Separation

A separation is the end of a marriage or defacto relationship where two partners lived together. It is different to a break up in that it is legally recognised – meaning in addition to heartbreak, there are difficult legal circumstances that need to be navigated.


It is a difficult time of huge change, with huge emotions to go with it. Some couples separate and get back together, some do not – and your friend might be holding on to hope about one these scenarios. It might not feel like it, but you can make a difference by simply being there for your friend.

What it feels like

It is easiest to imagine what this feels like by thinking about a big break up you have been through. Your friend is grieving the end of the relationship, and also now dealing with the potentially difficult task of splitting from their partner legally. There may be a lack of closure until a divorce is finalised.


If there are children involved there may be added guilt and feeling that they are taking the children away from their partner. 

What you can do to support in the first 24-48 hours: 
  • Check in on their situation regarding: Access to food, water, shelter and emergency savings (relevant if they have had to move out of their previous home)

  • Provide emotional support / be there / listen / offer practical help if needed, ask if they want to talk about how they’re feeling

  • Make a time to follow up

Providing Support 

If grief wasn't enough to deal with, distribution of property, assets and agreement on custody of children can be messy and difficult. A friend going through this may need someone to talk to. There are emotional and practical supports you can offer to get them back on track.

Emotional Support
  • Let them know you care about them and want to help

  • Let them talk through and process the loss, and their emotions

  • Talk through their worries, concerns and plans for the future

  • Let them know the ways you are able to support them (emotional, practical, financial)

  • Encourage them when they are attempting to move forwards (applying for financial help, applying for jobs)

  • Encourage them to keep up regular social events and hobbies

Practical Support
  • Help them locate and set up new housing, utilities, bank accounts etc (if needed)

  • Early on your friend may struggle with daily living tasks – cooking meals, housework, taking care of kids, walking the dog. It may help to offer to do these for them.

  • Accompanying them to appointments for professional help – counselling, legal advice

1 Week on what now?

It is easiest to imagine what this feels like by thinking about a big break up you have been through. There is no time frame for healing, and your friend may feel good as new or still struggling as much as they were when it first happened. All responses are normal, and it’s important to not pressure your friend to ‘hurry up’ or ‘get over it.’


If there are children involved who are old enough to understand what is going on this can add another level of emotional stress and potential conflict with feelings of guilt and blame placing causing ongoing upset.

Providing support in the long term

A friend going through this may need someone to talk to. There are emotional and practical supports you can offer to get them back on track.

  • Provide emotional support. Be there, ask if they want to talk about how they’re feeling, and listen.

  • Keep up normal social activities and catchups to help distract your friend from what’s going on

  • Make a time to follow up regularly

Emotional Support
  • Let them know you care about them and want to help

  • Let them talk through and process the loss, and their emotions

  • Talk through their worries, concerns and plans for the future

  • Let them know the ways you are able to support them (emotional, practical, financial)

  • Encourage them when they are attempting to move forwards (applying for financial help, applying for jobs)

  • Encourage them to keep up regular social events and hobbies

Practical Support

If grief wasn't enough to deal with, distribution of property, assets and agreement on custody of children can be messy and difficult.

  • Help make a to do list of everything they need to get done over the next week / month

  • Your friend may struggle with daily living tasks – cooking meals, housework, taking care of kids, walking the dog. It may help to offer to do these for them.

  • Help them with appointments for professional help (counselling, legal advice, etc). You may be able to help them with finding and booking help, transport to get there, or accompany them to the appointment, or all three.

  • Help distract them with movies or activities that can take their mind off things

  • Offer to talk though and plan how they tell their children if they haven't already

  • Offer to take out the children to check in on how they are travelling. Sometimes it helps not to be the parent to get a true view of how they are feeling

Who can help?
Service that can help

Anglicare WA

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Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB)

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Legal Aid

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Mensline

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National Debt Helpline

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Relationships Australia

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Service Directories

Ask Izzy

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WA Connect

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