This is the second in our series of blogs focusing on your well being as part of your separation. The first blog looked at knowing your stress points. In that blog we explained that this can be hard both in terms of knowing your stress points and in terms of ensuring that anyone pressing on those points doesn’t cause you to react from a place of fear. The fact is that divorce and separation are one of the most stressful life events anyone can go through and there is no shame at all in needing a little extra help at a tough time in your life.
According to the charity Mind 1 in 4 people in the UK will experience some form of mental health problem during the course of any year. Mental Health problems encompass anxiety, depression, phobias, OCD, panic disorders, PTSD as well as more serious long term conditions like bipolar disorder, psychotic and personality disorders. Everyone has a limit as to what they can personally cope with and that limit is different for everyone, but it is understandable that such a stressful life event like a separation can push us to that limit. This is particularly the case where you are dealing with other big issues at the time of the separation e.g a loss, illness of a close friend or family member or a redundancy.
If you feel you’re struggling then talking to your GP can be a good first step. They can discuss options with you to help support you. This may include some medication but it can also include other support services or therapeutic support like seeing a counsellor or having CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy – this can be helpful in treating anxiety as well as other illnesses). Seeing your GP is always confidential and nothing will turn on admitting that you are finding things hard right now. Your GP is not suddenly going to start telling your employer or your child’s teacher that you’re struggling to cope. This can be a fear that some people have even though mental health issues are as common to a GP as dealing with viruses.
Emotional issues are not the only thing that people can struggle with as part of a separation. Sometimes there can be fears around feeling under confident with managing money and financial issues – especially if you have never really dealt with this because your ex partner did all that. You may therefore need some professional support to understand what your financial position is and what would be best for you financially going forwards.
Here at LKW Family Mediation we are aware that there are a huge number of different professionals who work with couples and individuals that are going through a separation. In our initial meetings we always ask whether there is any further support someone feels that they could do with even if they’re not sure whether it exists or what it is. Even if you’re not a client of ours we’re always happy to have a chat to see if we can point you in the direction of help that may support you at this difficult time. You can always get in touch and ask.
If you’re supporting someone who is going through a separation then here are our top 5 tips to be as good a support as you can be:
1. Encourage the person to get extra support if you can see that they’re struggling. Reassure them that there is no shame in needing extra support at this challenging time. Their GP can often be a useful first port of call.
2. You can support someone going through a separation without running down their ex partner. This is not usually helpful. Firstly, because it can cause difficulties for any children involved. Seeing friends and family running down the other parent can cause them to feel very conflicted over whether it’s OK for them to have a relationship with both their parents going forward. Please don’t think they can’t hear you because you’re in a different room. Children know when things are up and they listen even when you think they’re not. Secondly, no one can change what has happened up until this point and separation can be an ugly time in people’s lives. People say and do things that are not nice. The best support you can give is to encourage a focus on the future and how things will be moving forward.
3. It can seem really bleak focusing on a future that’s very different to what you had envisaged. Supporting someone to visualize what this might look like can be really empowering. They can make decisions about what their life will look like. This might start with really small details (I’m going to wash up in the morning rather than at night when I’m tired, I will arrange the cupboards how I like, I’m finally going to make time for that hobby I’ve always wanted to try…….) but can work up to bigger details.
4. Practical help can be so useful at this difficult time. You can provide a few meals for when they don’t feel like cooking. You could help them with gathering together their paperwork that’s needed – the admin involved in a separation can be overwhelming for those not good with paperwork. Or offering to look after children for an hour or two so they can meet with their lawyer, or just go and let off steam somewhere can be a huge support.
5. Look after yourself! Supporting someone in a difficult place can also take it’s toll on you and you are no support if you find yourself struggling too. Make sure you look after yourself and have clear boundaries on what support you will give and what you can’t.
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To watch the Youtube video talking about this blog post in more detail click on the video below: