When going through a divorce or significant relationship breakdown, it’s normal to feel heartbroken. It may seem as if nothing is stable, and that our homes, finances and routines have been turned upside down. We might not even feel like ourselves, and be worried that this difficult, emotionally-charged time could affect others we care about. But there are ways to make this tough period a little easier.
Recovering after a relationship breakdown can take longer than expected, so the first thing to remember is to try be patient with yourself. There’s no clear path to follow and no set rules. This is your heartbreak and your process. However, while this is an incredibly challenging time, with support, kindness and self-care, in time you’ll be able to move forward and make a new start.
We’ve listed some tips below to help you navigate the tricky months ahead.
Accept that difficult feelings will be part of the process
During a breakup, it’s normal to experience a range of emotions – some of which may take you completely by surprise.
Try to accept your feelings, even if you don’t like them. Sometimes just acknowledging your emotions can help take the sting out of them. For example, saying to yourself, “I notice I feel guilty” is far more helpful (and far kinder) than, “I am guilty”.
You may not be able to handle your regular daily routine during a breakup, or be your usual self. When we’re stressed, we may become grumpy, a little forgetful, or even confused and doubtful. We may be exhausted too, as grief and anxiety can wreak havoc on our sleep patterns.
It’s normal to feel that you’re struggling at this time – so it’s important to give yourself a break and remember that you’re not alone. Be realistic about what you can achieve and, if possible, wait to make big decisions until things feel a little less overwhelming.
Talk things through
Talk to your friends and family, and remember that there’s no need to go it alone. A number of professional organisations now run group courses that can help you build skills in everything from managing your emotions, to parenting after separation, and positive ways to move forward as a stronger, healthier person. It may also be useful to attend personal counselling sessions, and remember that most people can access a free mental health care plan through Medicare. There’s lots to be said for talking to others and sharing the emotional load.
Look after your health
This may sound a little cliche, but it’s important: eat healthy food, drink plenty of water, get yourself into a routine and exercise every day (even if it’s just walking a few laps around the block). It’s amazing how much these things will help reset your body and mind.
On the flip side, avoid alcohol and drugs to help you cope. Trying to dull the pain this way can lead to more problems down the road. If you feel like you’re slipping into destructive patterns, reach out to others. You don’t need to tackle this alone.
Seek further support
Our family and friends can be wonderful social supports — and great distractions — but if you have any legal, financial or medical questions, speak to appropriate professionals.
If you’re worried your grief, sadness or anger is not easing over time, it’s helpful to discuss your emotional state with your doctor. They may not prescribe you anything, but it’s good to keep them informed if you’re concerned about your mental health.
Separating with kids? Help them through the situation too
Separation can be extremely tough on kids as well. Assure your children that both parents love them, no matter what. You may have fallen out of love with your partner, but your children likely still adore them and might not understand why you’re separating. Let them know that they don’t have to take sides and they can still love you both equally. For more information on helping your kids get through a breakup, including tips for each age group, we have a free “What about the children” ebook available.
Need further support with getting through a relationship breakup? There’s professional help available. Relationships Australia offers a range of post-separation counselling services through our Family Relationship Centres. We also offer a range of group programs that can help you get back on track after a breakup. Find out more about our group-based Relationship Education Programs here.