Tuesday, 1 July 2014

My four step approach to coping with separation and divorce

When you have been helping people going through divorce as long as I have, over 29 years (sorry that figure just made me feel old!), then you start to think about how different people recover from the pain of divorce and separation quicker than other people.

Over time, I have distilled this down to four factors. Sure there are others, but I see these four as being vital.

Factor 1: have a support network

I can't emphasise how important this is. If you are going through the pain of separation and divorce, it is vital in my view to have friends and family to whom you can talk and get things off your chest. someone to bounce ideas off. To give you support at those moments when you might otherwise do something silly. Who aren't too judgmental, but have good, calm heads on their shoulders. Support from a support network such as this is vital, and often the most important factor in getting through the pain of divorce and separation in one piece.

Factor 2: see a counsellor

Some of my clients don't get this, but I'll make it clear here: much as I am great at giving advice, I am a lawyer, not a counsellor. Counsellors are trained in the social sciences, and hopefully can listen well, and respond to you in positive ways. When your friends and family have had enough, or more than enough of supporting you through one disaster or another, please oh please get the support of someone who is paid to listen to you and to help you. Someone who will give you trained and dispassionate advice, and will charge you a lot less than a lawyer!

Factor 3: have a positive attitude to life

When the heavens open up, and lighting and thunder abounds, you fell betrayed by your ex, and cannot believe the latest outrage in his Facebook post, or in her solicitor's letter, or in his girlfriend's affidavit, or in his text message, it's easy to get angry. If anger is not dissipated quickly, it accumulates, and festers, and eventually turns into bitterness- driving you into a sour, shrivelled human being, who drives friends and family away (hence no support network except from other bitter people) and can have a devastating impact on your kids. No matter how hard it may seem, and ensuring that you take proper stock of your situation and do not live in a fool's paradise, have a positive attitude to life. You will find that by doing so that you will get through the most trying of circumstances quicker and in better shape than if you remain angry and bitter.

I remember many years ago acting for a female client who came to me under the most desperate circumstances. Police had rescued her from the farm in which she lived with her husband- before he might have killed her.

My client, I'll call her Grace, then went on to Centrelink benefits, lived in an outer suburb with no car, and virtually no public transport, and eventually in the most trying of circumstances managed to get a menial job. On top of everything else, when she split from her husband, Grace was shunned from her church, because she dared to split from her husband- no matter that he had beaten her, and threatened to kill her while armed with a gun.

To get to and from work everyday required gargantuan effort- and on top of that she had the Family Court fight from hell. It was a typical knock down, drag out matter, where Grace's husband tried to use every trick in the book to make sure that Grace did not get a cent. Think Josef Stalin's scorched earth policy and you've got the general idea. Grace after all that did get paid.

In the midst of this fight, I asked Grace how she was going. What I expected to hear was- terrible, awful, everything is bad, I'm the victim, etc, etc. Imagine my surprise when Grace said life could not be better. Why, said I? This doesn't make sense. Grace had a job, and all the feeling of socialising and pride that came from that. She found new fun- including water skiing- not bad for a woman in her 50's. Grace found new friends. Life had turned the corner- she could not have been happier. On top of everything else, Grace's mystery kidney complaint, which could not be cured, but resulted in her hospitalisation, but which doctors attributed to stress, amazingly lifted after she left her husband- and never returned.

Factor 4: get fit

Getting fit for most of us is not hard- it just requires a little time, effort and discipline. Provided you have some walking shoes it can be done for free. It sounds obvious, but exercise for someone going through the pain of separation and divorce is one of the best antidotes:

  • feeling fitter and stronger will mean that you have a more positive attitude to life
  • while exercising, you can get all those negative thoughts out of your brain, and either be able to reflect or meditate
  • while exercising, you will be absorbing more oxygen- again making you feel better
  • while exercising, your body will release endorphins- the body's natural pain killers- also giving you that euphoric feeling.


2 comments:

Summer Flies said...

Good advice. It is very important to seek counselling
and Relationships Australia can help for minimal costs. Friends tend to tell you what you want to hear and then they get sick of listening. Seeking counselling however can be painful and you have to hear the good with the bad and take responsibility for your own actions. It is very expensive using your lawyer as the counsellor!

Swift Loans said...

Good advice. Stay strong. Things change for the better with time.