Managing Stress During a Divorce or Separation

Managing Stress During a Divorce or Separation

According to the Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale, a divorce is the second most stressful life event that we may experience in our lifetimes and a marital separation is the third most stressful life event. According to Holmes and Rahe, the only other event that is more stressful than a divorce or separation is the death of a spouse. While this is likely accurate for happily married spouses, I suspect that the death of a spouse would be much lower on the stress scale if Holmes and Rahe were to survey my clients. 

Prior to a divorce, couples often endure months, or even years, of marital discord. By the time clients enter my office, they’re usually tired and worn out. Some may be able to hide it well, but almost all of my clients have struggled with chronic depression and anxiety. 

Stress is something we all deal with to varying degrees, but chronic stress can have serious physical and cognitive effects. Chronic stress retracts the neurons in our brains that allow us to think clearly, which results in us making emotionally charged and irrational decisions. This is likely why intelligent adults going through a divorce have been known to do silly things, like spray painting their ex’s new car, or spending hundreds of dollars in legal fees to fight over a $30 toaster. In extreme cases, they commit crimes, or fabricate stories to have their exes charged with crimes. In the most unfortunate cases, children are put in the middle and pay the price for their parents’ high conflict divorces.  

In order to spare yourself and your loved ones from unnecessary pain and suffering, it is imperative that you learn to manage your stress and nurture your mental health if you are preparing for a divorce or separation.

Fortunately, there are plenty of resources available in British Columbia to help people manage stress during a divorce or separation. The following are just a few options that you may want to consider:

  1. Counselling, Courses, and Community Organizations

Individual counseling will allow you to express your feelings in a safe and non-judgmental environment. Couples’ counseling is also a great option, whether the goal is to see if the relationship can be repaired, or to obtain guidance about how to work together amicably during the divorce process. With the right counselor, you may save yourself thousands of dollars in legal fees and avoid months of fighting.

  • BC Association of Clinical Counsellors can help you find a registered clinical counsellor in your area.
  • Assistance to newcomers in Canada, people living in poverty and struggling parents;
  • Counseling and trauma services to individuals, families, children, and youth;
  • Parent-teen mediation;
  • Early Childhood Community Consultant Program to guide, coach, and model parenting best practices and support parents with young children;
  • Victim services for women and children who have experienced domestic violence, sexual violence, and human trafficking;
  • Family Preservation and Reunification Services (accessible for free with a referral from an MCFD social worker); and
  • Money Skills workshops on budgeting, credit management, banking, saving, investing, and spending. 
  • Pacific Centre Family Services offers the following services:
  • Individual counselling;
  • Family mediation;
  • Family counselling;
  • Group counselling;
  • Crisis intervention; and
  • Free counselling for youth through Email, or face-to-face counselling
  1. Parenting After Separation Course or Parenting After Separation for Indigenous Families.
  • Hear the Child Society has a roster of professionals who are specially trained to interview children and provide reports for the court about what children want, and/or what is in their best interests.
  • Divorce Coaches:
  1. BC211 has free helplines in the Lower Mainland and other areas in British Columbia (Phone 211);
  2. VictimLinkBChelps survivors of family violence. (Phone 1-800-563-0808);
  • Anywhere in BC: 1-800-SUICIDE (1-800-784-2433)

Managing your mental health is an ongoing process before, during, and after a divorce or separation. Learning to cope in your own way is an essential first step towards healing and moving on, but in order to move on, you will need to reach an agreement with your ex about how to share the children (if applicable), and divide family assets and debts. Unless you and your spouse are able to amicably resolve everything on your own, you will need to hire the right professionals to assist you in reaching a fair settlement as efficiently and cost-effectively as possible. 

As with emotional supports, there are a number of legal options for people who aren’t able to negotiate with their exes on their own. For more information about your legal options, please see our other blog post, Separation Agreements: Part 2 Procedural Options After Separation.