Dealing with divorce | Education Support

Dealing with divorce

A breakup or divorce can be one of the most stressful and emotional experiences in life. As well as dealing with the difficulties in the here and now it can trigger other past events that are related to loss, or feelings of rejection. This can compound and exacerbate the pain.

At these times people often get highly stressed and anxious, triggering high levels of cortisol and adrenaline to be produced that are related to our fight, flight or freeze responses i.e. we tell ourselves that things are catastrophic and life threatening. (see ABC Model)

It is worth separating the ordinary unhappiness (feelings of loss and sadness, regret, or remorse) from misery (feelings equivalent to there is a tiger in the room; this is a catastrophe, I have no future, or I am isolated).  This can often be hard to do alone and so a therapist or psychologically trained professional can be helpful.

In addition to our own feelings we often need to manage the feelings of our children who can also experience catastrophic feelings or blame themselves when parent’s divorce.  Getting help from friends who have been there before or professionals can help you to help them.

These days we are moving away from divorce being such conflictual, damaging events.  With some objectivity, kindness, good communication skills and by placing children in the centre of the proceedings we can move towards of a more ‘conscious uncoupling’. It might be hard and bruising but it does not need to be a nuclear fallout if parents are able to manage it differently.  The more we can manage our emotional responses and not go into flight or fight response, the less traumatic the experience for all.

Mediation can be key in managing all the things that need to be sorted like child arrangements and care, finances, and all the other considerations that need to be decided.

Many families are able to navigate this event with kindness and compassion (even if not at all times) and this paves the way for co-parenting, less friction and perhaps even eventually friendship.

Some suggestions for navigating divorce

  • Seek help from a therapist or psychological professional or call our helpline for emotional support: 08000 562561
  • Get advice and support from friends, family and others who have similar experiences
  • Go to mediation
  • Be kind to yourself at times of intense stress.  Keep in mind that your body may think it is under mortal risk by all the changes, uncertainties and sometimes rejection that it feels, but it is not
  • Keep in mind that divorce is a process to be navigated and hold onto the idea that there is life after
  • Moving or change can feel a threat to our most basic safety so expect to feel fear and try to rationalise it e.g. you are safe and there are no tigers (see ABC Model)
  • If you are starting to feel overwhelmed and are finding it hard to cope go see your doctor and medication can be useful
  • Do things that will positively help you manage your emotions like eating well, sleep and exercise (see Eating well, Sleeping well and Physical wellbeing); not alcohol, drugs or cigarettes.  Remember that if you are drinking to reduce stress or anxiety it will increase it in the aftermath!

How we can help