The impact that separation and divorce has on an individual has been recognised by social scientists as being one of the most significant emotional experiences that a person can endure. As family lawyers, we are often working with our clients during one of the most difficult times in their lives. While it is our role to reach the best legal outcome for our clients, we also want to ensure that they are able to rebuild and adapt to the changes in their life following separation.
Self care during separation and divorce
Separation often leads to significant changes in a person’s life. For example, for parents, they may go from looking after their children everyday during the relationship to a shared care arrangement whereby they suddenly find themselves with a significant amount of time on their own when the children are in the other parent’s care. This is understandably a very difficult time for parents, particularly if they are struggling emotionally with the breakdown of the relationship or they were previously the primary carer of the children. They may find themselves feeling very down and lonely during these times.
If you are going through a separation or divorce, looking after yourself and focussing on your wellbeing is one of the most important things you can do. This is especially the case if you have children as they will be going through a very difficult time adapting to the changes in their own lives and will need your support more than ever. By looking after yourself not only will it help you to move on with your life, but it also means that you can be the best version of yourself as a parent, something which will benefit your children.
It goes without saying that everyone has a different experience when going through a separation and what will work for one person, may not assist another. It is important to be open to trying new things, but at the end of the day, focus on what works best for you.
Below is a list of ideas for anyone going through a separation to consider, to help them during this time of change:
1. Think about what has helped you in the past
Set aside some time to reflect on how you have been able to recover from emotional or challenging times in the past. Someone who is an extrovert may benefit from reconnecting with old friends and family and having social plans to help keep them busy and avoid feeling lonely following their separation. However, if you are more introverted, you may find more benefit from taking up a new hobby to focus your energy on or learning a new skill. It is for you as an individual to work out what makes you genuinely feel good inside and focus on those things. Because let’s be honest, yoga and journaling isn’t for everybody.
2. Engage a professional for support
There is no doubt that family and friends can be a great support and shoulder to cry on in times of need. While family and friends can be great listeners and may be keen to offer advice, if they are not professionals, they cannot necessarily give you healthy and effective strategies to deal with difficult situations and navigate the emotional turmoil you may be dealing with. This is why having professional support is invaluable.
Professionals such as counsellors and psychologists are qualified with the knowledge, experience and tools to assist you through these difficult times.
Talking to people is often such a helpful tool to help us cope during difficult times – there is a saying, ‘a problem shared is a problem halved’. However, you should be mindful that while your friends and family want to support you, you also don’t want to burden them by relying on them as your only emotional support networks. That is another reason why engaging with a professional will assist you during these times.
3. Focus on yourself and think forward
As family lawyers sometimes we see clients comparing themselves and where they are at post separation with how their ex-partner appears to be doing. Almost as though the value of their happiness is dependent upon whether they are doing better or worse than their former partner.
If you find that you are comparing your happiness with how your former partner appears to be going or focussing on what they are up to – whether they are dating or have a new partner or how their job or career is going compared to yours – you may find that you are preventing yourself from finding genuine happiness post separation.
Sometimes we see people become more focused on ‘one-upping’ the other in their family law matter. However, this way of thinking only adds to the feelings of being unhappy or unfulfilled.
If you want to find a genuine sense of contentment post separation, my advice is to focus on yourself and what you are doing and what you want for your future. Try to avoid looking back and thinking about what could have been because the reality is that you can’t change the past, you can only try to make improvements for the future.
Your children, family, and friends will benefit directly from you genuinely being the happiest version of yourself.
4. Set a health goal
Now do not worry, we are not suggesting that you start running marathons (although if that is what makes you happy, go for it).
What we are suggesting is to focus on something that makes you feel better, not just for your physical health but for your mental and emotional health too. There is plenty of research into the benefits of exercise, so you might want to consider joining a fitness class or engaging a trainer so that you have other people around you to motivate you and hold you accountable.
Regular exercise, eating well and ensuring you get enough sleep will improve your emotional, mental, and physical health.
Be careful to avoid things that do not make you feel better. For example, while a big night out may be fun at the time and help you to temporarily numb the pain, you may well end up paying for it in the days that follow and be left feeling a lot worse as alcohol is a known depressant.
The consequences of not being mindful of your lifestyle choices can be detrimental on your mental, emotional and physical health and may negatively impact on your work and relationships with friends and family.
Determine your health goal, whatever it is, and make your health and wellbeing non-negotiable.
5. Find happiness in yourself
Coming out of a relationship where you were used to sharing your life with another person and then suddenly having to go about your life without them, could leave you feeling quite alone and worried for the future.
During these vulnerable times it is easy to rush into a new relationship in an attempt to fill that void you are experiencing. However, the risk of doing so without first having had the opportunity to grieve and process your separation is that you risk bringing all of the baggage from your previous relationship into the new relationship.
It is important to think about what you want for yourself in the next chapter of your life. Think of the type of life you want to have, the type of relationship you want to be in, and the type of person that you want to be with. Having the insight to work out what characteristics and personality traits in a partner compliment your own and bring out the best in you is the best way that you can set yourself up for healthy relationships in the future. If you don’t do this, you also risk ending up in a new relationship with someone who is not well suited to you and one that may not last.
Rather than putting pressure on yourself to be in a relationship, take the opportunity to work out what it is that you need before embarking into a new relationship. Knowing yourself and finding a sense of happiness in your life is the best way you can set yourself up to be happy in the next chapter of your life.
6. Take up a hobby
Because you may find yourself with a lot more time by yourself following your separation, there is a real risk of feeling lonely. While is it important to take the time to grieve the end of your previous relationship, keeping yourself busy and distracted is a good way to help you move forward and avoid those times of loneliness.
A great way to feel a sense of achievement and motivation is to learn a new skill or take up a hobby. For example, you might learn an instrument, a language, take up cycling, go travelling or get a start on those home improvements you’ve been thinking about. Whatever it is that piques your interest and keeps you busy, rather than dwelling on the past, will help you during this process.
I hope that some of these ideas are helpful to you if you are going through a separation or divorce. A good piece of advice if you are struggling with your separation is to try and finalise your family law matters as soon as possible so that you can continue to move forward with your life. Take advice from your lawyer about how to achieve that, and you can look forward to the next chapter of your life.
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Phillips Family Law is an award winning Family Law practice serving clients across Australia and abroad. Regardless of where you are in the separation process, we can make you aware of your options. To discuss your situation confidentially phone +61730079898 or secure a time by clicking here.
Disclaimer: The content in this article provides general information however it does not substitute legal advice or opinion. Information is best used in conjunction with legal advice from an experienced member of our team.