Along with the death or loss of a loved one, a separation or divorce can be one of the most emotionally painful events that anyone can experience. That’s because a committed relationship was normally a fundamental part of your identity — when something that’s been a constant for a large part of your adult life suddenly changes, it can bring about many difficult and unpleasant emotions.
Separation and divorce
The trigger that leads to separation is often a long time in the making. Although some relationships can end quickly or unexpectedly (for example, due to infidelity), the cause more often is something that could not be resolved as it built up over a long period.
There are many reasons for divorce. Among the most common are arguments about money, lack of communication or intimacy, unmet expectations or promises, feelings of disrespect, or abuse.
People in the relationship have often lived with these problems for an extended period. That means that once actual separation begins, both physically (one of you moves out, you start dividing bank accounts and property, etc.) and emotionally (you come to terms with the fact that you are no longer together), you may experience unexpectedly strong or contradictory feelings.
You might feel anger, resentment, guilt, a lack of control, disbelief, sadness or relief. You may experience a few of these feelings or you may feel many of them. You may feel them intermittently or you may feel them all day. They may even be contradictory, such as feeling anger at one moment and relief the next.
Unhealthy coping mechanisms
The combination and intensity of those difficult feelings can feel like a heavy emotional rollercoaster. Separation can involve a lot of disruption, changing of routine, and massive readjustment. On top of that, you may be experiencing thoughts that are unfamiliar and raw.
Consequently, some people may find it difficult to cope. The emotional pain of what they’re feeling can be such that they may try to deal with those difficult feelings through what are known as unhealthy coping mechanisms.
Some common examples of unhealthy coping behaviours include excessive consumption of alcohol, tobacco, illicit narcotics or improper use of drugs, excessive retail spending, gambling, emotional or binge eating, as well as escaping in TV, pornography or gaming consoles.
- More information: alcohol and unhealthy coping mechanisms
Talking it out can help
The good news is that there are healthy, non-destructive ways of dealing with the unpleasant emotional thoughts and sensations of divorce and marriage dissolution. These are the previously mentioned ‘adaptive’ or constructive strategies.
One of the most widely recognised and effective methods is to talk it out with someone. If you can, talk it out with a friend, family member or even a trusted work colleague.
However, there are many reasons why that may not be an option. For example, some people have concerns about being unfairly judged or are worried about ‘their business’ being known to others.
If that’s the case, then another great way to get on top of your worries and concerns is to talk to a professional counsellor.
- More information: 7 ways to cope during divorce and separation
Why free professional counselling helps with divorce
An NQ Connect counsellor is a professional mental health worker who is trained to help you deal with your worries and concerns. A counsellor can assist someone going through separation by helping them manage feelings and concerns like depression, anxiety, anger and even substance abuse.
Counsellors can give you a new perspective on a difficult situation. In doing so, they help you identify better ways of coping with those raw thoughts and feelings, especially if they’re affecting your happiness, wellbeing, social life, career or even your physical health.
By talking it out, a counsellor’s aim is to help you cope and improve your wellbeing — and ultimately, help you feel better.
Need help? You can find support services in northern Queensland or complete a self-administered K10 test for depression and anxiety. You can also join the online mental health forum to talk with like-minded people.