PROCESSES & DIVORCE AS LOSS
Mental Health America says the following:
If you have children, here’s a short list of tips that can help your young children and teens cope.
Reassure and listen. Make sure your kids know that your divorce is not their fault. Listen to and ease their concerns, and be compassionate but direct in your responses.
Maintain stability and routines. Try to keep your kids’ daily and weekly routines as familiar and stable as possible.
Offer consistent discipline. Now that your kids may share time with both parents separately, make sure to agree in advance on bedtimes, curfews and other everyday decisions, as well as any punishments.
Let your children know they can rely on you. Make and keep realistic promises. And don’t overly confide in them about your feelings about the divorce.
Don’t involve your children in the conflict. Avoid arguing with or talking negatively about the other parent in front of your kids. Don’t use them as spies or messengers, or make them take sides.
Source: © Copyright Mental Health America
Divorce is loss, and is hard for everyone, but for children, they are not making the choice, yet they must deal with their whole world being torn apart and the loss of having both parents present. While you, as an adult, have choices and can make practical decisions, your children have even less idea than you what the future is bringing. Communicate with each one on their level of understanding. They need reassurance that there is a plan and that things will get back to normal, a new normal, but that they are cared for and their life will go forward and they are still cared for and maintain routines and activities, as much as possible, as before.
When talking with your children about the divorce, or answering their questions, the discussions need to be age appropriate. Children do not need to know all of the details – it is unhealthy, for them, to take sides. Their emotions may be going up and down, they may act out or be very sad or be angry. They may think it is their fault and that they can make you go back together. Be patient with them and yourself. Communicate with kindness, reassure them that it is not their fault. They may try to cover their emotions up and not let you know what they are feeling.
Your kids will have a need to know why you are getting a divorce. Make the explanation simple, without blaming, like “We can’t get along anymore.” They may need to hear this multiple times to believe it is not their fault. Be sure to reassure them that even if parents and children don’t get along sometimes, that doesn’t mean that their parents will leave them or stop loving them.
Have a family discussion, don't just surprise them and spring it on them when Dad or Mom leaves. Have a family discussion and let them know there will be changes, AND that you both still love them and will spend time with them. Talk about your time-sharing plan with them. [See the section on Parenting Plans]
If possible, come up with a Mutual Story with your Ex that gives your children an explanation that is helpful to them in understanding the divorce. This is one of the best gifts you can give your CHILDREN! With this you give your children permission to continue to love their other parent and enjoy spending time with them. This also reassures your children that they are not losing either one of you, just the form that your family previously had – that is enough loss to deal with for everyone.
Again, the Mutual Story is presented with no blaming, with the ADULTS – the parents sharing the Mutual Story with the children together. You do not want to put children in the position of taking sides. You want these changes to be as easy as possible on them.
Change in anything is hard enough for all of us to deal with, for your child to have one of their parents gone, and all of the change that loss entails, is one of the biggest changes they will probably go through. This is why it is so important to maintain as much stability and as many routines going smoothly as possible.
Children feel more secure, safer, if they know what to expect. Think about that in yourself, don’t you feel safer if you know what to expect?
Answer questions with honesty and kindness.
If you don’t know the answer let them know you don’t know that yet, but you will find out.
Reassure them that everything will work out, that both you and your spouse loves them.
It is true, a breakup or divorce is a loss, a death of the form of the relationship you know, it may or may not have been comfortable, but it was what you knew. You may or may not have been happy, but change is scary. Whether it is your choice, you both decided that splitting up is for the best for everyone involved, or the other person initiated the change, it is one of the most emotional and stressful experiences anyone has. With grieving the loss of the relationship you used to know, there may be fear of the future, feelings of isolation, confusion and adjusting to a new way of being. However, there are things you can do, ways to cope with the pain that are positive and to begin to see positive outcomes for some of the changes.
One day you may be able to see the bright side of your situation, and the next you may only see the dark and the loss. Those days you may only see the destruction of all the hopes and dreams you came into the relationship with.
With all the changes in living situations, not knowing what is going to happen and how you will handle these changes, it sometimes seems there is no hope, but you have to realize that you CAN and WILL get past this time of uncertainty and pain.
Don’t try to do this alone.
Accept the support of friends and family, but don’t dwell on how awful things are, find friends, a divorce support group, a coach, or a counselor who will discuss the positive of your situation.
Enjoy the company of friends. Appreciate your relationships with family and friends. Focus on the good you have in your life. Look at what works for you in relationships. Allow yourself to smile and have fun. Savor each moment.
To serve your children well YOU MUST care for yourself.
Create, find, and/or participate in a support network.
You cannot give what you do not have.
No hope, you can’t give it.
No peace, you can’t give it.
No joy, you can’t give it.
No support, you can’t give it.
Talk with people who can help you know what to expect in the roller coaster of emotions you and your children may have. Discuss strategies you can learn that will assist you in dealing with these emotions and changes in a healthy way. Brain storm and come up with steps you can take to move forward and turn this situation into the best it can be for you and your children.
Fly a Kite
Ride A Bike
Take a Hike
Catch a Wave
Stretch it out
You do need to focus on your children, however, to serve them well, you must find time for your needs as well. If you are frustrated, tired, irritable, so stressed you cannot see anything positive, how can you be there for your children emotionally . . .when you need each other most?
This is just one more reason to create a support network. It may be a combination of things, a group you attend and make friends at, your family, your friends, a parenting group.
For you to have the energy and resources to continually give to your children and help them work through these changes, you must find ways, that work for you, to rejuvenate. That may be joining or organizing a group of friends who will take turns entertaining each other’s children so that you can have an hour of quiet time to relax write, paint, exercise, whatever makes life better for you.
It may be family staying with your children for a day or weekend so you can do something that feeds your soul, a day at the spa by yourself or with friends who you can discuss positive plans and experiences with [not ones who emphasize the negative, that will just suck your energy levels]. Maybe you would prefer a weekend retreat to feed your mind and spirit, inspirational classes, parenting classes to share ideas and experiences with other parents, the list is only as limited by your imagination.
Did I say find a support group?
Find one led by a professional who will offer guidance for you to go forward and create the life you choose, fostering a healthy relationship with your child/ren and a healthy relationship between your child/ren and their other parent. Talking with people who may be further along in getting past the changes that their divorce or separation brought and are successfully building a new life can give you hope and examples of what works to go on and experience joy again. Consider the following points suggested by Mental Health America.
Recognize that it’s OK to have different feelings. It’s normal to feel sad, angry, exhausted, frustrated, and confused—and these feelings can be intense. You may also feel anxious about the future. Accept that reactions like these will lessen over time. Even if the relationship was unhealthy, venturing into the unknown is frightening.
Give yourself a break. Give yourself permission to feel and to function at a less than optimal level for a period of time. You may not be able to be quite as productive on the job or care for others in exactly the way you’re accustomed to for a little while. No one is superman or superwoman; take time to heal, regroup, and re-energize.
Don’t go through this alone. Sharing your feelings with friends and family can help you get through this period. Consider joining a support group where you can talk to others in similar situations. Isolating yourself can raise your stress levels, reduce your concentration, and get in the way of your work, other relationships, and overall health. Don’t be afraid to get outside help if you need it.
Take care of yourself emotionally and physically. Be good to yourself and to your body. Take time out to exercise, eat well and relax. Keep to your normal routines as much as possible. Try to avoid making major decisions or changes in life plans. Don’t use alcohol, drugs or cigarettes as a way to cope; they only lead to more problems.
Avoid power struggles and arguments with your spouse or former spouse. If a discussion begins to turn into a fight, calmly suggest that you both try talking again later and either walk away or hang up the phone.
Take time to explore your interests. Reconnect with things you enjoy doing apart from your spouse. Have you always wanted to take up painting or play on an intramural softball team? Sign up for a class, invest time in your hobbies, volunteer, and take time to enjoy life and make new friends.
Think positively. Easier said than done, right? Things may not be the same, but finding new activities and friends, and moving forward with reasonable expectations will make this transition easier. Be flexible. If you have children, family traditions will still be important but some of them may need to be adjusted. Help create new family activities.
Life will get back to normal, although “normal” may be different from what you had originally hoped.
Source: © Copyright Mental Health America
Allow yourself time to grieve.
Go through the hills and valleys,
But do not set up residence there,
Don’t build your home in the valley of Grief.
Go through and PAST the grief.
Choose to go to your new life.
Choose to CREATE your new life.
“We may feel anger. . . . We may feel guilt, too. Could we have done something differently or done more? We may even feel responsible for the loss. . .
Other emotions are common. Feelings of sadness, longing for the person's presence, jealousy of others who have not experienced our loss. . . . But they are normal and natural responses to grief. Grief may affect us in other ways. In some, the experience of grief may be physical: aches and pains, difficulty eating or sleeping, fatigue. We may constantly think of the person, even replaying in our mind some final episode or experience. Grief can affect our spiritual selves. We may struggle to find meaning in our loss; our relationship with God may change.
I often describe grief as a roller coaster. It is full of ups and downs, highs and lows, times that we may think we are doing better and times that we may think we are sure we are not. The metaphor reminds us that our sense of progress may feel very uneven.”