Luisa Tam
SCMP Columnist
The Naked Truth
by Luisa Tam
The Naked Truth
by Luisa Tam

How to get over a break-up or divorce and why grief is something you need to deal with to move on

  • Break-up grief can be overwhelming but it’s not something we can ignore with the hope that it will just fade away if we wait long enough
  • Reframing the break-up in positive terms and regaining control of your finances and life provides opportunities for growth

Every romantic experience – no matter how good or bad – is important to personal development. More often than not, we come out of a relationship as an evolved version of ourselves. 

A break-up or divorce is an earth-shattering experience that would make anyone feel like their world has come to an end, but we need to face all the ups and downs that come with these critical junctures before truly moving on to the next phase. 

Break-up grief is very real and can be overwhelming. Going through the inevitable emotional roller coaster can take its toll, but it’s not something we can ignore with the hope that if we wait long enough, it will just fade away or end with a “light bulb moment”. 

Talk to any relationship expert and they will tell you it is hugely important to grieve at the end of a relationship. One of the reasons that you need to experience the grief is that the end of a relationship entails multiple losses, and not just that of a partner.

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“It is no trifling matter because it involves multiple losses: the loss of dreams and commitments, the loss of a lifestyle, the loss of support and the loss of certainty,” says Christine Deschemin, a certified hypnotherapist and founder of the Hong Kong-based Renewed Edge hypnotherapy centre.

“Many people ending a relationship will lose support on multiple levels: emotional, financial, social and even intellectual. Because of these multiple losses, break-ups and divorces often come with a series of negative feelings. The physical symptoms, such as cold sweats and heart palpitations, are all very real and totally normal.”

Christine Deschemin is a certified hypnotherapist and founder of the Renewed Edge hypnotherapy centre. Photo: Jonathan Wong

There is also additional upheaval that comes after a relationship ends, such as having to move out of a shared home, custody agreements for children, splitting assets, and dividing other things that a couple once had in common. 

“The divorce process lasts longer and can become protracted when there is litigation. In addition, the presence of children adds another component as they also become afflicted by the loss of certainty and life as they knew it,” Deschemin says.

In any case, we should deal with a divorce in a civil manner. 

“Be kind and honest. If you act in bad faith, whatever trust that was left will be broken. If you commit to avoiding litigation, you need to stay true to your words. Trust, verify and take your time. There is no need to rush.”

Couples should avoid talking in disparaging terms about the other parent in front of children. Photo: Shutterstock

It is also advisable to acknowledge that a divorce has an impact on all parties, even if the other person is initiating it, Deschemin says. And if you have children, remember that they may lack the tools to deal with such drastic changes. 

Other suggestions include getting a therapist who can help you regain a footing and bring out your best self in the process.

“Keep your eyes on the end goal. Emotions might run high. But in the long term, it is always preferable to have unbiased conversations. By focusing on playing the long game, you can avoid more frustration, anger and sadness for yourself,” Deschemin says.

Couples also need to avoid talking in disparaging terms about the other parent in front of children because it is of the utmost importance to keep them out of the divorce as much as possible, she stresses.

And remember not to make personal attacks as they serve no purpose other than slowing down the divorce process and destroying any trust left between a couple, Deschemin adds. 

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Other handy advice includes avoiding courts as much as possible if you can and exploring mediation where a trained lawyer can help you arrive at a win-win solution. “Litigation should always be the last option. Legal proceedings in court will deplete your wallet and your energy,” she says.

“Choose your lawyer carefully. Some parents end up changing lawyers because of their combative nature. The divorce process is already trying enough without adding more complications like a change in the legal team. Remember to maintain your well-being throughout the process.”

But is an amicable divorce just a myth?

“Amicable divorces are possible,” Deschemin says. “First, everyone should bear in mind that the cost of an amicable divorce is significantly less than the cost of a contested divorce. And it is much faster as well. There are solutions that can help couples reach a more amicable settlement, such as family mediation.”

How to grieve during and after a divorce

  • The faster you regain control over your finances and life, the more you can minimise the perception of loss

  • Reframe the divorce in positive terms to provide an opportunity for growth 

  • Avoid checking your ex’s social media feeds as it is a curated space. Free yourself of the compulsive desire to know what your ex is doing and make room for a happier you

  • Take care of yourself: good sleep, hygiene and proper food can restore the energy you need to face the changes

  • After the divorce/break-up and when the dust has settled, you can draw important lessons from the experience

Luisa Tam is a correspondent at the Post