First few weeks after separation?

Feel like your world is turned upside down? You are not alone. Here is advice from fellow PSP members about how to handle the first few weeks of separation and how to make those difficult next steps a little less painful.

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The following advice was posted to The Park Slope Parents’ SDS (Separated, Divorced, and Single) Parents group. The PSP SDS group provides positive support and resources for parents dealing with issues of separation, divorce, co-parenting with a former partner, and single parenting. We have online support as well as family-friendly and adult-only night and weekend events, babysitting swaps, and more. We wish to create a space where members feel like they have a safe place to connect with others who "get it." Sign up here.

 

As the original poster writes:

"My marriage is ending. It is not my choice and the circumstances are devastating. Whereas we are both on the same page in protecting the kids and doing what is best, I am struggling to cope with day to day life. I cannot continue to call in sick to work and cry after the kids go to sleep. I need help functioning during this transition and I don't know what to do. I know I have plenty of supportive friends and family, but I am not ready to press the nuclear button yet and disclose. I am hoping that the PSP community that has survived something similar can help with the name of a therapist and any pharmaceuticals that can for this most intense time help me remain calm and composed. I have never taken anti-depressants or pain medication, but I feel that I must do something drastic to stop the constant feeling of my world crashing down in front of my eyes (even though that is in fact what is happening). I would love to wallow in self-pity for months, but the kids and others in my life need me to function at least partially. I am at a loss for how to accomplish this. Stories from this who made it past this point would be helpful too."

 

Here are PSP’s SDS members replies:

 

Help is out there:

“Sounds like you are going through an extremely sad and difficult time.   
I want to recommend that you call the 24/7/365 1-888-NYCWELL hotline.
If you prefer you can text or chat with a counselor too.   
The website is NYC Well  
The counselor will listen, provide support and help find ongoing resources to help such as a therapist.   I am glad you are reaching out.”

 

Making the leap is the hardest part:

“The period that you're going through is really really scary. I held off on splitting up for this very reason - not wanting to deal with the terrible experience of the breakup and all the things that flowed from it. Our breakup was years in coming, with slow torture between the time it was necessary and when it actually happened. Ironically after that horrible "tearing off the bandaid" part, things got a lot better fast. I'm much happier now than I was during the breakup portion of things.”

 

Surround yourself in compassion–from others and most importantly, for yourself:

“Anonymous...I don’t have any specific therapists to recommend...I sure many will give you options shortly. I did want to share with you what Some folks had said to me when I was in a similar situation And I really didn’t believe it all...things will get better and you will feel better.  Sometimes in a crisis it doesn’t ever feel like it’s going to end, meaning that it feels like it’s going to go on forever and it’s unbearable. Also, what helped me was to write down three specific steps that would have a big impact helping me feel better. For me they were speaking/relating to people in my same situation,  exercising vigorously several times per week, and  going into therapy.  By reaching out to friends and family that I actually saw comfortable talking to my shame slowly changed into connection and again slowly changed into compassion for myself as I realized that  I would need time to heal. Please know you don’t have to do It all  alone.”

similarly:

“What you wrote is beautiful.
Shame —-> connection —-> compassion for yourself. It’s an inspiring transformation in many contexts, but especially in divorce. Thank You!”

 

Talk it out:

“Oh gosh I’m so sorry! This sounds very familiar. What you are suffering from is PTSD. You need to see a therapist who specializes in PTSD. I’m guessing you unmasked a sociopath, which is a soul shattering experience. It helped me to write about it. I can give you a copy of my book  if you like. Other people who went through this said it helped. Let me know. I know reading is difficult at this time....much strength to you!”

 

Find your tribe:

“Finding a community of people who were going through this (especially in the form of SDS) really helped me. I'm so sorry to say how much I empathize with your situation, as I wouldn't wish it on anyone; but you're not alone. When my STBX unilaterally declared the end of our marriage completely out of the blue (as far as I was aware), I could not have been more shocked and disoriented, and spent the first weeks and months walking around in a fugue state, totally unable to process what was happening to my life. I knew absolutely no one else at the time who'd gone through this situation with young children, and had zero idea what to do or how to handle it. I didn't take any medication, though I know other people for whom that was helpful, but finding a therapist is SO important. I can give you the name of mine if you'd like. But honestly, the most helpful thing was--and continues to be!--reaching out and meeting with other people who were all going through this horrible thing together, and finding support and a pathway to life on the other side.
If it helps, this was my mantra: "It's hard and I don't want to do it; but I can, and I will."
And this quote, oddly enough from Bojack Horseman, also resonates: "Every day it gets a little easier. But you have to do it everyday. That's the hard part. But it does get easier."
Sending you love, and an invitation to reach out anytime.

 

Know you are not alone:

“Just a note to say YOU ARE NOT ALONE. This period you are going through is unbearable - many of us have been through. I too walked around with what felt like a shattered soul, with the unsettling feeling that my life had bottomed out and I couldn't get a grip. I could barely function, but still went through the motions. It was terrible.
It passes. The pain is finite. It feels unreal to think that now but have faith that you WILL get through this. I'm nearly 4 years out of it and am a new person. Happier. Centered. Healing every day.
What helped me? As many others have stated, finding a community. My specific circumstance was an affair, so I was obsessed for a while with sites like Surviving Infidelity and ChumpLady. In those I found others in similar situations, and was strangely comforted to know I was not alone. I was also in a "how could this have happened" mode so I wanted to gorge myself with info. That phase lasted a few months for sure. Confiding in a few friends (not family) was an absolute life saver. I didn't want to tell my family because I was still in shock and also probably a little ashamed. So I told a few close friends and a few that were newer acquaintances that didn't yet know me well enough to judge, when all I wanted to do was process my thoughts and sadness verbally and get some sympathy.
I had a few panic attacks, and tried ambien a few times when my sleeplessness was crazy, but didn't keep up with it since I had a 9 month old to take care of and being groggy and on mommy duty was horrible.
I walked a lot. I met a few people on this list and walked with them too. And shared stories.”

 

Do what you can to push through:

“I am sorry to hear of your journey. I know it well. I myself was hysterically crying on the floor on my husband’s office in our Brooklyn home after he left me for some crazy Brazilian model. I was left with two young children and a broken heart. I could not lift myself off the floor. I took a picture of myself broken and crumpled on the floor as I knew that I would some day be able to look back on that moment and see how far I had come. Now I don’t know you. But I personally don’t recommend dulling anything with alcohol or drugs. That only puts a band-aid on a gaping wound. It may seem to help in the moment but for me it wasn’t an option. The only option was straight through. Some days I felt tremendous sadness. Those were the easier days. The days full of rage and anger were very unsettling for me. I had a hard time sitting with rage and anger.  I would shake and anxiety would take over. But I did it. In all its discomfort. Knowing it too was teaching me something. The only way forward was straight through it. Not dulling it. Not putting it on the shelf for another day. I never drank when I was sad. I did have a team of people I worked with but by the time he actually left I had stopped seeing a traditional therapist. I worked with a life coach, an intuitive who helped with understand things more broadly, an astrologer who helped me understand how energy works and make sense of so many things that made no sense. It was a non-traditional route that I would not have even considered 2 years ago. But without it I would not be here today. I finally signed divorce papers just before Christmas after an agonizing journey. I have emerged. I am strong. I am victorious. I am an amazing mother. I have a beautiful life. I still have sadness for the death of the dream I had for my family. But I can look at that from a safe distance. Sure I still shed a tear but it doesn’t shake my soul to the core as it had done. My road wasn’t necessarily traditional but I am so thankful for it. I’m happy to try to help. I’m so sorry for your pain. It’s ok on some days to just give up for the day and be sad, hold your kids and just exhale. Try again the next day. And then the next. Be where you are in your grief. Sending you Light and love.”

 

Harness your inner strength:

“I am so, so sorry you are going through this. It has been two months since we lost our house and I've been alone with our 6 month-old, and I have to say that even in this brief period of time, it has gotten a little easier day by day.
You mentioned not wanting to disclose what you're going through to friends and family yet. I'd urge you to find a few people to confide in and to lean on for support. I have been overwhelmed by the kindness out there in the world, and it has sustained me. It has been really hard to be alone, so I have asked people to visit me and the baby. I have asked for people to bring a meal over, to give us a ride, etc... little gestures that make you feel supported are huge. I try to get some form of exercise every day, even if all I can muster is taking the baby out for a walk. And I try to be forgiving if I am not as productive at work (I disclosed what's been going on to my boss and a few coworkers, and asked for their understanding).
As [the previous poster] said, the only way out is through. I keep repeating that to myself like a mantra.
You are stronger than you think, you *will* survive and you will find happiness. This too shall pass.
Here is a checklist that I have found helpful on some of my hardest days:
https://www.uccs.edu/Documents/wellness/wellpromo/Everything-is-awful.pdf
Sending lots of love and healing your way.”

 

Be very careful with medication:

“Someone recommended that you ask your GP to prescribe Klonopin.  I would like to broaden that recommendation that you talk to your GP who knows your physical state best and ask for a recommendation on what medication might work best. 
Different things work better/worse for different people.  I was prescribed Valium and I'm very very happy with it.  I take it when I need it and it works best when taken occasionally, in fact.  One of the decision points for you will be something that you take regularly or something you take when you need it, and there are multiple drugs that can help depending on the parameters. 
As helpful as talk therapy was, I needed something to take away the stress and anxiety as it was starting to impact my physical health.  It became a medical necessity to take something, frankly, as much as I resisted it (so good for you for being open to it). 
Best of luck.  As others have said, it will get better.  It might not be a smooth upward trajectory, but it will get better.  Stay in touch, we're all here for you!”

 and:

“I second what [the above poster] said. The right meds don't induce numbness; they simply make it easier to manage / process all the very difficult emotions that accompany such massive losses. Take good care of yourself–and remember that you are not alone.”

 

Also be very careful of advice given–including the tips offered in this thread!

“I am so sorry for all your pain, and also so sorry for all the others who have expressed that they have gone through similar experiences of such devastation.  It's so great that we have this community, but so sad that we have all had to endure such a painful experience to get here.
I think it is important to point out that while many of us have had similar experiences, everyone's experiences is different, and I think it is dangerous for posters to be diagnosing others or "prescribing" (read: suggesting that a poster gets a doctor to prescribe) particular medication.  There is no way that based on the paragraph that you shared with us, any poster could know what your "diagnosis" is.  Could it be PTSD?  Sure.  But it might not be.  It could also be depression, anxiety, shock, and/or plain old-fashioned heartbreak at it worst.  Assuming that none of the responders knows who you are, no one knows nearly enough about you to say you have any one particular diagnosis.  And as important if not more (probably more), no one can know based on what you shared with us what medication you should or shouldn't be taking.  I am not anti-medication.  I have taken anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medications at different times for years--I have always said that I should be the poster child for one because I felt so grateful for how it improved my life at that time.  I recently had to switch medications because that one stopped working for me and now a different one is doing the trick.  So I don't want to convey that I am anti-medication.  I'm not at all.  But I don't think it is a good idea to take a particular medication because someone who knows next to nothing about you said you need it.  Klonopin is an anti-anxiety medication, not an anti-depressant.  I know people who have prescriptions for klonopin, who take it when they are having an anxiety attack or a panic attack.  In addition to easing the panic, it makes them exhausted.  If you read about it, klonopin is prescribed to prevent and control seizures, and to treat panic disorders.  I'm not suggesting klonopin is the wrong drug for you; I'm just saying that no one can draw a meaningful conclusion about that based just on your email.  If, for example, what you are experiencing is depression and not anxiety, klonopin won't do much for you.
I do not mean--at all--to be disrespectful of anyone else's posts or ways of being supportive.  And I think it's great for people to share their own experiences and offer ideas. I am a huge believer that therapy and medication can be life-changing (in a good way); I just think it is really important to speak to a doctor who knows what questions to ask--about your situation, your history, and your and your family's medical histories before deciding what is the right medication, the dosage, how to increase or decrease dosage over time, etc.
I wish you all the best and hope your pain eases more quickly than you think it will.”

 

A list of ways to find the new, stronger you:

“Anonymous,
my heart went out to you when I read your post, and it sounds like it did for so many others. It has been so nice to read all the affirming and supportive replies you've received.
The hardest part, for me, was in realizing that the life I had been so sure of was so quickly taken away. Please, in whatever ways you can find time to do it, let yourself mourn. Its painful and sad, but let it be painful and sad now so you can be done with it later. It was also hard when I tried to accept I would have a different life from what I expected, but then would come up w/ a total blank when I tried to picture what my new life would be. but, those are the hardest parts *and they are not permanent*.
What helped me then was:
- words of advice and love from my parents. When you are ready to tell people, this can be huge in claiming back some presence of mind.
- speaking to my child when I put her to bed / when she was half asleep, about what I wished for her future. In a way, it felt like I was speaking to myself: know I have all the tools I need; if I feel like I am ill-equipped then ppl who love me will raise me up until I am ready.
- My therapist turned me on to mindfulness and a book-on-tape I listened to on my phone
- Making routines for myself during the times that were hardest for me, i.e. feeling spent after I put my kid to bed, I lay on my back w/ legs raised on the wall to send blood to my head.
- I had a few people I could text or call 24/7 (including a west coast friend for when I cried at 2am). Later, I made the same offer to other newly-single-moms I was introduced to (and feel free to email me privately, I am happy to do the same for you).
little by little, I surprised myself when I reached little milestones that showed I was getting better: the first day I was alone w/ my infant that I didn't feel scared about how to do it; the first time after separation I realized I was even attracted to anyone else again; until one day I felt like I got my mojo back again and I was me, but stronger, healthier, and more emphatic since I had lived through a total shit time.
hugs to you.”

 

Advice from an older post. As one recently separated parent asks:

"How did you deal with the first few weeks of and after physical separation? My husband is moving out this weekend and it is "amicable" and about 50/50 joint custody but still weird and we haven't worked out logistics for even next week. we haven't signed anything and I don't see a need to but he wants to... With him moving - I assume I should be on with our 9 year old son mostly this weekend and that we will figure out logistics as we go- we are deciding between week on week off and splitting the weeks, complicated by my being in grad school two nights per week through early May and then one night per week... I welcome any sanity checks as to getting my head around the next few weeks - I feel like I'm jumping into a pool and won't know which way is up for a while. any advice to help orient me would be great."

 

Replies

 

Write a parenting plan:

"I am still in the middle of divorce and I agree about the week on/off. It did not work for us. Unfortunately, the kids need to put up with the commute from one home to another. If couples are in good terms, then the solution is for the parents to commute, so that the children have a sense of belonging; a home that they can call home. If the couples are antagonistic, then a written parenting plan is probably the only solution."

 

Keep a record of schedules:

"I'm happy to share my life preserver with you! I'm entering the second month of separation and it is weird indeed. What we've done is create a two week who has the kids plan. We share it in Google Calendar, so that it's in writing and not left to anyone's faulty memory. I have found that splitting up the week works best for the kids and me. That way no one goes more than two days without seeing the kids. I'm not trying to judge others' arrangements, but the week on/week off wouldn't work for me. We're struggling with creating a longer-term plan, like for vacations, holidays and summer. We seem stuck in this giant tug-of-war over who will spend more time with the kids. It's frustrating."

 

It will get better:

"I only have to say that the first weeks are too painful, I won't lie. But trust me: it will get better (never worse). It sounds cliché, but I just want you to know that it does get better." Read more mantras from PSP members HERE.

 

Related PSP articles:

PSP reviews of mental health professionals

Advice for People Going Through Separation/Divorce

How to Choose a Divorce Attorney/Mediator