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Separation and divorce as loss

The end of a relationship can be one of the toughest life experiences that people face. Divorce or separation not only means the loss of the relationship in its current form, but also a range of things that came with the relationship, such as shared social networks, financial assets, or the loss of the future you envisaged.

Break ups will likely leave you feeling a whole range of emotions, including anger, sadness, and hurt. You also might feel a strong sense of grief and loss. All of these feelings are completely normal. Below are some ideas on how to cope with grief and loss, and move towards the development of your ‘new normal’.


Grief and loss

The natural response to loss is grief. As strange as it may sound, you can even grieve the end of bad relationships. You can grieve the change in the nature of your relationship, even if you’ve managed to remain friends. You might struggle to figure out where you ‘fit’ now, as you grieve the loss of future plans, and the life you shared as a couple. You may grieve the friendships you’ve lost as part of the separation, or the loss of contact with your ex partner’s family network. You may grieve the loss of physical or financial assets, such as the home you shared together, or the family business.

Like any period of grieving, it’s important to remember it will pass, even if it doesn’t feel like it at the time.

If you work towards acknowledging and addressing your grief, you can begin to look for the positives that will form the foundations of the next phase of your life.


Nine ways to manage loss

  • Talk it out: Help from others is really important when going through any grieving process. Share your emotions with a friend, counsellor or your GP – it’s important not to try and “go it alone”.
  • Remember there is no right way to grieve: Acknowledge the ways in which you are experiencing loss. Take the time you need, and don’t let people tell you “you should be over it by now”.
  • Create some space: Even if you plan to stay in touch with your ex, you should aim for less contact with them straight after the break up – in order to work through your loss and develop your identity without that person in your life.
  • Don’t take on the blame: Seeing the loss or break-up as your fault can amplify your negative feelings. Try to take an “irreconcilable differences” view of the break up – that will help you to not dwell on what when wrong, or take on unnecessary blame.
  • Stay socially active: Social contact is important – catching up with friends, old and new, can help distract you from dwelling on your loss, and establish ongoing social networks. You may not be seeing some of the friends you had with your ex-partner, but this can be an opportunity to rekindle friendships from your past, or to meet new people. If your partner was the one who made most of the social arrangements, you may need to step into this role and actively arrange social events.
  • Focus on new positives: This could be as simple as taking pride in setting up your new home, entirely chosen by you, or using new found free time to focus on interests you let slip during your relationship.
  • Look after yourself physically: Try not to use alcohol or drugs to numb the pain. Be active – exercising has a range of benefits, including releasing positive endorphins and helping you shift your focus away from ruminating on your grief.
  • Don’t rush into a new relationship: There’s plenty to be gained from life outside of a relationship, so there’s no need to rush into a relationship that isn’t right for you. Take the time you need to grieve before moving on. Work on getting to know yourself again, outside of your former relationship.
  • Give it time: You may not be up to taking on board all the suggestions above straight away. Everyone grieves differently and it’s important to take all the time you need to work through your loss.


Concerned? Talk to a professional counsellor on 1300 096 269. It’s free to people in north, western and central Melbourne and is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Want to know where else you can get help? Find out how to access additional community support.


The CAREinMIND blog is delivered by On the Line. The views in each post do not necessarily reflect those of North Western Melbourne Primary Health Network.