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Stowe guests: Handling difficult emotions during and after divorce

The first episode of Stowe guests in 2019 sees us catch-up back again with Claire Black from Claire Black Divorce Coaching.

Going through a divorce and managing life after separation especially over Christmas and New Year can be extremely difficult. This time of year, we often find ourselves reflecting on the previous year and what the new one will bring us. Claire is on the blog today to offer her seven tips for how to handle difficult emotions during and after divorce.

I understand that the emotions you experience during a break up can be overwhelming.  I know that during my divorce, I found the roller coaster of emotions exhausting, and small things could easily tip me over the edge. I found my emotions confusing, as they seemed to shift every day, every hour, even minute by minute.

Sometimes I felt afraid, sometimes angry, resentful, lonely, overwhelmed, disappointed, regretful, hurt, shocked, worried, relieved, guilty. The feelings were intense and sometimes contradictory, so it’s no wonder I was confused.

Although there is no “quick fix”, here are 7 ways to help yourself dial down your negative emotions.

Avoid destructive patterns

Some people deal (or rather don’t deal) with the difficult emotions that they feel by stuffing them down, or through drugs or partying and drinking more than normal, or by working long hours, in the hope that the emotions will go away on their own. Others try to blame someone else for their feelings. Sadly, none of these approaches will work long term, and they can become destructive patterns, meaning that you never actually deal with the emotions that you are feeling.

Give yourself permission to feel

Let’s get away from thinking of those emotions as “negative”, implying that they are somehow bad. Your emotions are messengers from your body, letting you know when something is wrong, or hurting, or needs to be examined. Feeling those emotions is part of the process towards healing and recovery. If you don’t feel them, they stay stuck inside and can have a detrimental effect on your health, your stress levels and your ability to heal. So be kind to yourself, listen to your body. Remind yourself that it is OK and normal to cry.

Take each day as it comes and leave each day behind each night. If you’ve had a difficult day, put it behind you – tomorrow is a new day.

Acknowledge your feelings

Notice and name your feelings as they come and go. Simply identifying your feelings will start to diminish their hold over you. Writing down all your negative emotions, fears, worries, concerns and stresses in a journal, or on a big piece of paper may also help as it gets the feelings out of your head and onto paper.

“Journaling is like whispering to oneself and listening at the same time”, Mina Murray, Dracula

Use your physiology to help you

The mind and body are connected, so how you carry your body will affect how you feel. Try this exercise and see what happens.

First, stand or sit as you would when you feel sad or lonely, and notice how your posture makes you feel. Ask yourself how you would like to feel instead: Confident? Strong? Empowered? Happy? Then ask yourself how you would sit or stand differently if you were feeling that positive emotion. Now practice standing in that way. Notice that by changing your body posture, it is possible to feel differently.

Do this when you walk too – look up, take in the horizon rather than looking at the ground, and notice how it influences how you feel.

Shift your focus

Don’t just focus on noticing the difficult emotions – look for times when you feel positive emotions too. What makes you smile or laugh? Smiling and laughing makes your body produce endorphins, the body’s feel-good hormones, so actively seek to do things that you enjoy, and which make you smile. Watch a movie you love, listen to music that uplifts you, sing loudly, take your children out to run on the beach or in the woods, cuddle your pet – whatever works for you.

What you think about and focus on will influence your actions and results. Don’t focus on your ex and his/her new partner, and don’t follow them on social media as this will feed the negative feelings you may have.

Instead, shift your focus on to YOU – what do you enjoy? What do you like to do? Shift your focus from your ex and put your energy into you.

Ask empowering questions and “flip it”

Ask yourself questions that will help to shift your focus by flipping the situation on its head.  Ask questions like:

  • If there was one good thing about this, what would it be?
  • What am I grateful for right now?
  • What can I do now that I couldn’t do before?

Your answers might be as simple as being able to eat fish fingers for tea (or cook with ginger in my case!), or it might be that you can start planning that holiday that you always dreamt of, but that your ex refused to contemplate. Or perhaps you have learnt that you have some amazing friends and family who have really got your back.

Tell your story differently

How do you tell your story?  Do you see yourself as a victim of your divorce?  Do you tell your sad story over and over again?

If this is you, then every time you tell the story, you reopen the wounds. Even eleven years on, if I try hard enough I can tell my story in a way that makes me feel sad. You have a choice about how you tell your story, so choose instead to talk about your story in a different way, so that it empowers you and makes you feel strong. What have you learnt? What are you proud of yourself for achieving? Have you done anything new? I remember the first time I mowed the lawn after my ex-husband left. I had been putting it off for weeks, but finally managed it and I felt really proud! To put this into context, this wasn’t a small patch of grass, but a 100 ft stretch of not-very-well-looked-after grass, on a slope – mowing it was no easy feat.

As I always say to clients, it isn’t what happens to you that matters – it’s what you do with what happens to you. These are some of the techniques I used myself when I was getting divorced, so I can vouch that they really do work.

Get in touch

Claire is one of the UK’s first accredited specialist Divorce Coaches, a former lawyer, and Master NLP Practitioner. She is based in the Bristol area.

You can get in touch with Claire at or call 07722 007528

The blog team at Stowe is a group of writers based across our family law offices who share their advice on the wellbeing and emotional aspects of divorce or separation from personal experience. As well as pieces from our family law solicitors, guest contributors also regularly contribute to share their knowledge.

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