Being in Limbo – not knowing where one will be in the near future, whether it’s 3 months or 3 weeks, has got to be one of the most stressful stages of any life change – and especially in separation and divorce.

As human beings, we like to have a sense of control and security. So when the human brain is under stress, the ‘fight or flight’ mode is fully engaged. Our sense of equilibrium is shaky. We can easily become emotionally hijacked and we don’t have access to our rational brain.
So how do you calm the fearful ‘lizard’ brain when you’re passing through the limbo phase of a separation and divorce? Here are 10 suggestions for getting through the next few months:

1. Regain some perspective – if only to recognize that your life IS turned totally upside down. Think of a time in the past when you faced a difficult challenge in your life. How did you overcome it? Using those past experiences where you faced challenges and were able to learn from them may help you.

2. Make a money/budget action plan – determine who is going to pay which bills and by when. Nothing causes more stress during Limbo then worrying about how the bills are going to get paid. You will gain some security in knowing that everything is covered – and you’ll save your credit rating.

3. Create a list of expenses – so that you know exactly the budget or amount of money you have available on a monthly basis once the necessary bills are paid. It can be a sobering reality check – but better to know then not. As a split couple, you now have the same amount of money to spread over two households. Now is not the time to stick your head in the sand.

4. Let’s talk about debt – take a look at credit lines and credit cards and have a conversation around setting limits or freezing them altogether. This is also not the time for unnecessary spending – and the Christmas period can be extremely tough on our desires to please and our guilt around ‘separate Christmases’.

5. Awareness – accept that is this a difficult time. In fact, divorce is ranked the second most stressful event in a person’s life. Give yourself permission to feel what you feel but find productive ways of relieving the stress.

6. Calm the lizard brain – breathe, breathe, breathe. Scientists know that when people are anxious, they tend to take rapid, shallow breaths that come directly from the chest. This type of shallow breathing can cause an imbalance if the oxygen and carbon dioxide in your system resulting in increased anxiety.

7. Create a Mantra – Never underestimate the power of suggestion and positive messages. Come up with a simple saying that will help you get through those tough moments. Post it on your computer screen, your mirror, on your night table; wherever you can to remind yourself that you will get through this.

8. Find a support network – think about who your support people are and ask yourself: do I feel better when I leave their presence or do I feel worse? If the answer is I feel positive, empowered, optimistic, heard then I say keep doing what you’re doing. If you feel drained, angry, frustrated, then maybe you should rethink the effect that relationship is having on you at this moment. Taking a break from a friend who simply fuels the fire doesn’t mean you have to abandon them forever (although sometimes that does happen); rather that you really think about who are the people who bring positive energy to your life.

9. Do something that makes you feel good – I had a client recently tell me that he donated blood for the first time in 15 years. And that it made him feel good about helping someone. Sometimes a good deed can be the exact shift in energy that creates momentum for other positive events.

10. Reclaim your power – even when your ex is driving you crazy. You can’t control what someone else says or does, only how you choose to react to it. So acknowledge that and then reclaim your power to move through this challenging time in a way that is helpful for you.

You may not be able to control the fact that this life change is happening to you. Maybe you don’t really want the separation and that can be devastating as you grieve the loss of what you thought your life was going to be. But with a little help from yourself and your friends, you can get through the limbo phase and emerge stronger and more self-assured.


Colette Fortin
As a Senior Negotiator and Certified Divorce Financial Analyst, Colette is considered one of the leading divorce coaches in Southern Ontario. Colette is the owner of the Kitchener-Waterloo office of Fairway Divorce Solutions and has supported hundreds of families to reach resolution in a way that protects the children and financial futures. To learn more about Colette and her services please click


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One Response to “10 Tips for Dealing with the Limbo of Separation and Divorce”

  1. Sharon

    I was wondering if I need a lawyer because i’ve been living commonly for the last 26 years. Are the laws the same for me. We don’t have to worry about children because ours are all grown.


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