What you might expect to feel

Unless you've been through a divorce or separation before, it can be very difficult to know what it will feel like. Most people experience very powerful emotions. These emotions can change very quickly. One minute you may be feeling positive about the future but suddenly be overcome with fear or sadness.


Very often, people who are going through a separation just want to talk about the ending of their relationship over and over again. Many people say that the ending of their relationship is like crashing into a brick wall and the whole world seems to be in chaos.


The question that many people ask themselves is 'is this normal?'.


Everybody experiences family separation differently but there are certain stages that most people go through. Dealing with the ending of a relationship is not a one-off event, but a process. The separation change curve*, adapted from the Kubler-Ross Model by family separation experts Karen and Nick Woodall, helps to describe that process.


The change curve identifies seven emotional states that you are likely to experience. It is not an exact map. You may experience the stages strongly or you may not. You may go through one stage only to find yourself slipping back. But most people find that understanding this process helps them to make sense of what they are feeling.


© Karen and Nick Woodall 2007 based on the Kübler-Ross model
© Karen and Nick Woodall 2007 based on the Kübler-Ross model



Being told that your relationship is at an end is very often a massive shock to your system. And so can realising that you no longer wish to be in the relationship. Even when you have felt that things were likely to end, the realisation that it is over is often very difficult to deal with.



After the initial shock, many people go into a stage of denial. They refuse to accept that it is over. They think that the relationship can be saved. They ignore what is happening because it is just too painful to deal with.


Anger and Frustration

When the reality of the situation hits home, many people become angry and fearful. What will the future look like? Why has this happened to me? How could he or she do this to me? What will happen to the children?



In the beginning, the body produces chemicals and hormones to help you to cope with what is happening to you. Anger, fear and the need to survive keep you going. But this can't last for ever and most people slip into a state of depression. For some this is mild and temporary but for others it can become much more serious and require help from someone such as a GP.



As time moves on, you will begin to think about what the future will look like. Will I meet someone new? Will I move house or change job? Should I get that tattoo I've always fancied? At this point you can be very vulnerable. If your experimentation goes badly, you can end up at the depression stage again.



After a few experiments, you are likely to start to find the things that are right for you. The world will seem less chaotic and the choices you make will be based on solid foundations. The world will start to look like a brighter place.



Eventually, you will have moved into a new phase of your life. It is unusual for anyone to walk away from a family separation without a few emotional scars. But you will have dealt with the ending of your relationship and will feel able to move forward with a degree of confidence.