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Coping with a Breakup or DivorceBy Joanna Kleovoulou, Clinical Psychologist

With almost 50% of all marriages ending in divorce, most of us have been affected directly or indirectly by this stressful life event. When a marriage or significant relationship ends, it can turn your entire world upside down and trigger painful feelings. A divorce or break-up represents the loss, not just of the relationship, but also of shared dreams, promises and the support whether financial or emotional. Every aspect of your life is disrupted – your daily routine, your home life, responsibilities, relationships with family and friends, and even your identity. A break-up brings anxieties about the future, triggers acute stress and feelings disappointment or betrayal. Recovering from a break-up or divorce is difficult. However, it is vital to keep reassuring yourself that you can move on. Healing is a process and takes time, so be patient. There are many things you can do to get through this difficult time.

  • Take care of yourself: Divorce is a highly stressful, life-changing event. It is more important than ever to take care of yourself. The strain and turmoil of a major break-up can leave you psychologically and physically vulnerable. Get plenty of rest, minimise stress, and reduce your workload if you can. Go for a walk, listen to music you enjoy, take a hot bath, get a massage or appreciate a warm cup of tea.
  • Acknowledge that it is OK to have different feelings: It’s normal to feel intense anger, anxiety, sadness and frustration. While these emotions will often be painful, trying to suppress or ignore them will only extend the grieving process. Accept that reactions like these will lessen over time.
  • Give yourself time: Give yourself permission to feel and to function at a less than optimal level for some time. Take time to heal and re-energise.
  • Reach out to others: Share your feelings with friends and family to help you get through this time. Isolating yourself can increase your stress levels, reduce your focus, and get in the way of your functioning at work, relationships, and physical health. Choose wisely whom you would like to reach out to. Surround yourself with people who are trustworthy, positive, and honest and who will take time to listen to you. If you are concerned about being judged, criticised or that you need a trusting space, seek professional help from a psychologist.
  • Allow yourself to grieve: The pain of grief is exactly what you need to help you let go of the old relationship and move forward. Remind yourself that this grief will not last forever.
  • Do not get stuck: You will feel liberated when you express your feelings, but do not get preoccupied on negative feelings for very long. Getting stuck in hurtful feelings like anger, blame and resentment will rob you of vital energy and prevent you from moving forward.
  • Explore new interests. Use the opportunity to explore new interests and activities. Pursue new activities to give you a chance to enjoy life too rather than dwell on the past. If you have lost your social network with the divorce, make an effort to meet new people.
  • Make time to self-reflect: Consider this phase a time-out, a time to grow. To accept a break-up fully and move forward, you need to understand what happened and acknowledge the part you played. It is important to understand the choices you made affected the relationship. Learn from your mistakes so that you do not repeat them in the next relationship. Make time to learn more about yourself, how you relate to others, and the issues you focus on so you can emerge as a stronger you.
  • Be aware of depression: Grief can paralyse you, but after some time sadness begins to lift. However, if you do not feel any forward momentum or your mood lifting, you may be suffering from clinical depression. Depression leaves you feeling hopeless about your future, disinterested in life and your activities, sad and at times suicidal.
  • Avoid alcohol and drugs: When you are in the midst of a break-up, you may do anything to relieve your pain. Using alcohol, drugs as an escape is destructive, so it is important to find healthier ways to cope.
  • Get outside help: Access a psychologist to help you cope and work through your loss in a safe, confidential and non-judging space. Your psychologist will address important issues such as living arrangements, financial obligations and parenting responsibilities. Psychotherapy can help give you a rational perspective and arm you with the necessary skills to cope. If you are struggling to get through your break-up or your divorce, and your child has been affected, contact PsychMatters on info@psychmatters.co.za or 011-4503576 to book a consultation to help empower you and assist you to navigate through the choppy waters of the divorce process.

If you are struggling to deal with your divorce, or you are stuck in pain, anger and bitterness? Book your spot on this workshop: Dealing with divorce, mastering the experience.

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