09 Oct What is compassionate separation?
Separation and divorce are two of life’s biggest stressors. Although everyone’s separation will be different, it can commonly can leave us feeling frightened, alone, angry, ashamed, betrayed, depressed, bitter, guilty and/or hopeless that we will ever be ok, feel happy or loved again. It often involves volatile mixes of these emotions at different times, again and again.
For most of us, separation is emotionally overwhelming and very confusing. Compassionate separation is a way of approaching your separation with awareness and kindness. It will leave you feeling calmer, able to think more clearly, understand what you need and to make considered and positive choices.
The research shows that compassion can promote emotional resilience and be powerfully protective when relationships end.
Compassion is the ability to understand our suffering, or the suffering of others, with kindness and awareness. It makes us realise that we are all vulnerable, and helps us turn towards our feelings rather than away from them.
When you are compassionate with yourself, you become aware of how you are feeling. You acknowledge your feelings gently and don’t judge them harshly. You hold your feelings carefully and mindfully, allowing them to be. This awareness can help you recognize what you might need – care, respect, gratitude, honesty, fairness, safety, certainty, authenticity? – and what you can choose mindfully to do to meet those needs.
When you are compassionate towards others you do something similar. You might have to imagine what they are feeling. You might be able to recognize their suffering and to try to understand the reasons for their actions, even if you don’t agree with them. You might be able to imagine what their needs might be: maybe for understanding, forgiveness, respect, care, appreciation, safety, clarity, certainty?
Compassion sounds improbable when you are grieving or feeling angry or hopeless following separation. But it can make a huge difference to how you cope, how you manage your separation and how you rebuild your life after.
The science shows us that if we act compassionately we experience more positive feelings and fewer negative feelings. We feel better and happier, we feel more connected, less stressed, and less likely to be depressed, anxious and fearful. It can help us to soothe and manage our emotions, create space for thinking more clearly and support us to make better decisions.
It is helpful to ask yourself – when I look back in future, what do I want to remember about how I managed our separation? If you separate compassionately, you are more likely to feel satisfied that you did the best you could in the circumstances, and are more likely to be happy with the life you have rebuilt.
If you approach your separation with awareness and kindness, for yourself, your ex-partner and your children, you will be supported to make conscious and responsible choices so you can rebuild your life confidently and constructively.