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After Separation: How to get to the next stage?

Separation can affect our emotional well-being. It is a major life crisis that affects the way we feel, think, and act. Can you recognise some of the following situations? • Ongoing conflict with your ex-partner. • Long and drawn-out dealings with the legal system. • More or less parental responsibility. • Living apart from your […]

After Separation: How to get to the next stage?

After Separation: How to get to the next stage?

Separation can affect our emotional well-being. It is a major life crisis that affects the way we feel, think, and act.

Can you recognise some of the following situations?

• Ongoing conflict with your ex-partner.
• Long and drawn-out dealings with the legal system.
• More or less parental responsibility.
• Living apart from your children.
• Unemployment.
• Lack of money.
• Guilt in thinking you have ‘failed’ in maintaining a successful relationship.
• Changes and uncertainties about parental boundaries between you and your ex-partner.
• Your children’s reactions.
• Loss of home, friends, and dreams.

SEPARATION AND FEELINGS

Looking after your feelings and emotions is as important as taking care of your body. Most of us take care of our physical health far better than our feelings.

The separation roller coaster ride — stay buckled and keep your head!

The emotional impact of separation can be intense — like a roller coaster ride that you didn’t buy a ticket for. The emotions you feel can come and go. Separation can bring with it lots of highs and lows. You might feel these things separately or you could have a mixture of feelings at any one time.

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Separation feelings

Every person who is involved in separation experiences it differently.
The one who is ‘left’ may have different feelings to the one who did the ‘leaving’ or to those who mutually agree to end the relationship.

  1. ANGER: Feelings of resentment, Thoughts, are confused, and Behaviour is unpredictable.
  2. SHOCK AND DENIAL: Feelings of fear, Thoughts are mixed up, Behaviour is frozen
  3. DEPRESSION/ ISOLATION: Feelings of helplessness, Thoughts are jumbled, Behaviour is unwilling
  4. ACCEPTANCE: Feelings of resolve, Thoughts are practical, Behaviour is energetic
  5. CHANGE: Feelings of empowerment, Thoughts are focused, Behaviour is productive

Some feelings connected with separation will not appear until later on and can affect people differently at various times. New feelings can arise many months or years after the time of separation.

Signs

There are certain signs that you should be aware of after separation that could mean you need to pay attention.

Do-It-Yourself tips for managing signs

Have healthier thoughts

• Write things down instead of trying to remember them.
• Pick a place and time to do your worrying. Make it the same place and time. Spend 30 minutes thinking about your concerns and focus on what is really happening — not what might happen.
• Know your limitations and let others know them too.

Balance your moods

  1. Practice relaxation to reduce the impact of frustrating situations:
  • Breathe in slowly, fill up your lungs and try to make your stomach rise,
  • Hold your breath for a few seconds, and
  • Breathe out slowly; let your stomach go back down.

      2. When irritated find a quiet spot (even if it’s in the loo) and take the time to sit still.

      3. Let yourself cry if you need to.

Be positive

• If feeling rejected — look at what are the triggers (for example a song or a special place) and do something different.
• If feeling guilty — work out whose expectations you are trying to meet. Check if these expectations are really true and negotiate them if you can’t meet them.
• If you are afraid of the future try to focus on the things you can change now.
• If feeling isolated — consider joining a social group such as sports, hobbies or sole parents support group.
• Try positive self-talk, self-praise, and self-encouragement.

Good communication

Check the way you react to the other person — 60% of your message is sent through your body language e.g. rolling of your eyes in frustration or arms crossed in anger.
• Tell friends what you need to maintain their friendship. When together, agree not to discuss or criticise the other person involved in the separation.
• If an argument starts, STOP and think — is this helping or making things worse? Agree to meet later after you have had time to consider the options.
• Write your frustrations and anger down on paper and throw them away.
• Keep things business-like with the other parent, and don’t get into personal issues. Stick to agreed topics.

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Look after your body

• If your appetite has reduced, eat small portions more often of food that you particularly like.
• When you feel and look good, people respond more positively to you.
• If you have trouble sleeping try to establish a pre-sleep routine, e.g. washing your face and cleaning your teeth, having a warm drink, or listening to soft music.
• Try to slowly cut down on stimulants like caffeine, alcohol, and cigarettes.
• Stretch. Being tense affects your muscles and breathing. Try rolling your shoulders up and back then relax. Inhale deeply as you roll up and exhale as you relax. Repeat this a few times.

Pressures

As a separated parent, surviving day-to-day becomes your priority. You have to deal with a number of new and sometimes competing tasks.

What pressures are you feeling following your separation?

Do-It-Yourself tips for managing pressures.

Dealing with government departments

• Ask for the name of the person that you are dealing with for future reference.
• Keep copies of documents provided to each department (record the date, person, and section they are sent to).

Getting time off work

• Speak to your superiors and colleagues, and explain your situation. Suggest a possible compromise — Friday afternoons off for an extra 35 minutes a day. Set a period of time for this then review it.
• Know your limitations and let others know them too. Smaller social network
• Consider volunteering where the work is done on a group basis e.g. fire rescue service, life-saving, your child’s school Parents and Friends network. Learning to cook
• Ask a friend to teach you to cook in exchange for doing some handy work, mowing their lawn, babysitting, or helping with some other project they might have on.
• Borrow a book from the library on cooking basic meals.

Maintaining the car

• Look on the web for information on your brand of car.
Get road service membership such as NRMA, RACV, etc for when you lock your keys in the car, have a flat tire, your battery suddenly goes dead, or your car breaks down in an inconvenient location.
• Take a course in car maintenance.

Shopping for groceries

• Look on the web for home shopping grocery sites such as Coles or Woolworths. Browse through each section and make a list of what you need — use this as a prompter each time you shop. It also gives you an idea of the costs involved.
• Generic food brands are often cheaper and just as good as the label brands.

Less money

• Contact your local utility service company to arrange installment payments for your electricity, telephone, insurance, rates, etc.
• Join a group that buys groceries in bulk — this can be cheaper. These are usually co-ops or local community groups.

Managing relationships

• Ensure that the important people in your children’s lives are invited to school plays, religious ceremonies, music recitals, sports events, etc.

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Understanding your children’s routine

• Have a calendar or notebook with important dates highlighted, e.g. sports carnival, swimming carnival, parent reading at school, doctors appointments, weekend sports locations, etc. A comprehensive list is provided in Me and My Kids on page 35. To order a copy, see the inside cover of this book.

Organising care for the kids

• Talk to your child’s school and see what school care programs you can access e.g. before and after-school care, and holiday programs.
• Place a notice for parents in the school newsletter requesting child minding after school. In return, offer something that you can do for the other parent.
• Enquire with your local community service provider about available child care programs.

If you need advice on these and any other family law issues please get in touch with one of our family lawyers in either our Brisbane or Gold Coast office on 1800 217 217

What happens to assets such as the family home during separation and divorce?