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How to behave at work whilst going through a divorce

Posted on March 3rd, 2011
NakedDivorce Blog Behave-at-work AdeleTheron

You have to remain focused on work during divorce to continue performing. Falling apart is simply not an option.

The office is no place to give vent to your repressed feelings, but if that’s where you find yourself when a rage attack threatens, there’s an exercise at the end of this chapter that will help you remain calm and at peace.

Etiquette for dealing with your boss and colleagues during your divorce

Some people find they need routine to carry them through a crisis. But the general rule of thumb when facing divorce is that you should take leave from work to gather yourself. Even three or four days will do. Not only will you need this time to be alone to think, but you’ll need privacy to do so. The comfort of routine is one thing, but be wary of throwing yourself into work as a distraction.

Here are some pointers for handling your boss and colleagues:

  • Firstly, tell your boss what you’re dealing with. Do this in a brief and matter-of-fact way. Ask for time off. Deal with any urgent matters that won’t wait until your return to office. If you need to, write a formal email or letter to your boss. Here is a suggested template:


Dear Mary

I regret to inform you that my husband and I are separating. Consequently, may I request a few days’ leave on compassionate grounds? I need to organise my living arrangements and ensure that my children are taken care of. In terms of my urgent accountabilities, may I suggest the following?

1. ______________

2. ______________

3. ______________

When I return I will endeavour to perform my duties to my best ability. Please keep this information confidential for the moment, as I would like the opportunity to tell my colleagues when the time is appropriate.

I will be back at work on (fill in date) and appreciate in advance your patience and understanding.

Kind Regards


Take eye drops and good, soft tissues to work

  • If you have the option to work from home, do so. It’s easier to maintain professional integrity via email and remotely than to be around the colleagues and people you work with every day when you’re dealing with raw emotions.
  • Inform the accounts department as soon as possible as your tax code may change. If you feel nervous about calling and aren’t feeling organised, prepare a list of things to communicate and email this through. Ensure that you include your current tax code in the email.
  • When you return to work, be selective who you tell about your divorce and when you communicate with them. Avoid crying sessions with your colleagues in the bathroom. This is not easy to come back from!
  • If possible, don’t discuss the details of your divorce with your colleagues. Even if they’re good friends, discuss details outside of work and only with those you know will not make your divorce the office gossip of the day. Having the details of your divorce batted about the office will only add to your stress.
  • It’s very common to feel foggy and unclear during the first few weeks of a divorce, as your mind is preoccupied with feelings. It’s a good idea to write down all action points and notes from meetings so that you have a reference. Ensure you communicate clearly about what you are willing to take on and what timeframe you can commit to for those outputs. Add on 30% to your deadline as you won’t be your usual, productive self.
  • Communicate very clearly with your boss about what they can and can’t count on from you.
  • Make a point of taking a lunch break each day for a few weeks. Leave the office and take a walk. It’s important to take time out when you’re under severe stress.
  • Take eye drops and good, soft tissues to work. If you find you need a good crying session in the bathroom, have the eye drops handy so that your emotional state is not overly obvious to everyone.
  • To remain calm at work drink a great deal of chamomile tea and use Rescue Remedy drops on a regular basis.
  • A great way to remain calm and focused at work or to relax when heartbreak threatens to overwhelm you is to listen to the naked divorce Break Up Reboot which is part of our Emotional Freedom program.

Exercise for handling your emotions at work

When you feel you need to put your emotions aside to focus on your work, practise the following exercise. Cycle through the four ‘A’ words:

  • Be Aware of the emotion.
  • Accept the emotion.
  • Acknowledge your right to your emotion.
  • Act normal.

This is how to handle divorce emotions at work:

  1. When feeling overly emotional, first stop.
    1. Stop doing anything.
    2. Just sit.
    3. Be still.
  2. Breathe.
    1. Breathe long and deeply, right into your belly.
    2. Let the breath fill your lungs like the ocean surging up the shore.
    3. Breathe like this for 20 breaths. And if you cry, you cry J.
  3. Become aware of what is happening. A neurotransmitter in your body called Dopamine is what’s kicking around and making you feel crazy. This is what causes that ache within your body. It’s an uncomfortable feeling, but it will pass if you let yourself ‘be’ with it.
  4. Visualise. See the craziness as a puppy that has run off without a leash. Understand it and stop allowing it to control you. Allow the emotion to be just like a puppy bounding around inside your head. But don’t engage with it. Just notice it. Watch the puppy and stay calm. You know the puppy will tire soon. Notice its colour, texture and shape. Give that part of yourself that feels crazy a label, or a name: Red Dragon, or Mad Dog. See that craziness as not part of you. See yourself disengaged from it.
  5. Accept and acknowledge the craziness and anxiety. It’s there and it’s okay that it’s there. But see it as a visitor that will eventually leave.
  6. No matter how you’re feeling at that moment, behave normally. You know that the craziness will pass.
  7. Make yourself a hot water drink. Add some lemon and two teaspoons of honey to a cup of boiling water. Drink it slowly. With each sip, sense the craziness retreating, like a tide. Calm down.
  8. Take a walk outside if you can. Walk slowly and gracefully, as if you’re gliding. While walking, cycle through your five senses and ask yourself: What do I see, hear, touch, taste and smell? Keep the focus outside your mind and on what’s around you. Be vigilant about this.
  9. Remind yourself that there will be an opportunity to feel your emotions when you’re in a safe space later.

Remind yourself that everything will be okay. Think of all the things that people have overcome in their lives. Think of someone who has overcome great obstacles to achieve greatness and beauty in their lives. This can be you.

If you enjoyed this post, I’d be very grateful if you’d help it spread by emailing it to a friend, or sharing it on Twitter or Facebook.

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