Looking after number one: emotional wellbeing after separation

A separation can be one of the most stressful, distressing and disorienting experiences in life.

There are new things to think about, different decisions to make, and steps that have to be taken alone, which can be daunting after years of sharing that burden with someone else.

Separation is one of those traumatic events that can knock you for six – some people will cope well and recover quickly, but others will find it more difficult to move on and will struggle emotionally.

A life-changing event such as divorce or separation can cause mental, as well as physical, health problems, such as stress, anxiety, depression, panic attacks. This can have a ripple effect and impact on your ability to sleep, which has knock-on impacts such as exhaustion and an inability to focus.

Separation can be a lonely time, and coming to terms with the breakdown of a relationship, the reasons behind that, and the prospect of facing a new life alone, can be too much for some. Today is World Suicide Prevention Day and sadly, data from the Office for National Statistics has highlighted the groups most at risk of deciding to end their lives includes divorced people, and particularly men.   The Samaritans have provided insight into the report, noting that the factors that put men in particular at risk include post-separation social expectations and isolation, and being cut off from their support networks, including family and friends.   Incredibly, Samaritans volunteers had contact with more than 770,000 people who expressed suicidal feelings in the same year.

For those feeling overwhelmed by the new situation they find themselves in, it is important to seek help. There are plenty of individuals and organisations that can provide support tailored to your circumstances.

Although mental health issues have long been a taboo subject, more and more people in the media spotlight are opening up about their experiences, and the message that it is normal and acceptable to open up and speak about your own mental wellbeing is fast spreading.

Speak to a friend or relative and focus on the people that are there for you. If there are things that you cannot talk about with those close to you, seek independent support, such as a therapist, or approach your GP for help.  Ensure that you take time to eat properly, exercise and that you get enough sleep.

Having the right legal team supporting you is another important factor. Be honest about your situation, your feelings and your state of mind. A good lawyer will keep your priorities, including your health and wellbeing, and your children, at the heart of their advice.  They can point you in the right direction for the support that will benefit your family and help to ensure that the next steps, such as formalising your separation, or dividing your finances, progress at the right pace for you.

Don’t underestimate the impact that separation can have on your children and their sense of wellbeing too. Children can be surprisingly resilient but they can be impacted by a separation, no matter how amicable you keep matters, or how much you ensure they are keep out of it. Be open and make sure that you both communicate a joint message. Encourage children to talk about their feelings and don’t be afraid to involve a neutral, professionally-trained party such as a therapist, to help your children, and family as a whole, work through the new situation they find themselves in.

If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts, call Samaritans on 116 123.  For other support and advice, contact your GP or ask your lawyer for recommendations of therapists and other sources of support.


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