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Point Of Change Counselling

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Divorce & Separation

Divorce and Separation

"Liz" threw a big party to celebrate the granting of her divorce. Although she had been pushed into it by an unfaithful partner who wanted to start a new life with his new love, Liz had worked hard to convince herself that she and her two children would be better off without the husband and father who no longer wanted them. So when weeks after the party she was still crying herself to sleep and struggling to deal with the growing anger which her children felt towards their Dad, but directed towards her in his absence, Liz wondered when it would all get better.

The grief which accompanies divorce or separation is different in some respects from that which results from losing a partner to death. The core of this seems to revolve around the element of rejection involved. If a partner dies, then we are bereft, but don't feel responsible. If a partner chooses to leave a relationship with us, then we frequently assume that we are somehow lacking and therefore to blame. "Why couldn't I make them happy? Why wasn't I good enough? What has the other person offered my partner that I couldn't?" These are common questions from people who find themselves newly single.

While it will take time to work through the pain of separation and divorce, it will help to understand that there are certain stages involved in the process of this grieving. These are not covered in any particular order or timeframe - we will all make the journey differently - but it can save us from being too hard on ourselves if we recognise that we are neither a "bad" person, nor losing our mind, when we experience grief in particular ways.

The Stages of Divorce & Separation:

  • Shock and denial. We turn a blind eye to all the warning signs that our relationship is in trouble, and shut out anything that our partner or third party says, that is too painful for us to process. We refuse to acknowledge that divorce or separation is an option. We may be full of promises to change or try harder at this stage.
  • Anger. Once the reality sets in, we look for someone else to blame. We may turn against friends or children, or against God, but most likely we will want to hold our partner or third party accountable. The one person we don't want to blame at this stage is ourselves, because that is too painful.
  • Depression. This occurs when we stop expressing our anger outwardly and turn it inward. We can go to the opposite extreme of the anger stage, and assume that everything is our fault. We may even sign up to accept the anger of everyone else involved - children, family, and our departing partner.
  • Bargaining. In a last desperate attempt to stop the process from happening, we may try to strike a compromise with others. "You can keep on seeing her, and I won't ask any questions as long as you don't leave me and the kids." This is the time when we may try to bring about superficial changes, such as in our appearance, but we are unwilling or unable to address the real issues.
  • Sadness. This is an appropriate response once we realise that the relationship is beyond saving. It's healthy to let your emotions out with safe people during this time. This will help you to avoid being drawn towards potentially damaging behaviours such as substance abuse or self-harm.
  • Acceptance and letting go. This is when we forgive others involved and ourselves, and begin to look towards a new future. We dare to think in terms of building a different future.

Often people going through divorce or separation feel that their friends and family run out of patience and empathy, long before they are finished with the grieving process. This is where accessing the services of an experienced counsellor can be invaluable. At Point of Change Counselling we have over twenty years of experience in supporting people who are going through this painful process. We can help you to express your grief in a safe and confidential environment, so that you can move towards recovery.

For help and support in recovering from and divorce or separation, contact Alli at Point Of Change Counselling to make an appointment.

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The information on this website is intended for general information only. For help, diagnosis, or treatment of specific issues, please see a mental health professional.