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Grief and Separation

It’s no surprise to any of us that separation can cause a significant amount of heartache and disruption to our daily lives. Not only does it affect us emotionally, but it can also impact us both physically and socially. Even if you were the one to instigate the separation, you can still have overwhelming feelings of guilt and anxiety concerning your former spouse and also your children. No matter what the situation, breakups are never simple. But how many of us actually know the best way to deal with the breakdown of a relationship and the emotions that are attached to it?

There are five distinct stages of grief which are often referred to when talking about the breakdown of a relationship or even the loss of a loved one.

Denial

Is this actually happening?

Denial is generally the first stage of the grieving process and is usually accompanied by feelings of shock, resignation, indecision and withdrawal. These feelings tend to come in the early stages of a separation as you try to adapt to such a significant change. Denial is said to be a human defence mechanism which is used to subconsciously protect ourselves from harm. In certain circumstances, these feelings are intensified if one partner is unaware of the extent of the relationship problems and therefore the separation has come as a complete shock to them.

Anger

How dare he!? She never worked and only used me for my money!

Anger usually comes after the initial feelings of denial and shock have worn off. Feelings of anger are often supplemented with feelings of resentment and give rise to hostile actions and/or thoughts and behaviours, particularly towards your former spouse. These types of feelings and behaviours can also extend to friends, in-laws, your children and even yourself. This can be the most confusing and intense part of the grieving process. Others may also express anger towards you because they are frustrated by your changed behaviour. Professional Counselling can help during this time.

Bargaining

What if I changed? I promise I’ll be better.

The next step in the grieving process includes thoughts of “what if?” and tends to leave you feeling at fault and thinking about all of the things that you could have – or should have – done differently in the relationship. This phase can often see people desperately trying to rekindle with their former spouse or anxiously looking to start a new relationship in order to “move on”. Thoughts can often be frantic and impulsive during this time and can drastically impact upon your decision making ability.

Depression

I don’t know if I can do this anymore.

After the feelings of denial, anger and bargaining subside, overwhelming feelings of despair and anguish can often set in. This stage of the grieving process leaves you feeling hopeless and detached from the world. You might have trouble sleeping and you may become frustrated easily or find yourself feeling extremely irritable for no apparent reason. More often than not people will also experience episodes of fatigue and might find themselves unmotivated and disinterested in life. This is an extremely difficult phase of the grieving process and medical assistance together with counselling can be useful at this time.

Acceptance

Let’s look to the future…

Acceptance is the final stage of the grieving process and will enable you to start moving forward with your life. You will regain your sense of self-worth and purpose during this time. You may start feeling hopeful again and will find yourself planning for the future.

It can take weeks, months or even years to move through the five stages of grief after a breakup – everyone is different. The main thing to remember is that all of these feelings are normal and will take time to process. If you do find yourself stuck however it might be helpful to speak to a trained professional (including your Family Lawyer) so they can assist you to work through any issues that may be holding you back.

For more information on separation, or other family law matters, please contact our office for a free initial consultation.

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