Most people feel a huge sense of shock during the early days of divorce or separation. It’s important that you allow yourself time to grieve during this period.

• Try to eat well and sleep properly. These are vital for your body and mind to feel better.

• Don’t depend on alcohol or drugs to make you feel better or go to sleep. If you do start worrying that you are drinking too much, seek help as soon as possible.

• Find ways to deal with any angry feelings. For more information on dealing with anger, visit our dealing with anger page.

• Watch out for depression. It is something that can sneak up on you, so make sure that you are aware of the signs that point to depression.

• Don’t be afraid to ask for professional help if you think you need it.

Divorce and separation is not an easy process. It’s not only a question of deciding not to live together. It requires a lot of energy and effort to untie two lives that may still be bound together by friends and family. It needs both of you to see yourselves as separate people again. Or at least as an individual who is no longer in an emotional relationship with the other person.

There are three main steps that most people go through before you can be ready to move on:

• physical separation
• emotional separation
• psychological separation

Physical separation

Particularly if you were together for a long time or spent a great deal of time together, this can be very painful. Physically moving apart is only the beginning of a process. This step can for some people take a long time, sometimes over two years.
Remember that children have to manage with this physical move too. They will need help and support from you both to cope with this relationship change.

Emotional separation

You may feel flooded with sadness and despair, or as if a steamroller has hit you. With such an overwhelming rush of emotion it may surprise you that you can still carry out everyday tasks.
You will find that situations will continue to arise between you and your ex-partner during the early days. If you are both struggling emotionally it may appear that you have an intense dislike for each other. But the reality could be that you are still dependent or connected emotionally.

Psychological separation

The final step to separation is psychological. Psychology is the way you think about yourself in relation to the world around you. When this level of separation occurs you are able to think about yourself as an individual person. Separate from your ex-partner and separate from your previous family relationship with them.

Not being able to go through these steps can lead to you both remaining involved in each others lives. This in turn and can contribute to on-going stress and conflict; feelings of depression or not being able to cope.

If you find yourself ‘stuck’ during one of these steps you maybe

  • unable to think about the future
  • unable to accept that plans need to be made
  • in conflict with the other parent and unable to work together

You may be the type of person who likes to talk about your thoughts and feelings, as this can make it easier for you to identify where you are on your journey. Alternatively you may keep your feelings to yourself and reveal little about what you are thinking to anyone else.

Which ever approach you take, if you find you are struggling to cope, reach out to family or friends for support or seek professional help.

We have a number of pages in the Health guide that provide information on dealing with anger or depression.

Where can I go next?