The end of any meaningful relationship may come as a complete shock, even if you saw it coming. There are many emotions and thoughts experienced during and following the initial break-up.
The end of a relationship or divorce
The end of any meaningful relationship may come as a complete shock, even if you saw it coming. There are many emotions and thoughts experienced during and following the initial break-up. For many people, it may be experienced as the death of your shared dreams, hopes, beliefs, comfort, intimacy, loss of support and commitment, which had shaped your life together until that point.
The end of a relationship is often not just about the demise of an intimate partnership, but it may often involve the splitting up of property and assets, supporting children and young people through this incredibly stressful and confusing time and perhaps changes in friendships.
Everyone experiences grief and loss differently. Below are some of the thoughts and feelings that can affect people throughout and at the end of a relationship:
- Often people feel stressed, angry, betrayed, shocked, overwhelmed, liken it to walking into the unknown and often feeling confused as there are no signposts to follow. For some people, the end of a relationship may feel like a relief, especially if they have been unhappy for many years. Regardless of their reaction to the end of the relationship, many people feel like they are thrown into unchartered waters. They are forced to navigate many disruptions to the rhythms of their previous life
- It is important to recognise that it is very normal and natural to experience extreme swinging emotions at the end of a relationship and for some time after
- Focus on what is possible for you, given the circumstances. Don’t push yourself to achieve, and put off making important decisions, like applying for a new job or moving away from friends and family. Give yourself permission, just to take things a bit easier. Recognise that the transition at the end of a relationship takes time and allow yourself to heal and become reconnected with yourself, your interests and your friends
- Don’t feel like you have to go through this alone. Share your experiences with supportive friends you trust, or reach out to discuss your experiences with a Griefline Helpline volunteer or the Griefline online forums community
- Grieving is a normal part of the recovery process
- Don’t deny or push down any of your feelings, even though they may feel confusing and contradictory. They are very natural and normal. Just give yourself permission to experience them, and they will dissipate with time
- Some people find it useful to keep a journal to work through their emotions
- Explore the activities you enjoyed in the past and reconnect with positive interests and past friendships
A sense of belonging and connectedness is an integral part of a healthy life, emotionally, spiritually and physically. As human beings, we are wired to connect to others in our social group. The emotional trauma of a relationship breakdown may have a long-lasting effect on our wellbeing. Whether it is from a friend, partner, spouse or a family member, a loss of connection can result in feeling intensely overwhelmed, helpless or alone. These are all normal human reactions to the separation of a loved one which for most, can be a very traumatic experience.
However, it is also important to note that not everyone will feel this way as a person’s experience of trauma, grief and loss is very personal, varying from one person to the next. Some people rebound quickly whilst others require more time and face a struggle to recover.
You can refer to the links below for further examples of relationship breakdowns and how to support yourself and others during this difficult time.
You may be experiencing a one-off event such as the end of a relationship or a more protracted situation such as the breakdown of your marriage followed by separation and then divorce. Griefline is here to support you through this period of recovery. We provide skilled and empathetic support to help you make sense of what is happening. We also help you identify the unique capacities, resiliencies and strengths you can use to work through your situation.
Loneliness and isolation
There is a difference between being alone (feeling comfortable with your feelings and thoughts, enjoying the sense of freedom, enjoyment and creativity that may come from this) and feeling lonely and isolated (experiencing sadness, loss, social anxiety and an absence of friends interests). Human beings are highly social creatures. We enjoy and flourish in the connections with others. Sometimes, for a range of reasons, we can find ourselves experiencing loneliness. Some factors that lead to loneliness and isolation may be the death of a loved one, the breakdown of relationships or moving away from family and friends for a job or a new start. Further, after experiencing significant loss, grief and trauma in the past and yet never working through it might result in isolating yourself from others to protect yourself from feeling difficult emotions again.
You are not alone.
Recent research from the 2018 Australian Loneliness Report and Relationship Australia revealed:
- One in six Australians experience loneliness
- Single parents, particularly single fathers, are most likely to experience a lack of social support
- Widowed men and women under 65 years of age report high rates of loneliness
- People in de facto relationships are lonelier than people in other relationship types
- People with poorer health were more likely to report higher rates of emotional loneliness and a lack of social support
- One in four Australians reported feeling lonely each week
- One in two sometimes or always feel alone, and 30 per cent of people say they don’t belong to a friendship group
- Higher levels of loneliness are associated with higher levels of social interaction anxiety, less social interaction, lower psychological wellbeing and poorer quality of life
Why are we lonely and isolated?
There are many reasons why loneliness is a growing issue in our communities. The research identifies that the experience of loneliness is highest amongst the 16 to 25 age group. In a world of increased connectivity through technology, younger people are ironically becoming more isolated and emotionally lonely than ever before. They are becoming trapped in patterns or systems and only responding to the system, which offers the most visual and emotional stimulation. Unfortunately, this doesn’t necessarily demand much at the user’s end.
Depending on ‘fake friendships’ cultivated on social media, may lack any real, meaningful emotional bonds, creating a level of disconnection and increasing social anxiety and decreasing social skills. The changes in our working and family lives that build distance into our days by commuting and living far away from friends and families may also contribute to isolation and the breakdown of familiarity. We are selecting to remain single and live on our own. People are increasingly continuing to work full-time or part-time as they age rather than automatically retiring at a particular age. This can result in friendships and relationships being put on hold and time with family and grandchildren delayed.
Many symptoms of loneliness and isolation are similar to grief and loss. Some signs you may be experiencing are:
- Social anxiety
- Disordered eating patterns (eating too much or too little or consuming fast foods rather than cooking for yourself)
- Physical ailments (headaches, pains, frequent illness, reduced fitness)
- Apathy or low motivation and energy
- Low self-esteem and confidence.
- Feelings of hopelessness or helplessness
- Thoughts of suicide or self-harm
- Substance abuse (drinking alcohol or drug taking)
- Lack of self-care and hygiene
Changes in our lives can trigger loneliness and isolation. According to the Red Cross (2017) loneliness and isolation is due to;
- 34 % death of loved one
- 31 % moving from friends/family (link to relationship trauma and loss page)
- 22 % isolation at school or work
- 21 % divorce or separation
- 17 % losing a job
Tips to help you
- Do not believe that loneliness means you are unloved, inadequate or unwanted. Loneliness is a feeling it is not a fact. Our brains are wired to respond to fear of abandonment, which stems from very early experiences or fears as a child. An incident or memory can trigger this anxiety, sparking negative feelings or thoughts about ourselves and as we revisit these beliefs we continue to support and reinforce the idea that we are lonely
- Although it may feel uncomfortable, if you feel lonely, reach out and connect with a friend and organise to catch up with them. Some of those old thought patterns may want to repeat, such as the belief that I am unlovable or unworthy. If these thoughts or feelings come up, just remind yourself that they are just old thoughts, feelings or ideas and that you do not have to listen or respond to them
- Take your social anxiety out with you. Social skills need exposure to build and gain confidence, which means you need to be around people to practice with them. Even if it is a quick phone call or a chat with a local shopkeeper, smile and respond when others are around you
- Recognise that everyone is flawed and makes mistakes. Although we often think that everyone else has their life sorted out correctly, recognising that we are all in the same boat and that everyone fumbles for the right word or feels unsure about what to say at times. We all do it at some time
- You could make an appointment with your GP about a mental health plan and organise support to help you work through your fears
- Find like-minded people and groups through the internet and (safe or authenticated) chatrooms such as the Griefline Online Forums. Start small with connections and grow them. Or join your local community centres and join in with activities which interest you
- Pet therapy is a great way to reduce feelings of isolation and loneliness -from a dog or cat to a hermit crab. Caring for another living being and looking forward to the interaction is a healthy way to reconnect with other pet owners
- Join a local volunteer group, a sporting club, art or book club
- Participate in local community fairs, networking events and organisation celebration days
Contact Griefline to work through your thoughts and feelings of loneliness with a skilled and trained volunteer on the national toll-free number 1300 845 745
Some symptoms of relationship loss
These are normal and expected feelings following the loss of a relationship:
- Idealisation of the person
- Feeling lost
- Loss of motivation
- Unable to think of a future without them
If you are in danger, call 000.
Family violence can take many forms – physical, verbal, emotional, psychological, sexual, economic, spiritual or legal. The violence can be overt or obvious or can be subtle and understated.
Violence occurs to women, children and men. The Victorian Royal Commission into Family Violence found that while males were more likely to be victims of violence generally, this was most likely to occur at the hands of men outside the family home. Violence against women is more likely to be perpetrated by an intimate partner. Female victims are more likely to be a current or former partner of the perpetrator. At the same time, men are more likely to experience violence in different family relationships, such as a son or a sibling.
It is important to remember that all family violence is illegal and completely unacceptable
There are several complex reasons why family violence exists. From a grief, loss and trauma perspective, many people may struggle to acknowledge their grief at the potential loss of their relationship. Further, the victim can feel unsupported by everyone, including family as they keep their grief hidden. The experience of violence and possible loss of the relationship is often a very complicated situation.
Because everyone’s experience of family violence is individual, the list below includes some of the responses of loss, grief, trauma and family violence:
- Loss of safety
- Loss of routine and normalcy
- Disenfranchised grief
- Complicated grief
- Loss of self-worth
- Conflicting emotions
- Unable to trust
- Delayed reactions
1800RESPECT (1800 737 732) is the national sexual assault, domestic and family violence service. They provide support for:
- People experiencing, or at risk of experiencing, sexual assault, domestic or family violence
- Their friends and family
- Workers and professionals supporting someone experiencing, or at risk of experiencing sexual assault, domestic or family violence