How to cope with separation (even if you’re the one who ended things)

Coping with separationSeparation sucks. It’s messy, hurtful, shaming and ugly. Throw in some kids and it’s a recipe for coming out of the oven utterly deflated like a souffle gone wrong.

How on earth do you cope? Will you cope?? One of our contributors shares some of her experiences with it (and these are just a few…) but what about you? Share your stuff xxx

You will lose your self-confidence (if you had any to begin with)

Yes. Even if you’re the one who ended things, you’ll find yourself in situations that you would previously have handled with confidence and a smile and you’ll discover that for some reason you feel like an outsider. Everything you once thought you were has gone, and you’re shedding your old identity ready to be replaced with a new one. The problem is, you don’t know what that identity is yet. It’s ok. It will take a long time for the old you, or the new you, to appear. Don’t shy away from doing things you worry will “expose” you – just be aware that when you do, and you feel a bit shit, it’s perfectly normal. You’re just changing, and that can be quite uncomfortable. You’ll probably find that you desperately want to shop more to replace the void or give you that false sense of confidence – go for it, just don’t go crazy…

The tears will come…in odd ways

Again, you might have been the one to call things a day but that doesn’t mean you’re not sad about all the things that could have been or that you were so looking forward to that never happened. You’ll cry because you’re scared of the future, and if you were treated badly you’ll cry because you’re disappointed in yourself for letting it happen. You’re normal. Trust me. One moment you’ll be feeling elated at the possibility of being able to be happy again, the next you’ll be sobbing in the bath while you punish yourself for being a failure. Whatever way they decide to come out, let them come. It’s part of the grieving process and ignoring it will just push all of your feelings further down. Now is not the time for a stiff upper lip – now is the time for lying in bed all day watching YouTube videos and crying into your hot chocolate.

You’ll be angry

It’s a safe bet that there’ll be a healthy dose of anger thrown in there – just to keep you emotionally exhausted (because you’re not suffering enough already…). This was something that I had spent years and years supressing, never rocking the boat because I didn’t want to cause an argument, despite the fact that I was so angry inside at some of the things that had happened. When it started to come out, I was quite shocked. I didn’t know what to do with my anger after so many years of letting it build into resentment and swallowing it. But I decided to go with it. A lot of what came out was “F*** this”, “F*** that”, and a lot of other sweary words but there were a few times where I felt so angry I had to make contact with something. My first “adventure” into dealing with my physical anger was kicking my slippers around in the hall. I know. Rock. And. Roll. But I slowly built up to shaking my washing vigorously, punching pillows, and generally making contact with things that wouldn’t hurt me or that I couldn’t damage. Just go with it.

You’ll feel an overwhelming return of love towards your children

My general unhappiness for such a long time had emerged as a real tiredness of having to deal with so much and then also deal with my children. Children are hard work at the best of times, but when you’re feeling miserable inside it makes the job twofold. An absolute chore. All of a sudden, once I’d made the decision that things had to end with my husband I felt this overwhelming return of love towards my children. The fog had gone and I was able to deal with whatever (ok, not everything…) my children threw at me calmly and with consideration. Of course, this made me feel horrendously guilty that I’d not been the best mum towards them for a long time but then I remembered that I was doing the best job I could at the time, and that’s all anyone can ask of themselves when they’re going through tough times. This may or may not happen to you, I suspect that if you’re not the one who ended things then you may well feel very differently about this aspect. I’d be interested to hear what other people think here.

You might lose some friends

Consider this bit as a real cleansing of your old life. There will be, sadly, some people who surprise you with their inability to cope with the fact that your life is changing. It’s entirely their shit, get rid of them and don’t let them drag you down. Separating has a way of sorting your good friends from the fair-weather ones – some won’t bother to check in with you and ask how you are after you tell them, others will (probably) decide they can’t speak to you because they’re too uncomfortable being friends with you and your ex, and others will just insist on telling you how you should be dealing with things “Don’t do this”, “Do that” which is no help to anyone when you’re going through something like a separation. I found a lovely quote recently which says; “Friends show their love in times of trouble, not in happiness.” (Euripides) Live by that and you’ll have all the friends you’ll ever need.

There’ll be days when you’re capable of nothing

I’m fortunate that I have a very flexible job, so when those days came I could crawl into bed and just give in. If you’re not quite so lucky, the best thing you can do is be honest with everyone around you. This is when those friends or colleagues will show you their true selves. They’ll either step up and give you all the time you need or they’ll slide off into the background and expect you to just crack on. Don’t punish yourself for thinking that you’re letting people down – giving in does not mean you’re defeated. It simply means your body has had enough and you need to listen to it. On the plus side for me, it meant that for the first time in years I was actually looking out for myself first and not anybody else. On the down side it meant that I would quite often find myself searching for things I’d misplaced because my brain was clearly somewhere else. I’m still trying to find my lip balm.

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