How can I cope with the trauma of separation and divorce?

Q: How do I get back to being the happy person I used to be?

My wife of 20 years told me six months ago she'd had an affair 16 years ago. The same evening she told me this she also admitted to climbing out of another mans bed not 12 hours beforehand. I was distraught, devastated. My world fell apart. She abandoned the family home saying as she left how she wanted to leave everything, this family, this life behind. All in front of my 2 daughters, aged 19 (lives away) and 15. The 15 year old has nothing to do with my wife.

Every single second of the day I re-live the evenings events. I'm now dreaming about it. My head feels like it wants to explode. I'm bouncing from very low to low. We have a farm and because of this trauma I'm not working the farm properly which is putting huge financial pressure on me and all we get from CSA is $75/week. I want to know how to move forward. How to get out of this pig trough. How do I become a man again? I have no self esteem, no confidence. I am an empty soul. Please help.

My answer:

You have been through a terrible time, and it sounds like you're experiencing some post-traumatic after-shocks. Your sense of the world as a fair place where you can feel safe, and where others are thinking about you and your needs, has been shattered. You're grieving for this loss, and your grief is then preventing you from functioning in the way you normally would to work your farm and keep life moving forward.

It's really important that you don't add to all of this distress by giving the traumatized, grief-stricken part of you another kick, by telling yourself that you are ‘not a man’. The best things you can do right now are to be gentle with yourself (talk to yourself in a kind way about your inability to get on with things, allow yourself time to feel the sadness, preferrably in the company of a nurturing and comforting friend or family member, for example), and reach out for as much support as you can.

It's likely you will need professional help to assist you to regain your wellbeing. Make sure you visit your GP and tell him/her what's going on. S/he may offer medical assistance to help you feel less anxious. Counselling may help as well - a place to process your grief and to be supported to rebuild your sense of yourself. You may also benefit from strategies to help you manage your post-trauma symptoms, so that you are better able to cope at this difficult time.

Till next post, Vivienne

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