Top 6 tips for dealing with separation aftermath
Dealing with the aftermath and fallout from a separation is one of the reasons I shied away from the idea for so long. What would it mean for me and for the children? What would it mean for my ex husband?
But it got to the point where the separation aftermath could not be worse than the day to day life we were living.
Below are some tips I have put together based on my own experiences;
Take it one day at a time
My initial overwhelming response for the first day and night was despair. I was utterly devastated that something we had put so much time and effort into was gone. I thought about our plans for the garden and for the house and realised it was over and I felt completely lost and at sea. Even though this is what I had wanted for a very long time and it was me who had left, when it finally came down to it I was distraught.
One thing I really struggled with was looking into the future. All the plans we had made for our life and for ourselves, the house, the kids were all gone. I no longer had any idea what my future looked like. How would we split our finances, would we have to sell the house, would this affect the children’s school, how would we split the children’s time? I didn’t have the answers to any of these questions and that made me feel like I was in a never ending spiral..
After the initial despair and having had a little bit of time to think I started to feel relief. What had initially caused so much pain ultimately led to feelings of relief. That I was free of the hurt, the constant arguing and abuse, that I no longer had to answer to him or to be moody, mopey, withdrawn, that my life was mine again, that I didn’t have to see him or feel the constant dread waiting for an argument to erupt.
I didn’t think about the future for a long time, other than what was happening that evening, that weekend, were the girls happy. I was just getting through each day. Then gradually over time I started to think about bigger things such as sorting the finances, changing life insurance and wills, making our separation official. But I took these slowly, one at a time to make sure they were manageable.
Embrace all of the emotions
Separating from your partner will make you feel a whole host of emotions, some good but probably a lot of them bad. I tried to ignore them and push them away but in the end I decided I had to acknowledge them and embrace them before I could start to process them and begin the lengthy process of moving on.
The biggest emotion I felt was guilt. There were days where this literally crippled me. I would have to just lie on the floor in a ball and wait for it to pass. I’m ashamed to say I did this in front of the children. It would hit me again and again out of nowhere. What have I done, is this the right thing for me and my children, what damage have I done to me, him and them, I’ve ripped our lives apart. The only thing that kept me going was, despite questioning myself, I knew I’d done the right thing. I couldn’t carry on that way and I knew it would never get better. I knew the kids couldn’t be raised in that environment. It was a truly awful time but gradually it did start to get better. The guilt is still there even now, 3 years later but it rears its head only very occasionally now.
Remember the children
Whilst it may be tempting to drown in your own emotions, remember the children. Depending on their age and understanding, they will also be experiencing a lot of difficult emotions.
My oldest was just short of 4 and my youngest was 18 months old. The 18 month old had no understanding to my knowledge and she was very attached to me anyway. Her struggles came a little later as she got older. My 3 year old was very attached to her dad and definitely struggled more.
The first year of the separation aftermath was very long. I had also started a new job with a very difficult manager and I still don’t know how I got through that year as a single mother with very unsettled children, a bullying work environment and dealing with a myriad of emotions plus regular blow outs with my ex husband.
My oldest child was extremely unsettled. She wanted to know where her dad had gone, why he hadn’t come back. She would kick me, hit me, throw things at me, tell me she hated me, that she wanted daddy. This was pretty relentless. All I could do was to let her have those meltdowns as an outlet for her feelings. An outlet for the feelings she didn’t understand. In the space of 18 months she’d moved to a new city, moved home twice, changed nursery 3 times, gone through lockdown, had a new sibling, and lost her dad.
All I could do was reassure her, cuddle her when she let me and ensure she still had plenty of contact with her dad until we sorted an official schedule.
Maintain your day to day as far as you can
Again it is tempting to just stay in bed and let yourself be carried away in a storm of emotions.
In the immediate separation aftermath, I found it almost too much to bear and just wanted the days to end so I could find oblivion in sleep. As soon as my daughters were asleep I went to bed. I slept as much as I could. I see now this wasn’t healthy but with everything going on I felt permanently exhausted. I stopped listening to music, watching TV, engaging with anything.
But I eventually found comfort in going through the mundane tasks of day to day life. I had to go to work, I had to eat (after a fashion), I had to look after the girls, I had to keep the house in order, I had to pay bills. Gradually the days passed and I found myself in a new routine of my own making which provided me with reassurance and confidence in myself.
Seek support from as many places as you can.
Whether that’s friends or family or single parent forums or divorce/separation groups.
I was very very lucky to have moved from quite a long away from my family to right near them 18 months before we separated. I had siblings and parents nearby. My parents in particular were a great help, due to the fact, in large part, that they were happy I’d finally left him. They helped me with childcare and I saw them a lot over that first year. I couldn’t have done it without them. This did also bring its own challenges as everyone has opinions and advice but ultimately only you can decide what is right for you.
Try and avoid custody battles in the separation aftermath
Whilst I appreciate this isn’t always possible, I have seen first hand the damage of long drawn out custody battles, of parents not speaking in front of their child/ren, of breakups full of vitriol and hatred, of children being used as a weapon and it’s soul destroying and devastating in the impact and effect on both parents and on the child. Not to mention the huge financial burden.
I have avoided court with my ex husband and we now have a childcare arrangement we are both happy with and we have an amicable relationship. If you can agree a childcare split quite early on which you both agree with and if you can establish a working relationship between yourselves for the sake of and in front of the children then I strongly recommend this approach. It also makes things much easier logistically if things come up and you need to swap a weekend or for school projects, parties etc.
These are some of my suggestions based on my own experiences and where young children are involved. This is not gospel or an exhaustive list!