Understanding and managing divorce and separation

The process of divorce and separation

A divorce or separation from a significant other is well known as putting a great deal of emotional, mental and physical strains and pressures onto us, and is in most cases a life changing event. This process is one of significant change to all areas of life, and the impact is magnified because all of these various feelings and emotions are happening all at once. During the process, it is not uncommon for the identity of one of both partners to change; sometimes this happens quickly or drastically. An example could be a change in clothing style, shift in career or an entire lifestyle change. Seeing this change is difficult for people to manage, often one partner is left angry, anxious, guilty or lonely. Some may feel as though they have failed the relationship, and that they are not worthy of love or care.

Grieving the loss of relationship

Our natural human reaction to loss is to grieve, and this is no different when a significant relationship ends. There are many similarities between the death of a loved one and the ending of a significant relationship. Often we feel a wide array of emotions ranging from anger, guilt, regret and sadness to name a few. We experience this loss on many levels.

  • Loss of companionship and shared experiences.
  • Loss of support, whether it is financial, intellectual, social or emotional, or all the above.
  • Loss of shared hopes, plans and dreams, which can be even more painful than any practical losses.

Allowing yourself to engage with the pain of these multiple losses is frightening, and you may fear your emotions will be too intense to bear, or that you may never exit out the other side of the pain and difficulty. This process is important, and is part of the healing process which helps you to gradually let go of the old relationship.

Tips for self-care

During divorce and separation it can seem to be a struggle to maintain feelings, and it is common to feel stressed, low or anxious. Although you may not be able to entirely stop these unpredictable and difficult feelings, there are ways to take care of as best you can.

Nurture yourself

Help yourself to heal by finding time each day to take part in activities you find calming or soothing. This could be reading a book, going for a walk, listening to music or simply 10 minutes for reflective thought.

Pay attention to your needs

Allow yourself to express your needs, and why they are important and valuable. Make space to honour what you believe is right for you today, this week and in the future. Your needs may be different to what your ex-partner or others want, but it is important to be able to say no without fear or guilt.

Stick to a routine

Divorce or a separation will throw your life into upheaval, and feelings will be amplified and you will more than likely experience a sense of uncertainty and chaos. It is important to do what you can to stick to your routine, which provides stability, structure and a sense of normalcy.

Explore new interests

A divorce or separation is a new beginning as well as an end. Therefore, it is important to nurture new ideas, interests or think differently about your life. Exploring new activities will allow you enjoy life in the here and now, develop your self-esteem and allow you, however briefly, to stop concentrating on the past.

Dealing with stress and depression

It is not uncommon to find it difficult to talk about the way you feel after a divorce or separation, nor is it uncommon for friends or family to think we should snap out of it or move on. In the aftermath we will experience varying levels of depression, low mood and low self-esteem. It is an erratic time, with a wide array of feelings, ideas and sensations. Below are some ways to manage these feelings.

Go for a walk

This can be wonderfully therapeutic, and exercising and getting fresh air is important in lessening the feelings associated with low mood.


Laughing can be so beneficial in lifting our mood, brightening our day and giving is positive energy. Catch up with old friends, or watch your favourite film.

Keep a diary

Keeping a diary allows you to express how you are feeling on a daily basis, and gives you the chance to put what is in your head onto paper. It can also be a helpful tool to look back on after a month, or even a year, and to see where you have got to.

Be kinder to yourself

Take a moment in each day to give yourself a compliment, tell yourself you are doing alright or do something nice for yourself.

 Moving on and how therapy can help

In times of emotional crisis, there is a huge opportunity for growth, learning and development. The emptiness experienced in the present is not an indication that nothing is happening now or in the future. Consider this time to sow seeds needed for personal growth, learn from the relationship, and realise the potential to emerge stronger and more resilient. In order for this to happen, it is important to acknowledge the part that you played in the process and understand the choices you made within the relationship which affected it. This is both empowering and informative and gives you the chance to learn.

Seeing a therapist after a divorce or separation or during the process of ending a relationship, can offer you a safe and nonjudgmental space to think at depth about your relationship, discuss the wide range of feelings and emotions you are experiencing, and gain some clarity of thought. It will also give you the chance to explore your other relationships, look at why they may not have worked, and understand what relationships mean to you, and what you may seek from a relationship in the future.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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London N6 & NW5
Written by Joshua Miles, BA, MSc, BPC, BACP Accredited Psychodynamic Psychotherapist
London N6 & NW5

Joshua is an experienced integrative therapist who's worked with people during and after the breakdown of a significant relationship or marriage. He has helped people explore their feelings at a deep level and assisted them in grieving the loss of the relationship. He is based in Shoreditch, East London and works with adults of all ages.

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