There is no joy without hardship. If not for death, would we appreciate life? If not for hate, would we know the ultimate goal is love? … At these moments you can either hold onto negativity and look for blame, or you can choose to heal and keep on loving.
Divorce and Denial
Not unlike widows, those who divorce experience grief. After all, divorce is the death of a marriage and no one understood that better than Elisabeth Kübler-Ross. Ross literally wrote the book on grief. In 1969 when her world renowned On Death and Dying began appearing on bookshelves, it revolutionized the way the world dealt with loss of all kinds. Including divorce.
Ross originally intended her now widely recognized Five Stages of Grief to apply to any type of personal devastation including the loss of a loved one, job, income, freedom, and, yes even divorce. Which makes perfect sense. What also makes sense is that you are not alone in your grief. Your children are right there beside you. Your marriage, no matter how undesirable, was the foundation on which their family was built. Therefore, it is impossible for them to conceive of the union dissolving.
Divorce, Denial, and Moving On
For divorcing families, the first step in the grieving process is denial. It may be hard for you to believe this is happening to you and your family. This disbelief can even lead to thoughts of reconciliation. Even if you were the party who filed first, dissolving a marriage is a tough. After all, you did promise to love, honor, and cherish till death do you part. You had faith in these vows and so did your children.
Since their birth, your children lived within the boundaries of your marriage. Therefore when it ends, they will grieve as well. Parents need to be gentle and empathetic with their denial. Especially if you have moved out of this stage and are ready to begin the next phase of your life. Studies have shown that children who do not receive adequate support during this trying time can remain in the denial stage for longer than is healthy. This can lead to confusion and anger if you must move or when you start dating. Your children will see these steps as betrayal. They will feel you are betraying the other parent, your marriage, and most importantly them. Let them know you understand how they feel. Let them know that while it may be difficult, you will make this transition as a family.
Helping Your Child Deal With Denial and Your Divorce
• Be Upfront. Once divorce is a certainty, tell your children. Keeping it from them is not a protective measure. In fact, it can easily be more harmful and increases the likelihood they will learn about the divorce from someone outside the family. This will not only hurt, it may possibly lead to distrust on their part.
• Stand United. Both parents should be present when you tell your children about the divorce. It will show them that you both love them and will always do what is in their best interest.
• Be Firm. Let your children know, in no uncertain terms, that reconciliation is not possible. This will help ease their denial and any disillusion they may have about being able to save the marriage.
• Give Permission. It is important your children know it is permissible to love both parents and that both parents love them. While it is tempting, especially during a bitter divorce, to sway your children to your side, it can be damaging to their relationship with their other parent.
• Encourage Talk. Encouraging your children to talk about how they feel makes the divorce more real. Be prepared for them to be angry, scared, insecure, and any of a number of other emotions. But facing these emotions is much healthier for them than denying their feelings or pretending the divorce is not happening.
• Always Family. Make sure your children know that you will always be their mother and father. That this will never change.
Karen Gardner, ACPI CCP is a certified coach for parents who specializes in separated, divorced, and single parent issues. She will speak at the 2008 Momference Power, Passion, and Play on April 12, 2008 at 11:00 A.M. Her presentation, Parenting With Your Ex-Easier Said Than Done: Developing a Co-Parenting Plan, offers suggestions on how to lessen the stress of post-divorce parenting.
Power, Passion, and Play, an online webinar and teleconference, is designed to help divorced women explore issues that relate to their unique needs. It includes nine sessions with experts from a variety of disciplines including financing, health, self-empowerment, and parenting. The event, which requires advance registration and payment, is scheduled for April 9 and April 12, 2008. For more information or to register, visit http://www.Momference.com For more information on Karen and other upcoming classes visit http://www.ParentWell.net
Submitted by: Karen Gardner, Certified Coach for Parents *
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