Restored Lives: The Emotional Impact of Divorce


For ten years Erik Castenskiold has been running courses to help people to recover from the experience of divorce or relationship breakdown. He speaks from experience, having survived divorce himself. To hear Eric’s personal story click here.

In his book, Restored Lives Erik offers tools and approaches you can use to rebuild your self-confidence. Erik has generously allowed to publish stories and excepts from his book. The first of which is below.

If you find these useful then consider visiting  Erik’s Restored Lives site or reading more in his book published by Monarch Books/Lion Hudson. Read on for an excerpt including a story about how one Dad survived his divorce.

Understanding the emotional impact by Erik Castenskiold

We cannot change the past and we cannot change our ex, but we can change ourselves, and that will affect our future. As we look at the impact of relationship breakdown on our life we need to recognize the things we can and can’t change. We cannot change the past; it’s happened. Many people have tried to alter their ex, but it rarely works! What we can control is our attitude, our outlook, and our own activities, all of which will have a big impact on what subsequently happens to us. This is the best starting point as we look at the pain of the past and begin to choose whether this will continue to harm us in the future.

This is Roger’s story:

I was shocked when I heard that my ex wanted a divorce and wanted me to leave the family home. The loss of daily contact with my children, my own flesh and blood, was the most painful thing. This was then coupled with the loss of a nice family home and moving to numerous bedsits, which sadly cost me as much as the mortgage on my house. I had to keep moving from one rented or temporary accommodation to another and over a three-year period I had around twelve different addresses. It was very depressing and I had suicidal thoughts.

I was not sleeping well, surviving on just three or four hours’ sleep.

There was so much that I had taken for granted. I found it very difficult to accept that my ex was now involved with someone else especially as the relationship was with another female. I was brought up in a very traditional Catholic family where there was no history of divorce at all, which made things very hard for me to understand and come to terms with. This period was made even bleaker when I lost my job and my father died.

My self-esteem was at rock bottom.

The pain was exacerbated by my ex initially denying me contact with the children. This was made worse still because I didn’t have a comfortable home that they could come to, which invariably meant taking them out when I saw them, and having to spend money that was in very short supply. The loss of simple daily family life had a really negative impact on me. Things got so bad that I almost moved into a rehabilitation scheme run by the local authority, but fortunately a very good friend from church and his family took me in for six months. Daily contact with this family was in many ways part of my recovery.

What helped?

One of the best bits of advice I was given was to keep busy and develop a new social life. I did not have much money so I joined a walking club; we went out all day and I could talk to a few others who had also gone through relationship breakdowns. I volunteered to help with various charities and on courses such as Restored Lives. Not only did I get social contact there but I could see others who were in a worse plight than I was and paradoxically this was in itself healing.I also started doing a lot more exercise, as I found it helped lift me out of my depression and mood swings.


If Roger's story is a familiar one to you here are Erik’s top ten tips for getting through each day:

1. Take one day at a time. Drop the past, stop planning the future, and notice the present. I love the expression “Today is the first day of the rest of my life”. “Today” is the most important day of your life, so try to make the most of it!

2. Start writing a journal.The mere process of writing down your thoughts and feelings can in itself be helpful. Don’t endlessly contemplate your worst emotions, simply recognize them, as well as the things you find difficult and helpful. In due course, you will be able to look back and see how far you have moved on.

3. Understand that you are grieving. You are grieving the loss of your relationship. That grief will not last for ever as you begin to get used to your changed circumstances.

4. Try to appreciate others around you. Express your feelings to them; show them you care and let those close to you know how much you love them.

5. Be kind to yourself. Focus on rebuilding your self-confidence and limit the things that you find frustrating or difficult. Take up activities that you enjoy doing.

6. Count the good things in your life at the end of each day. There may be other people with even worse problems than yours. In my many trips to hospitals, during which I’ve often seen people in desperate situations, I am always reminded of this fact. Some people have found it helpful to write down the good things in their journal so that they can remember them when things get hard.

7. Enjoy laughter. It’s OK to laugh even though the general situation is bad. It is said that children laugh about 400 times a day and adults only fifteen times. Laughing reduces muscular tension, improves breathing, regulates the heartbeat, and makes a great contribution to mental health. So watch some good comedy programmes and films (although obviously avoid those about adultery or relationship breakdown!).

8. Do some exercise.This doesn’t have to be to get fit; it is just to get rid of the tension and stress that builds up in your body. Do whatever you can – a fifteen-minute quick walk is enough, and you will feel much better afterwards.

9. Try to find time to help others. You may feel that you have nothing to give at the moment, but maybe you could manage to smile at someone, listen to someone else’s story, or call a person who is also finding life difficult. This is not meant to add more burdens to your life; it is a simple reflection that helping others, even in a small way, will help you.

10. Seek help for the bigger problems that you pinpoint. Don’t be afraid of getting professional help when you are going through one of the hardest times that you will ever experience in your life.

Extract from Restored Lives by Erik Castenskiold, published by Lion Hudson, 2013. Text copyright © 2013 Erik Castenskiold. This edition copyright © 2013 Lion Hudson IP Limited. Used with permission from Lion Hudson Ltd.


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