Be gentle on yourself as you grieve.

How to Get Through the First Nights of a Marital Separation

by Nina Edwards

Separating from your husband can be one of the most stressful life events you go through. Even if you were strong during the rocky patches of your marriage, you may be shocked at how much this hurts. The first few nights will be awful because this is when you will feel the most anger and sadness. With a lot of self-love and support from your friends and family, however, you will get through this wrenching time.

You Feel Devastated

Whether you initiated the separation or not, expect this to be difficult. You may feel depressed and struggle with finding healthy ways of coping, says Teresa Sakraida in the article, “Common Themes in the Divorce Transition Experience of Midlife Women.” Sakraida conducted interviews with 24 women in current or recent marital breakups. You are likely to feel deeply distraught during these early days, the study reported. Like them, you may find comfort by relying on your faith or in the fact that you have children. A marital breakup is devastating because you have lost an attachment figure, explains Robert Weiss in an article, “The Emotional Impact of Marital Separation.” Weiss states that you may feel as distraught as a child would feel if she had lost a parent she was attached to. Even in troubled marriages, attachment can linger and women may want to go back to their husbands just to let them know how much their husbands hurt them.

Allow the Feelings to Come

For these first nights, focus on your feelings, instead of getting into arguments with your husband. Allow yourself to feel devastated by this loss. Perhaps, you’ll cry day and night, as did many women in Sakraida’s study. This is normal. Take time off from work, if you can manage to do that. What you’re going through is a major life transition and you deserve to grieve and acknowledge the loss. Instead of deep sadness, you may feel overwhelmed with anger -- even hatred. This, too, is normal. By allowing yourself to acknowledge your anger, you keep it from manifesting in harmful ways, such as being hurtful toward your children or toward your body.

Reach Out Now

All the women Sakraida interviewed found comfort in speaking with other people. Friends, family, and therapists play an important role in lending you the support you need during your early stages of separation. In fact, Vicki Garvin, Ph.D. et al, in the article, “Factors Contributing to Resiliency and Vulnerability” found that women who had a lot of support from caring people were more likely to bounce back after getting a divorce -- even if the divorce was particularly messy. Feeling like a failure because of a marriage can trigger shame. Speaking with others can offset emotions like that, says Susan Gadoua in the article, “Where Are You on the Divorce Stress Scale?” So, reach out to others -- early and often.

Give Yourself Time

Separating can feel like you’re losing a piece of yourself. It's almost like trying to separate two trees that have grown side by side, explains Gadua in the article, “How Long Does ‘Typical’ Divorce Recovery Take?” Unfortunately, there is no way to fast forward through the pain to achieve relief. Instead, know that people are amazingly resilient. They heal from traumatic experiences and go on to reclaim better lives. And, so will you.

About the Author

Nina Edwards holds a doctorate in clinical psychology and has been writing about families and relationships since 2000. She has numerous publications in scholarly journals and often writes for relationship websites as well. Edwards is a university lecturer and practicing psychologist in New York City.

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