When PeggySue Wells’ husband walked out on her, she looked at her six children’s faces and wondered, How did this happen? So many other questions ran through her mind. Could I ease their pain? What do I do now? Will my children be permanently damaged? Can I provide all that my family needs? Wells was able to move forward and wrote about her experience in her new book, “10 Best Decisions a Single Mom Can Make.”
She is not alone. Divorce has increased 34% during the COVID pandemic. Jann Blackstone, PsyD, founder of Bonus Families and author of, “Co-parenting Through Separation and Divorce,” says that Wells’ concerns after a separation are common. Typically, people going through a separation worry about the following:
Money concerns are related to how the money will be divided and how will spousal or child support be determined.
Social life concerns are related to possible changes in friendships or dating new people.
Child concerns are about custody and how the divorce will impact the child’s emotional health.
Emotional concerns are about the person’s emotional well-being and possible depression or anxiety who is going through the separation.
Katherine Woodward Thomas, M.A., MFT, a licensed marriage and family therapist and author of “Conscious Uncoupling: 5 Steps to Living Happily Even After” says, “One of the biggest problems is that we’re not really rational and we tend to be consumed with really big feelings that can often distort our perspective.” She explains that some common emotions people experience are anger, resentment, pain and guilt.
So how can you cope with these issues? The experts offer the following recommendations to help you prepare:
Connect with Your Emotions
Woodward Thomas explains that it is important to get a handle on your emotions since you will need to make important rational decisions regarding your finances and if you have children – their custody. If your emotions are influencing these decisions often that is when people become involved in expensive and contentious legal battles. She says, “The first thing that you want to do is to find a way to connect with those feelings, and then even use them as fuel for positive change in some ways.”
Identify Your Feelings
Going through a separation is often a difficult situation for everyone involved. Woodward Thomas says, “They are our home and when we lose them, it’s quite shocking and traumatic. Even if we were the ones who’s leaving, so we kind of saw it coming and knew it was gonna happen, it’s still quite a shock and a trauma.”
She explains that the first step to healing is to identify your feelings. “You should ask yourself, ‘What am I feeling?’ and then you give the feelings a name. Because the moment you give the feeling a name, you have it, it does not have you,” she says.
Woodward Thomas explains that when you identify one emotion at a time, you start to feel more in your own body. “You become capable of making rational decisions and not just knee-jerk reactive decisions that could then end up hurting you in the long run,” she says.
Everyone has different time frames of how long it will take them to heal. “Some are ready to move on in a year, it may take others two or more years, but be kind to yourself as you go through the process,” says Blackstone.
Figure out Support Systems
Woodward Thomas suggest asking people that you trust to be supportive and positive. “When you’re enrolling your friends to support you, it’s not about villainizing your partner, it’s about helping you to grow, and helping you to see a positive future on the other side,” she says.
Blackstone also stresses the importance a support system. “If you can afford it, find a counselor who specializes in break-up recovery. This may include a conventional therapist or a counselor through your church or synagogue, but find someone who can be an unbiased third party to help you do the work necessary to forgive and move on,” she says.
If you are unable to find a counselor Blackstone recommends looking for an online community like Bonus Families, which offers a place for you to ask questions and get support from other members.
Focus on Opportunities
Blackstone explains that most people who break-up have experienced some sort of trauma prior to the break-up, whether it is domestic violence, drug addiction, an affair, or simply not getting along and constant arguing.
“That trauma often slows down when there is a separation and children have said that their day-to-day life is no longer filled with constant fighting and then they are able to relax,” she says.
Woodward Thomas says that people can view their separation as an opportunity. “I think it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity to really wake up out of the trance of your old beliefs,” she says.