It is not uncommon for separation and divorce to be a life shattering experience, so if you feel that way, you are not alone. Everything that you care about, including the relationship with your children, your financial status, your ability to function at work and your health can be put at risk through prolonged proceedings.
Try to think of ways to help yourself continue to be able to function under these extremely difficult circumstances. Try to do things that you know are good for you and stay healthy. This will help your children, because they need you to be well. If you feel sad and angry, which is totally normal, try to find ways to deal with this. Find people you can talk to or ways to express your anger and sadness. Maybe going to the gym will help, but do whatever will help you.
One of the most important things to realise is that we are here for you. We have a helpline which you can call on 0300 0330 363 (9am - 10pm Monday to Friday, 10am - 3pm at weekends), and we have branch meetings across the country.
For online support you can sign up to FNF's online forum, open to our members. You can share your story, hear others and receive support and advice from our other members. For more information about the online forum and the many other benefits of FNF membership please click here.
You can also access DSG's local counselling support groups, provided by trained psychotherapists, on 0844 800 9098 www.divorcesupportgroup.co.uk.
If there is something you don’t understand please call the National Helpline on 0300 0300 363.
We are keen to hear from you about how you cope, which might help others in the future. If you would like to add to this page, if you have found a website of real help, or you have read a book which you would like others to enjoy, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Health and mental well-being
Anxiety and low mood
Anxiety and low mood are common after family breakups. This is distressing but normal and will settle with adjusting to the new situation. Having said that, times of divorce or separation are bound to have an impact on your emotional and mental well-being.
In order for you to keep on going and because your children need you to be there for them, do find a source of help, sooner rather than later.
The first port of call is your GP. They will be able to offer you support with regards to the emotional impact of separation and divorce. They can make an assessment if you require a referral for counselling or to the well-being team. They may also advise taking a course of medication should this be required.
Do try to find understanding sources of support - family, friends or other people within FNF, who will help you through the journey ahead. If you require professional support it is important that you get it. Professionals are obliged to maintain confidentiality in a way that other people might not.
“After I split up with my girlfriend, I felt jittery and I suffered with a lack of confidence”
“I was isolated and I couldn’t sleep”
If you are feeling anxious or low your GP can help, or click here for NHS Direct.
www.counselling-directory.org.uk - the purpose of the site is ultimately to provide the UK with a huge counselling support network, enabling those in distress to find a counsellor close to them and appropriate for their needs. This is a free, confidential service that will hopefully encourage those in distress to seek help.
Drugs & Alcohol
Looking after yourself
After a family break-up, it can be tempting to stop looking after yourself, and to turn to alcohol or drugs. But they do have negative effects.
“I started drinking bottles of wine a night”
“Cannabis was the only thing that would get me to sleep”
If you are suffering with these problems it is a good idea to go and speak to your GP.
Meal times can be especially painful, but it’s always important to eat well and drink a lot of water.
“Meal times are the hardest”
Easy and healthy food recipes
Try to fit some exercise into your day as this may help you too. It may be the last thing on your mind but is worth trying.
“I felt going to the gym helped, it cleared my mind”
After divorce and separation you can often feel wary of starting relationships with new people. There are no rules as to when you should or should not start a new relationship. Sometimes new relationships can have an impact on your parenting arrangements and your children might feel upset by this new development. Remember to be sensitive to the fact that children might take some time to get used to a new person in your life, but you should not feel guilty for this and try and make sure you reassure them that you love them just the same. It is crucial to spend some special parent time alone with your children.
If you are a member of FNF you can receive some good feedback from other members on our forum or through our local contact list. Other people have gone through the same situations as you – it really is good to talk.
After separation and divorce your relationships with family members and friends can change. Some for the better with renewed bonds, but some relationships can be tested. Sometimes you can feel that nobody understands how bad it is. If you are feeling this way please pick up the phone to our helpline, go to a branch meeting or get on our members forum.
What you are feeling is normal, and many others have felt the same way. You may feel alone, but talking to others may reassure you that you are not alone and FNF is here to support you.
What can I do?
Depending on your own resilience it can sometimes take as long as a couple of years, or more, before any change starts to become your new ‘normal’.
Nevertheless, what do you do in the meantime? When we focus on personal emotional problems time has a habit of slowing down. What will be a great help is to try and put some structure into your days, even when it may not be necessary. Try planning for the next day the night before, but don’t beat yourself up if it doesn’t go to plan. Try and recognise the small achievements. The point is: at least you tried to have a structure to your day, which may help it flow more easily.
Some people find that volunteering helps bring structure to their week, to volunteer with FNF call 0300 0300 110 or e-mail email@example.com.
You could also contact your local CVS for more information about voluntary groups in your area.
Are you struggling?
Separation and divorce can also have an effect on your work, productivity and your performance can sometimes slump. Understandably, as your thoughts are else where. Some of our members have not been able to continue working, but some have thrown themselves into their work. There is no one size that fits all. Try and speak to your employer. Sometimes employers can be very understanding, they might have even gone through it themselves. Or sometimes, they are not so sympathetic. This can depend on the size of the company you work, for example. People who are self-employed often find it particularly difficult.
Try and speak to somebody if you are struggling to cope and if you can let your employer know what is going on. If you are experiencing difficulties with your employer, please get in touch with our helpline 0300 0330 363.
It might also help to read our time management section and our financial problems section.
When someone has suffered trauma of any sort, it is advisable to share these feelings with someone who is able to help. Often your doctor will have a CPN (Community Psychiatric Nurse) attached to their practice who can help even if you don’t want anti-depressants. Many therapists or counsellors in private practice can help but it is important you check their qualifications and most importantly that you feel comfortable with them.
Talking to your children
Do you find it difficult to talk to your children?
It can be difficult to know what to say to your children based on their age and their own grasp of the situation. Rather than focus on talking to them you could try asking them if they have any questions they want answering. Letting them talk will give you a greater understanding of what they feel which will help you respond to their needs. Helping them cope will also help you cope. If they don’t feel comfortable asking questions, you can try “what do you think about…?” “How do you feel about?” “What would you like?”
Often children can feel anger, upset, confusion and sadness and you may struggle with how best to talk to your child or deal with their behaviour. Their feelings and needs can be expressed through their behaviour, which on the surface can just seem like they are misbehaving or being difficult. It is also worth considering that their anger may surface some years later when they approach teenage years when their body and hormones are changing and they start to develop relationships for themselves. Children can often compare their ideas of what makes a happy relationship with what they have experienced, and get angry or confused.
If you need any support call our helpline on 0300 0300 363.
Divorce and separation is expensive. If you have financial problems one excellent source of help is your local Citizens’ Advice Bureau: more details at http://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/. It is best to communicate early with any of your creditors, in an effort to reach agreement with them about a sensible and affordable way for you to repay your debt. For further advice, see the Money Advice Service.
If you are struggling with child maintenance payments visit http://www.cmoptions.org/ or call our helpline on 0300 0300 363 or contact www.nacsa.org.uk.
If you need debt advice you could visit the website of the Debt Advice Foundation
Suggested Books and Organisations
You might find these helpful
Overcoming Depression by Paul Gilbert
Overcoming Anxiety by Helen Kennerly
Overcoming Low Self Esteem by Melanie Fennell
The Mindful Way Through Depression by Mark Williams
The Road Less Travelled by M. Scott Peck