliefs about yourself and others and unproductive habits or ways of thinking that may not serve you to build a future healthy, and fulfilling relationship. This is not about blaming you or your partner for ending the relationship, it's about taking responsibility for what we do that tends to benefit or impact the relationship negatively.
The alternative of not doing the work on yourself will be to recreate the same patterns and having similar difficulties in your next relationship, with maybe the added baggage of unprocessed thoughts, beliefs, memories around your past relationship that will potentially hijack you.
You can do some of this work with the help of self-help books, journaling, meditation or other tools that help you self-reflect. Therapy of course is also an option to go deeper and help you heal more fully.
I often see clients at this stage, when they need help to make sense of certain life events, understand what worked and what didn't in their past relationships, figure out without blame or judgement what part each partner played in the outcome, learn new ways of communicating and behaving.
Valerie can be reached through her website at www.denverflowcounseling.com