Monday, 25 February 2019

Two Years Post-Divorce and Still Grieving: How to Help Your Friends Understand

My husband was my family for many years, and now that is gone too. So, my friends are my family.

I am one of the first of my friends to get a divorce.

At only thirty-one-years-old, I told my husband I needed to leave our marriage in order to be happy again. I fell in love with him when I was nineteen, and when we said our vows four years later, I believed with all my heart that we would be married forever. As I've learned, signing a marriage certificate doesn't guarantee marital bliss or personal happiness, or anything really except that if you ever do want to leave this marriage, you will have to go through a painful legal process to do so.

I've learned that there is a guarantee in divorce, however, and that guarantee is that it will hurt.

It will be harder than you ever could have imagined, and just when you think you're rounding a corner, a Divorce Landmine will go off--seeing your ex's new wedding photo, for example--and you are right back where you were when the whole thing began: crying in bed with the covers over your head and feeling like you need someone--anyone--to hold you while you cry.

It's been over two years since the initial split from my marriage, and while I am truly happy most days now and have learned to allow grief to pass through me when it needs to, those landmines still go off. And because I loved my former spouse so deeply, the pain is still unbearable when it strikes. This morning, after seeing the aforementioned photograph on social media, I almost stopped a stranger on the street who was washing his truck to ask him to hug me.

I'm serious.

I just needed a hug. I had cried alone in bed all morning, and I needed someone to physically put their arms around me and let me cry.

I am the only child of two parents who love me, but who are not emotionally or physically present for me. This has been the case for some time now, so I've developed a tough skin in order to survive on my own.

My husband was my family for many years, and now that is gone too.

So, my friends are my family, and while they are true, loyal, and loving, they are not a husband. They are not a mother or a father. They have their own families to attend to, their own problems to handle. And since many of them have not experienced the trauma of divorce or the devastating effects of a deep depression (I hope they never do), they may not fully comprehend the depths to which I plummet after a Divorce Landmine goes off.

Quite honestly, I do not want to take them with me to the dark side--I sure as hell don't want to be there, so why would I drag these dear friends down with me?

In my memoir, Meet Me in Paris, I have written openly and honestly about this dark side...and about the light that can break through beyond the grief. Because there is light. The storm will pass. I am living proof of this.

Healing can be a beautiful process, which, if you allow it to, will transform you in amazing ways.

In the meantime, when a Divorce Landmine goes off, we need help from our friends and loved ones.

For those dear friends and loved ones who aren't sure what to do for your depressed, divorced friend, I've written you a poem. I hope my words will help you to understand us divorced messes a little better, and to know what you can do to help.

The Next Time
The next time a friend tells you she is getting a divorce

Act as if she has just told you that the person she has loved for sunrises and sunsets, for starry nights and stormy skies and every moment in between...Act as if she has just told you that this person has died...

Because that is what has happened.

The next time a friend tells you she is getting a divorce

Act as if she has just told you that the person who has loved her at her best and at her worst, who has been her everything for too many days to count...Act as if she has just told you that this person has died...

Because that is what has happened.

The next time a friend tells you she is getting a divorce

Act as if she has just told you that she is about to enter the most intense grieving period of her life, and that a part of her has died too...

Because that is what has happened.

The next time a friend tells you she is getting a divorce

Know that even if says she is okay, underneath her smile, your friend is drowning in loss, your friend needs your help...

Because she is grieving a death
A death she may have chosen
A death he may have chosen
But it is a death, nonetheless.

The next time a friend tells you she is getting a divorce

Know that depression may strike, and depression is a beast, it's a killer. And when she reaches out to you, you must go to her. Drop your plans, get in the car...

And go.

Go again, and again, and again, because she needs you, even if she doesn't want to admit it.

Because there are days when she doesn't want to live, even if she doesn't want to admit it.

And because one day, you will lose someone you loved, whether through a divorce, a death, or both...

And you will need her too.

The next time a friend tells you she is getting a divorce

The best thing you can do is hold a space for her to grieve, without telling her why her life is so fabulous and why she should feel good.

The best thing you can do is hold her and let her cry until the storm passes.


Friday, 22 February 2019

5 Crappy Things You Need To Feel (If You Want To Get Over Your Divorce)

You're grieving! Cut yourself some slack.

We always hear about the five stages of grief a person goes through when a loved one passes away. But, did you know that you will also go through these five stages of grief after a divorce?

When you go through a divorce it's like a death of love. Even if you're the one who initiated the divorce, you will still grieve. This is because you are not only mourning the loss of your marriage, you are also grieving the loss of your hopes and dreams — the belief of what you thought your life was going to look like.

I want to emphasize that each person will go through the stages of grief differently and there is no set length of time. The ultimate goal is to get to the fifth stage: acceptance.

Some experts agree that it takes one year for every ten years of marriage to get over it. 
That's quite a long time; a lot can happen in a year. However, it may take you more or less time depending upon several factors, including who initiated the divorce, how happy you were in the marriage, and your own personal state of confidence and well-being.

During the grieving process, you will often feel particular emotional effects of divorce as well.

A review of the five stages of grief as they relate to divorce:

1. You just can't seem to accept that it's really over.

Believe it or not, the denial stage often begins during the marriage. It may be hard to believe or accept the fact that your marriage is over. You hold on to a sliver of hope that things can be different — that things will change. You believe that the two of you will be able to spark that magic that once occurred in your relationship.

Denial is normal. It's a way to help you grasp the fact of what's happening without overwhelming emotions. It's a way for you to hide from the facts in order to deal with the pain.

Other forms of denial include not believing they want out of the marriage, not believing that they are in love with another, or finding it difficult to believe that this is really happening to you. After all, you never thought you would find yourself in this situation.

2. Everything about your ex makes you angry.

During and after your divorce, you may experience anger directed in a variety of ways depending on the situation that ultimately led to the divorce.

For example, you may be angry at your ex for cheating. You could be angry at his boss for making him work long hours. You could be angry about her using alcohol or drugs or for not caring enough to make things work. You may be angry at yourself for not seeing the writing on the wall, for putting up with their crap for as long as you did, or for not showing them the love and respect that they craved.

Anger also occurs because of the way he treats the kids. You are angry that he doesn't call the kids, visit them, or seem to care about them. You're angry that she doesn't pay child support on time or that she left you in a financial mess. Whatever the reason, you're gonna feel it.

3. You find yourself thinking "If only..." often.

Bargaining is so much more than trying to figure out ways to win them back. The bargaining stage is where you find yourself thinking, "If only..." "I could have..." "I should have..." and "What if?"

In essence, you are attempting to change the past or the current reality through your thoughts. In a way, bargaining is trying to rationalize what happened. You think, "If only I had seen it coming," "If only I had tried harder," or, "If only I had forced them to go to counseling." You are trying to fix what has already happened.

Bargaining may also come in the form of revenge toward your ex, and possibly his or her new lover. You hope that your ex will get what is coming. You may be thinking, "I want them to be as miserable as I am," or "I wish they would just get run over by a bus." This is also normal.

4. You just want to bury yourself under the covers for months.

Odds are you, you're gonna go through depression, not eating, exercising, or sleeping properly. The nights are filled with restless sleep and dreams of what might have been, as well as nightmares that you will wind up a bag lady alone on the streets.

During the depression stage, you may feel a deep sadness over the loss of your marriage. You may be hurt that your vows did not mean as much to your spouse as they did to you. You may cry over the fact that he was not the person you thought he was. You shed tons of tears for your children.

While in a depressed state, you may play victim by labeling your ex as a narcissist, sociopath, or compulsive liar in order to get through the pain.

You may find yourself depressed over the fact that you lost your home and have to move in with family or friends, or that you need to find a new job to support yourself. The mere thought that you are totally on your own may scare the heck out of you. This overwhelming fear may revert you back to any of the other stages of grief.

5. Finally, you are ready to build a new life for yourself.

Acceptance comes when you fully accept the fact that your marriage, as well as your hopes and dreams for the future together, are over. It is at this point that you are ready to build a new life for yourself. Acceptance is letting go of the past.

Even after accepting the divorce, you may still find yourself dealing with anger, blame, or guilt. However, your emotions get less intense as time goes on. For the most part, you feel indifference for who your ex is and what they are doing. You have separated your personal life from theirs. If you have children together, you learn to co-parent without rehashing old hurts.

You are like the foundation of a house. It can withstand fire as well as the most severe of storms. You built your marriage on top of this foundation. The marriage crumbled, the walls came falling down, and you grieved. When you sweep away the debris, you are left with a beautiful, strong foundation to build your new life on.


Thursday, 21 February 2019

When Divorce Still Hurts, Even Years Later

When one of my kids remarked that he thought there was a profound sadness in me, I was taken aback. He has seen me in a good, solid, happy relationship for several years now, and while life isn’t without its challenges, in general, I have no complaints.

And then it occurred to me.

He is picking up on some aura, some mood, some indefatigable “something” that I am still carrying around, or that returns on certain familial occasions. And after all, since my boys are no longer children, these days it’s at those events that I am most likely to be interacting with my sons — at the holidays, a graduation, some other special celebration.
It’s been more than a dozen years, but the fact of my divorce, the speed with which the marriage unraveled, the ease with which my spouse moved on, the tumultuous aftermath that dragged on for a decade, the onslaught of related losses… All of it still hurts.
And I still ache at having trusted myself to the institution of marriage, to the man with whom I stood at an altar and exchanged vows, and to the family court and judicial systems that broke my beliefs in fairness. What I learned: Never let your guard down entirely, and he or she with the deepest pockets wins.

You may interpret my conclusions as bitterness or cynicism, more pronounced at moments and evaporating at others. Personally, I consider these realizations to be hard-won wisdom. I also recognize my own responses as a function of marital expectations formed in the way I was raised, and my vision for what constitutes family. That includes old school values like honoring commitments, following through on responsibilities, working through issues rather than walking away.

No doubt my personal history comes into play as well; I was single into my 30s having declined a few proposals, deferring marriage until I was ready, convinced I had made an excellent choice.

I’ve heard the lectures about moving on after divorce many times. They are irritating and dismissive, and predicated on assumptions that may not be true for all of us, including the adage that “time heals all wounds.” But moving on is not as simple as a prescription, especially when the past is the present, and the present is indeed a bitter pill.

Oh, there’s likely nothing so special about my story except perhaps how long it raged. Yet in our many hard years since the marriage ended, there was a great deal of good in our little household of one mom, two boys and a big mutt. But that fact doesn’t erase the sadness of having said “I do” to a man who is the father of my children, and who became a stranger to me. It doesn’t undo the bittersweet clarity that when I look into my sons’ faces, I see my dad (long deceased) and my ex’s mother (whom I once loved), both of whom are no longer in my life. I cannot deny that when I hear echoes of family jokes that trace back to my children’s early childhood, I flash immediately to other days.

Then I feel the empty space profoundly — not for a man I do not miss — but where a family history of four ought to be.

Instead, there is the story of the three of us together, of something in me irrevocably fractured, and I can only hope, less so in my sons. And apparently, my sadness lingers at moments. Perhaps it is an aftereffect of the years I was carrying the weight of the world on my shoulders. Perhaps it arises on those occasions that invariably spark old memories.

Lest you think that’s all there is, I repeat: These days, life is pretty good. There remains a post-divorce financial cloud from which I may never recover, and lost opportunities as a result. But we weathered storms, my children are now young men, and they will find their own way as we all must, with time.

I am grateful that the man in my life sees my joy and hears my laughter; these are qualities in our life together that are our “normal.” (How great is that?) Still, I can only imagine that he, too, senses the sorrow that is part of who I am. We are none of us any one thing.

As for my children, I hope I have been a model of resourcefulness and curiosity, of determination and positivism. I hope they see that what is good in life can outweigh the hurt of our deepest disappointments.

And so I come to accept my reality: Sadness can coexist with happiness; some wounds may never heal though we learn to live with the pain; some pain may never subside completely. You may consider it phantom pain, but it’s pain nonetheless. And regardless of its source, shouldn’t we be allowed to acknowledge it when it returns, free to express our feelings openly?


Wednesday, 20 February 2019

How I Am 5 Years After My Divorce

5 years post divorce, after selling and moving out of my matrimonial home, I can say that I have survived, and made it through some of the toughest aspects of divorce. Establishing a new relationship with my son's dad was not an easy road, but we did it, and we definitely fare better than most. The fear of how I would survive as a single, working parent has lessened, and now I believe I am juggling in ways I never thought possible. The time alone without my son is not without heartache, but it has definitely become a bit easier. Despite all of the triumphs, there are some things that continue to be really, really hard post divorce.

Seeing my son in pain as a result of divorce.

I wish I could take his tears away. As he gets older he expresses more, and has become vocal (and tearful) about how sad he is that he can't be with both parents at the same time. I reassure him that when he is with either parent, the other is just a call away if he is feeling sad. As much as I love an unexpected call from my baby at any hour of the day, it hurts my heart to hear his tears on the other end. When he asks about why we aren't all together all the time, I have answers that sometimes seem acceptable (i.e. we do special things together like birthdays and school plays), and sometimes there really isn't a satisfactory answer. All I can do is empathize and tell him I know it's really hard and I understand it makes him sad.

I don't know that this part of divorce will ever feel less painful, watching your child struggle with a situation you put them in. All I can hope is that it gets easier for him, and as he grows he will understand why we did it, and how much better we all are or will be for it.

I still cry, a lot.

Divorce is an emotional roller coaster, even 5 years later. Some days the tears are from loneliness, and wondering when I am going to find the right partner for my son and me. Sometimes I cry because I am completely overwhelmed with all that I have on my plate. The littlest thing like a big snowfall has had me bawling on my stairs because shoveling is now one more thing I have to do that night.

I have been judged by people who seem to diminish my load because I only have one child. I would never diminish someone else's stresses before I have walked a day in their shoes. The thought that some people think that, has also caused me pain.

I am still not 100 per cent used to not having my son at all times, and don't know that I ever will be. As a result, sometimes coming home to an empty house triggers an emotional outburst. I don't take for granted the nights I get to kiss him goodnight and see his adorable face in the morning. I probably say I love you and watch him sleep more than others, but in a way it gives me more to hold onto when he goes to his dad's.

Sometimes it can feel like I'm alone on Divorce Island.

Divorce can be really isolating. All of my really good friends are still married, and as a result I don't have a lot of people in my circle who are single, let alone single parents. There is a level of understanding among people who have been through similar experiences, and I hope that over time I meet more single moms (and dads) to add to my social circle.

Social media is not always a platform that brings me joy.

Sure, there are aspects of social media I love. The connection it brings to those I think about often but have lost touch with is like no other, and it's kind of nice (and a little creepy) to run into old acquaintances. It is also hard to see certain things that I'm not quite in a frame of mind to see. I am reminded of friends/family that were once in my life, but are now acquaintances because of divorce. I am reminded of just how few people in my social circle are single and how couple friends continue to grow closer and closer. I go through stages where I want to remove myself completely from social media to save myself from going through a box of Lucky Charms in an evening, but there are 2 things preventing me from doing so. I work in Marketing and oversee social media, so this is not really an option. 
Second, social media has become my source for news, for connecting with certain communities I am a part of, and a platform for me to celebrate, vent, and not feel so alone. So for now, I am sticking around as the positive elements seem to outweigh the moments of despair.

The cliché that time heals definitely holds truth. For me, the last 5 years are proof of that adage. I do hope that the road for the next phase of healing is a little bit shorter. I am a better person and mom than I was 5 years ago, and the strength I have gained is like none I could have imagined. In some way shape or form, life is hard for everyone. In my 30's, divorce has been my challenge and my major bump in the road. Although I know the healing will continue, I keep reminding myself the worst is behind me and the forecast is looking very sunny.


Tuesday, 19 February 2019

How to Know if You’re Stuck in Your Grief Post-Divorce

Are you stuck or right where you should be?

When was the last time you thought about life with your ex? Last week? Yesterday? Two minutes ago?

A month ago, a man named Joseph called me to tell me that he was four years post divorce, but he felt like he was stuck in his recovery. Not a day went by when he didn’t think about his wife—how much he missed her, how sad he was that she left him, and how lost he was in the world. He realized that the feelings he has now are only mildly less intense than those he had when her leaving was fresh.

It’s normal and healthy to relive both good and bad moments in time when you were married. It’s an unavoidable part of the grief process. But there will come a day when, if you aren’t moving forward, the very same thoughts and feelings will be deemed unhealthy.
Time is supposed to heal us and all our wounds. We are expected to be resilient after a major loss or major life event such as divorce. If we don’t bounce back, that means the healing is stalled and it’s important to get a handle on why you might be stuck.

How long your emotional recovery takes depends on a number of factors such as whether you saw the split coming, whether it was your choice, whether you were left for another, whether you have kids, whether you are self-supporting, whether you’re getting adequate help and whether you have the right resources and information around you, to name a few.

There is a way out, but most people need some kind of help to get there. I can say this with confidence after 15 years of doing this work. I’ve seen who gets beyond the divorce and I see who gets stuck (and why).

Seven Tools for Getting on the Other Side of Your Divorce Grief

Those who get on the other side take advantage of a combination of at least three of the following seven tools:

1. They read books to help them sort out their experience and their feelings/reaction to the experience.

2. They have a strong support network that will go the distance with them (often friends and family are available for a couple of months but then you may feel like you’re a downer all the time or that you’re burdening them (or they stop taking or returning your calls!).

3. They journal.

4. They seek professional help.

5. They join a support group.

6. They allow themselves to be where they are and they don’t try to rush through the grief process or pretend to be further along than they are.

7. They want to feel better (this one may seem obvious but it's crucial to getting better!).

This week, one of my group members, Sally (not her real name), announced that, after 2 1/2 years, she feels she’s FINALLY getting past the divorce being her entire story. It was when she realized she had a “normal” weekend that she became aware that she was in the new chapter of her life—not waiting and wishing for it any longer!

Because she’s been dealing with a narcissistic ex (one of the most difficult kinds of exes!), she has had to work hard on finding ways to minimize the impact of his cruel and often unpredictable treatment. She knows she will never get it right 100% of the time, but what’s so good is that she knows that it’s not about her (and the best part of her healing is that she now knows it never was about her!). She’s free to move on. And wow, does it feel great.

Along with participating in one of my groups, Sally was in individual therapy, she read lots of books on the subject and she was a big journal writer (there’s actually exciting new neuroscience showing the benefits of journaling* so, while it may seem passive, it’s actually moving the pain out of your brain!) She definitely wanted to feel better right from the start but she couldn't imagine how she'd ever get there.

Joseph, on the other hand, assumed that time would heal his wounds and he was too proud to reach out for any kind of help. He didn't speak to anyone, didn't read anything (except maybe on-line tid bits once in a while), and he felt like such a loser that he didn't think he even deserved to feel better. As a result, he became stuck in his grief.

But it’s never too late to reach out and I’m confident that Joseph will find his way through the process.

Here are some books I suggest you read on healing and, if you’re interested, please contact me to join the 4-week Stronger Day by Da
teleseries. There’s more information below:


Stronger Day by Day, Susan Pease Gadoua
Beyond Divorce, Jeannine Lee
Splitting, Bill Eddy and Randy Kreger


Monday, 18 February 2019

To the Good Single Dads From a Single Mom

You deserve some recognition and to know that you are amazing.

Nobody ever mentions the single dads.

And they are out there.

My kids have one.

They hardly mention the dads who became moms, or the dads who still sent their ex flowers from her little kids on mother’s day because they couldn’t yet -the dad who loves his kids more than he is bitter toward his ex.

We see post after post on social media about single moms having a hard life, harder than ours.

We read about how good of a job they are doing to teach their sons not to be like their deadbeat father, and how strong they are doing this all alone.

We see posts titled 10 reasons single mom’s rock, making points about how they are used to handling everything on their own, and how good they’ve gotten at juggling things with no time to themselves, all while they work two jobs to make ends meet.

My hat is off to them.

I respect you because as a “single mom” myself, I have not had to endure that. Which means my kids, who are the most important part of all of this, have not either.

It’s not easy as a single dad going to the park alone with your children, knowing everyone suspects you are there so that mommy can have some me time.

But what about the moms who are single but not alone because the man they left behind may have been an unexceptional husband, but is an exceptional father. For us, it feels weird to call ourselves “single moms” because we are technically single, but not single in the raising of our children.

We are lucky.

We may not say it enough, maybe some of us don’t recognize it from the bitterness and strain that comes from a divorce or a breakup, but we are lucky to end up with these kinds of men. As strange as it sounds, we are lucky these are the types of the men we started a family with, even though we won’t end as a family in the traditional sense.

What about the moms who got divorced or left not so perfect husbands, but amazing fathers? The moms who share joint custody, and only see their kids 50% of the time? It seems like we have it easy, and sometimes, in some instances, we do.

We know that.

We feel lucky, even though just as we are getting back into a routine with our kids, it’s time for them to go again. It makes us sad because they are being shuffled between houses, and we selfishly want to be there 24/7, but happy at the same time they have a relationship with their dad.

The relationship they should have, and deserve to have.

We are judged on how often they switch homes, but we ignore it because we know how important it is to keep a consistent relationship with their dad when he is a genuinely great person, and focused on making them the best they can possibly be, just as much as we are.

You single dads may feel stupid for treating your ex so well when so many men don’t. But you are not stupid. You are amazing. It’s hard, really hard. Men need to cut all ties when moving on from a relationship and you can’t do that when you are a parent.

At least not if you are a good one.

To the one’s that stay, I admire you, and I thank you for setting such an amazing example for your daughters, and especially your son’s. They are watching how you treat their mother.

You are so awesome that you feel guilty when there is tension between you and your ex, momentarily forgetting the agonizing tension in your house when you were together. You’re not realizing the chaos the boy in the house next door calls life, where the mom and dad are screaming out of frustration while her little boy whom she thinks is sleeping in the next room is listening because they think they have to stay for their kids. You feel guilty that you are not in their lives one hundred percent of the time, but you are in their lives 100% of the time you just don’t realize that yet. You don’t realize that some fathers who are physically there all of the time are hurting their children more than helping them.

You will realize one day how great of a job you are doing, and that just because you did not do a great job in your marriage, it says nothing about the way you parent. I promise you will realize how much what you are doing now, the way you act in front of your kids and make decisions based on them and not your feelings towards her affect them in a positive way and will trickle down into the rest of their lives shaping them into better people.

And I can’t wait to watch them grow into the wonderful men who treat their women with such respect, and beautiful daughters who have high standards and know what they are deserving of because of you.

It’s hard to remember this in the hard times. Even though you may have exchanged some hurtful words two days ago in a text message, you learn to let it go for them.

You learn to move on from the things she does that drive you absolutely mad and remind you why you could never be with her, but your kids would never know that because you treat her with nothing but respect when they are around.

That’s not easy. There is a reason you separated.

It’s not easy as a single dad going to the park alone with your children, knowing everyone suspects you are there so that mommy can have some me time. When in reality, after the fun is over you still have to bring them home, cook dinner, do potty time, and give baths, all while they are tugging at your leg to play Spiderman.

Eventually, you realize it isn’t worth being angry over, you aren’t together anymore. And that makes you sad your family is no longer together, but I hope you realize how happy you make your children when you drop them off and you say hi to their mom instead of avoiding eye contact and slamming the door.

I know it makes you sad every single time you watch her walk away with them after a long weekend, it makes you feel like you have been punched in the gut and feeling like you should be walking right beside them. But I hope you know how happy you make your children when they excitedly lose their first tooth, and you say “l will send mommy a picture.” It’s amazing they aren’t afraid to speak about their mom to you when so many other little kids with divorced parents are afraid.

You can never know what that possibly means to them -knowing that you are a still a team, that you still love them together even though you are not together.

You deserve some recognition and to know that you are amazing.

I wish all fathers were like you. You make us better mothers, and you are molding your kids into the kind of people we need most in this world right now.


Friday, 15 February 2019

Surviving (And Thriving!) The First Year As A Single Parent After Divorce

Take it from someone who has “been there, done that” – the year you become a single parent after divorce is one of the longest years of your life.

No matter how you become a single parent – whether through divorce, the death of a partner, or by choice – you need to be ready for a year that promises many emotional highs and lows, lots of self doubt, and making mistake after mistake; however, if you are the kind of single parent that is determined to make this year a good one for you and your kids – despite this major life change – then this year can also be a good one.
What?? Isn’t divorce supposed to promise doom and gloom for both you and your kids? You know – you made your bed, now lie in it kind of mentality?
You MUST be the kind of parent like me who refuses to helplessly watch her family slowly rot away into a severely sad state, or you wouldn’t be reading this blog right now. Good for you! Divorce does not have to equal messed up kids, a ruined life for you, or constant fighting with your ex.
Based on both my professional opinion and by my own personal experience, both you and your kids can thrive after a divorce.
Do you want to know the secret of how to do this? It’s not based on your income or how much your ex makes, or your gender, or your educational level. It doesn’t matter whether or not you share custody with your ex or even the ages of your kids!
The secret to whether or not you and your kids will survive a divorce is based on having a positive attitude, maintaining a warm relationship with your kids, and lots and lots of hard work.
Below is a list of 6 common challenges that often take place during the first year of becoming a single parent. In addition, I have included 6 solutions to address these common challenges, and if you are the kind of parent who wants what’s best for your kids (and for yourself, too – just because you become a single parent shouldn’t mean that YOU don’t matter anymore!), then make the effort to follow my advice.
#1: Your Self-Esteem Will Plummet (Only Temporarily!)
Challenge: During the first year of single parenthood, expect to question every decision you make.
It makes sense, right? You go from consulting with your partner from everything from childcare decisions to financial issues. Now its time to stretch your “decision muscle” and learn how to make your own decisions based on your own passions, values, and beliefs.
In addition, you might also feel unlovable, vulnerable, and lonely. Divorces, just like break-ups, play horrible games with our sense of self-worth. While it is normal to feel this way during the early stages of a divorce, do not let it define your new you.
Solution:  During this first year of being a single parent, find the courage within you to try new things and to explore new passions. Sure, you might find out that you hate pottery making, for instance, but you will have learned some valuable new insights about your new self. Try to tap into your pre-married self and discover hobbies that you haven’t thought about for years or have always wanted to try.
In addition, it is important that you do not try to solve extreme problems with shallow solutions. What I mean is, do not jump from one bad post-divorce relationship to another one just so you don’t have to feel lonely. Of course you will feel ugly and lonely right after a divorce and you will continue to feel this way no matter what relationship you are in until you work on YOU!!
Put the work into realizing how AMAZING you are so that the right partner will be attracted to you when the time is right.
#2: Other People Will Judge You
Challenge: People are mean. They like to judge other people for many different reasons; mostly, though, people judge others because it somehow makes them feel better about their own lives. These kinds of people tend to think along the lines of “My life sucks, but at least not as bad as theirs” and they find comfort in this.
Solution: You can’t change these people, but you can surround yourself with people who are supportive and positive. I once had a parent at my kids’ elementary school ask me how my kids were doing since the divorce. When I told her that, so far, they seemed to be adjusting well, she replied, “Well give it some time.” Wow! That went from concerned and caring to downright critical in no time flat!
When things like this happen, all you can do is move on and don’t dwell on these situations. These kinds of judgmental statements are more about that person who spoke them than they are about you, so just try to go about your day and forget about them.
#3: You WILL Make Mistakes and You WILL  Have Successes
Challenge: Single parenting is new to you and it involves a major learning curve. The only way to avoid making any mistakes is to avoid making any decisions at all! I can’t think of anything more useless for you and your kids than to sit back and not live life out of fear of making the wrong decision.
In contrast, you will also make some really great decisions that will make a positive impact on your family life. This is great when this happens because as you attempt new things and notice that you are making good decisions, you will also increase your confidence and your self-esteem.
Solution: Give yourself a break – don’t expect perfection. The only way to accumulate a scorecard of successful decisions is also by having made some not so great decisions. You can try to set up yourself for success by surrounding yourself with trusted family and friends who you can consult with regarding new decisions.  
#4: Your ex Will Make You Want to Scream
Challenge: You wouldn’t have made the hard to decision to divorce if you felt all warm and fuzzy all the time for your ex. The first year of single parenthood means that both you and your ex are figuring this new life out. That means that your ex will do things that will make you want to scream, and this is normal.
Solution: Through a multitude of patience, compromise, and hard work, chances are that you and your ex can, at some point, be on friendly terms. This is not going to be easy on you and will require great amounts of determination and perseverance on your end to inspire this kind of relationship to happen. Don’t give up on the hope that this relationship can develop. Your kids will be grateful to you for having the determination to help this relationship develop.
Of course, the exception to this recommendation is if your ex was abusive during the marriage, is a current addict, or suffers from a severe mental illness. In this case, you might need to have the courage to endure long court custody hearings, resolve to not get dragged into unnecessary drama created by your ex, or to be both a mom and dad for your child if your ex chooses not to have a healthy relationship with your kids.
#5: Expect That Your ex Will Have Different Rules at Their House
Challenge: Not only are you creating a new life as a single parent – so is your ex; therefore, expect some lifestyle changes by your ex. Maybe they always thought the family rule of not allowing the kids to see their “crazy” brother was stupid and now they take your kids to see him. Perhaps they let the kids go to bed at 11:00 at their house, but your rule is lights out at 9:00.
Solution: This difference in household rules is very common with divorced households and (believe it or not) kids CAN learn to handle different rules at different households. Of course, kids are prone to prefer the more lenient rules – they will probably also complain to you if your rules are more strict than your ex’s rules.That’s ok.
You are the boss of your household, so as long as your rules are reasonable and based on your personal passions, values, and beliefs, then your kids will learn to adjust to this.  
#6: Your Kids Will  Misbehave
ChallengeEVERY time your kid misbehaves or acts out, you will blame yourself (or you’ll blame your ex, which is a cop out in my opinion). Repeat this to yourself: every kid acts out – that’s part of being a kid!
Kids from traditional families, single families, divorced families, and gay families all misbehave at one time or another. No kid is perfect and sometimes the way kids learn is through making mistakes.
Remember that line from the Batman movie? You know, the one where Bruce Wayne’s father asks him why we fall? Bruce tells his dad that it’s so we can learn how to get back up. This lesson can be applied to our kids (they sometimes need to fail so they can learn to succeed) as well as to ourselves (we also learn how to parent through our mistakes).
Solution: Have a plan for when you kids misbehave. This plan should include:

  • A warm explanation
  • Clear expectations for behaviour
  • Clear communication of consequences
  • Consistency
Parent with purpose – if your attitude is positive (even if you do not feel like it in the moment) about the divorce, then your kids will be more likely to feel as if they can conquer this first year too

Take care of yourself! It’s ok to take time out for yourself. Go out with supportive friends, get a manicure, take a warm bath at night. This not only prepares you mentally and physically to take on new challenges during this first year, but it also models to you kids that taking care of yourself during hard times is a smart thing to do.

Let go of judgmental, negative family and friends and surround yourself (and often) with positive influences.

Address your kids’ needs as soon as possible. Don’t let small problems get out of control. If you kids need extra support with adjusting to the divorce, then be sure to get that support for them. There’s no shame in getting therapy, tutors, or simply just giving your kids extra attention during this adjustment period. It is irresponsible to ignore cries of help from your child.

Be the boss of your household – don’t hand over authority to your kids because you feel guilty about the divorce. They need you to lead them even if it seems like they think you are incompetent. Believe me, kids excel in putting up a tough front, but what they really want is for you to put your arms around them and tell them that everything is going to be ok. 

Recognize that you are doing the best you can. You’ve got this! Give yourself the credit you deserve.

Do not treat your kids as your peer, your therapist, or your quasi-partner. Let them be kids.

Have realistic expectations for the divorce, for your kids, and for yourself. If you set the bar too high, then you will always be frustrated and disappointed for not being perfect. No one is perfect.

The most important thing that you can do for your kids during this first year of single parenthood is to show them that you love them and care for them even when they feel out of control and confused.

You CAN  Do This!
If you follow my advice when you encounter any of the 6 common challenges that I discussed above, then you will set yourself up for success for being a single parent. Just remember that you can be a great single parent. We all have unique challenges specific to our individual divorces and/or situations, and that simply means that we need to be flexible (and sometimes creative) when handling these challenges.    
Tips to Help Your First Year Start Off in the Right Direction
As I said in the opening paragraph, my kids and I have survived (and thrived!) as a Modern Family who has experienced divorce and your family can too. You might be doubting whether or not you can really pull this off, but I know you can.
Keep coming back to Parenting The Modern Family for more tips and insights as you navigate the adventure of Modern Parenting. Contact me either in the comment section below or through my email to let me know what challenges you are facing as a Modern Parent. I also want to hear about your successes – I love celebrating with my readers!

Thursday, 14 February 2019

Time to Tell the Kids That You Are Getting Divorced

Telling the children is the part that many parents fear the most. The last thing that they want to do is hurt their children and it’s a really difficult conversation to have as the consequences are life changing for the whole family. However there are some guidelines that will make it a little easier if you follow them.

See the situation from your child’s point of view: Children often worry that they will be abandoned by one of their parents in a divorce and they will lose them from their lives. As a couple you need to reassure them that you will both always be there for them.
Choose your timing: Make sure you are 100% sure that you cannot save your relationship before you tell the kids. If you are just considering splitting up then keep it between you and your partner. There is no need to involve the children until you are sure there is no way back.

There is never a good time to tell your child but do make sure they do not have to rush off to school or an activity. They will need time with you to discuss their thoughts and feelings.

Agree on what you will say

Make sure you are both giving the same united message across: Do not contradict each other or argue whilst you are telling the children.

Tell them as a couple: Where possible tell them as a couple so that they can see that even though the marriage is ending that you will still both be there for them. Actions speak louder than words and this will support the fact that you are saying you will still both be there for them.

Don’t play the blame game: Be fair to each other and don’t allocate blame for your break-up or try to get the children to take sides. This puts unfair pressure on your children if they are asked to choose between parents. Often this will back fire anyway as the child will side with the parent who is being bad mouthed. Put the kid’s best interests first to protect them from any unnecessary emotional damage.

Reassure your children: Make it clear that it is not their fault and they are not to blame. Ensure they understand that your divorce has absolutely nothing to do with them or anything they have done. Often children think they could be responsible for the break-up and this can cause undue emotional stress for them. Reassurance and cuddles are important here.

Don’t go into details: Keep it simple and avoid unnecessary details. There will be a lot for your children to take in so don’t overwhelm them with too much information. Allow them time to absorb the break-up and overcome the initial shock. Let them know that you will both be happy to answer any questions they have.

Be honest and real: Don’t make promises you cannot keep just to lessen the impact. Stick to the facts and don’t try to gloss over the fact that there will be some changes coming. Prepare your children on how to cope with these changes and reassure them that the divorce will not change the love that you both have for them and that you will both be there for them.

Try not to get over emotional: The children will take their lead from you and if they can see you are handling it ok it will set a precedent for them to follow. Remember that you are the adult in this situation and you do not need your child to support or comfort you. Whilst they will see this has not been an easy decision for either of you to make they will see that you are sure that you have made the right one.

Do what you can to smooth the transition for your children:
- Don’t make any drastic changes to their usual daily routines.
- Do not use them as a “go-between” between the two of you
- Keep all discussions about the divorce and any upcoming lifestyle changes out of earshot
- Do not make them the “little man of the house” or the “little woman of the house” now that your ex has gone as this is way too much pressure for a child
- Remember that the kids should not be there to comfort you, this is your role as a parent
- Do not argue or fight with your ex in front of the kids
- Do not bad mouth the other parents in front of your kids or ask them to take sides
- Notify the school and other key people in their lives so that they have support elsewhere
- If they would like to speak to a professional about their feelings then arrange this for them
- Be on hand to answer any questions that they may have as openly and honestly as possible
- Keep reassuring them as they will need to hear this regularly. Also back it up with actions that support this.

Children are more resilient that we think and can often adjust better to changes than adults. 
Remember they will take their lead from you so be united as best you can and reassure them that you will both be there for them. You are their role models and your children can learn a positive lesson on how to handle tough situations if you handle this well.


Wednesday, 13 February 2019

Psychological Effects of Divorce on Women

Understanding the psychological effects of divorce can help one move forward after the end of a marriage. Many of the feelings after a divorce are perfectly natural as one may experience confusion and uncertainty about the future. Similarly, learning how these feelings may affect one's ability to connect with other family members, such as children, is important, as well.

Feeling Guilty

The psychological effects of divorce on women are far-reaching, but one of the most basic emotions is guilt. This can be true if the woman initiated the divorce or not. Women in both situations may feel at fault for not working hard enough to make the marriage work, explains life coach Cindy Holbrook on her website for divorced women. If the woman initiated divorce, she may feel a sense of guilt for the demise of the marriage. This is especially true if there are children involved as women may feel as though they are responsible for breaking up a family and causing emotional trauma.

Experiencing Depression

The end of a marriage is devastating to both parties. Women, especially, may feel saddened by the sudden loss of their marriage. Their dreams for the future may be wrapped up in their marriage, and now that hope for the future appears to be gone. Increased responsibility combined with the realization that the life they envisioned no longer exists correlates with the fact that women are more likely to suffer from depression three years after a divorce, suggests Rocky Mountain Family Council.

Feeling Anxious

After a divorce, one may experience a great deal of anxiety. The future is uncertain and therefore, so is one's security. Women may experience more stress as they may have solely or mostly relied on their husbands for financial support. Trying to figure out how to support themselves, and often times a family, may prove to be difficult. Despite this, there are many things one can do to lessen anxiety including eating healthy, meditating and exercising.

Positive Effects

Some of the effects of divorce can affect women's lives positively. There are many factors that influence this, but many women report feeling a sense of relief especially if the relationship was particularly stressful towards the end. Mediator Kathleen O'Connell Corcoran explains that women may have a greater support system than men. Because of this, when they experience setbacks, they are likely to turn to them for comfort and guidance and move through the issues. Finally, women may be more likely to expand their personal and professional roles, suggests Corcoran. In the past, they may have limited themselves by focusing solely on their duties as wives and mothers. Now, they may seek out new careers, volunteer opportunities and social networking that will increase their esteem.


Tuesday, 12 February 2019

12 Reasons Why Divorced Women Rock

Mark Radcliffe considers it an honor to date a divorced woman. Here’s why.

A female friend of mine got divorced recently, and confessed to me how much she dreaded now having the “divorced” label hanging over her head as she re-entered the dating pool, like some modern day version of the scarlet letter. That she, too, had failed to make it work, and men would recoil from her in disgust, running for the nearest 20-something as soon as possible.

But I for one, think being divorced can actually be a stamp of awesomeness to we men willing to look past the stigma. I think this experience actually means you’re a cut above your never-been-married friends. And here’s why:

1. You’ve experienced loss, and rebounded from it. You have courage, resilience, strength. That’s an attractive trait to men looking for a worthy partner.

2. Hey at least you dared to get married! You took a swing at love, rather than just playing it safe on the sidelines. You placed a bet in the lottery of life, and while it didn’t work out, you can dust yourself up and try again. Hell, even George Clooney couldn’t make his first marriage work.

3. You know it’s better to be alone for the right reasons than with someone for the wrong. And are maybe more willing to wait for the right guy than jump into something just to have a body next to you. You don’t feel “incomplete” if you’re not in a relationship, and are maybe becoming a better person each day that you’re on your own.

4. You now know (if you didn’t before) that love takes work. That it doesn’t just magically take care of itself, and float along in a some happy, pink cloud surrounded by unicorns and cotton candy. You know that both parties have to commit to supporting each other and making compromises on a daily basis. This, too, means you’ll have a more realistic and mature approach to your future relationships.

5. You had the balls (irony intended) to walk away from something that wasn’t working. You stood up and said, “No, I won’t stay in something that’s a lie.” And that means you have standards. Principles. And me, I like a woman who takes a stand. And isn’t afraid to face some public scorn in the process. Where others see “scandal,” I see strength.

6. Maybe you’ve recognized that you’ve made a mistake–either in your own actions, or simply by marrying someone else who was making a lot of mistakes
. And that’s incredibly valuable for your future partners in life, because you’re clearly humble enough to accept criticism and question yourself.

7. You probably now have a deep knowledge of what sexually satisfies you (and what doesn’t). And that’s rare for women and men. And your future relationships will benefit significantly from that.

8. Maybe you were the one who walked away, and now know what “Mr. Wrong” looks like, so you’ll better able to spot “Mr. Right.” Your bullshit detector is now iron-clad, and you realize you don’t always have to “stand by your man.” Because a lot of guys don’t deserve to be stood by. You’ll be less likely to fall for bullshit more able to identify a true heart.

9. Or maybe you yourself realize you weren’t such a peach, yourself. That you have things to work on in your character, personality or attitude. But that willingness to accept fault is also incredibly attractive to the right guy. You’ve recognized you’re not perfect? Congrats, most of us never get there. We’ve got shit to work on, too. It’s nice to have some company.

10. You know what it’s like to watch love slip away, and you’re more able to keep it from happening again, to have the tough conversations that need to happen. Hell, maybe you can help us prevent us from losing our way, too, if we drift.

11. Because you look wonderful when you walk down the street alone, unafraid, cool and confident.
When you sit at the bar with no one next to you, it doesn’t bother you a bit. You kind of even seem to be enjoying it. Which makes us want to be next to you all the more.

12. So you’ve got a few scars.
They make you more interesting. You’ve suffered pain and loss, so you value joy and happiness more than those who’ve never lost it. You’ve experienced a wider range of emotion in life, and have a deeper appreciation for the highs & lows.

If you’re worried about the future, please don’t. Believe that your best years are ahead of you. Because there are those of us who find you all the more appealing for the battles you’ve won & lost. Who find you much more interesting and inspiring for having a few kinks in your armor and some stories to tell.

And maybe you’ll find one of us wanting to be by your side sooner than you think.

But, maybe you’ll be just fine without us. 


Monday, 11 February 2019

Feeling Optimistic About Your Future, Despite Divorce

Divorce is just the current chapter in your life. It may be a very long chapter, but it will eventually come to an end. And another chapter will begin. That's what hope springs from and, despite all the challenges in divorce, you will get there.

It is not uncommon in the early days of divorce that the ideas of moving on, finding love, and feeling like you will ever recover are almost non-existent. For many, any thoughts about those things feel like an eternity to the reality of your life -- the emotional roller coaster, the difficulty communicating with your soon-to-be ex, and trying to make your life work, but in a different way.

Yet, oftentimes what helps people weather the many storms and the ups and downs that come with a divorce is feeling both hopeful and optimistic about their future -- despite how they feel at the moment. Experiencing the glimmers of a better, happier day when their divorce is a thing of the past allows for positive emotions to emerge and keeps them moving in a healthy direction. People hang on to those moments, even if they are initially outnumbered by the challenging and negative experiences. By doing so, they can begin to believe that, eventually, the tide will turn and the positive days will begin to outnumber the negative.

It is also during the hopeful and promising times that a person starts to have a mind shift from 'we' to 'me.' One can see this happening when they are beginning to feel hopeful about their future, envisioning what they want their new life to look like through fantasies and visualization, and imagining how they might create a better future -- one filled with possibilities. The possibility of being able to love again, having a healthy relationship, possibly a life with more solitude, or stronger family and friendships are all hopeful thoughts. Whatever one envisions, it is theirs to create!

Yet, to get from where you are to where you hope to be one day soon often means drawing on your imagination and recognizing that your impending divorce doesn't have to dictate where you are. It shouldn't define you -- and you shouldn't allow it to. If we give all our energy to our divorce, there will be little left over for the good -- we must remember the better things in life that await us around the corner.

Divorce is just the current chapter in your life. It may be a very long chapter, but it will eventually come to an end. And another chapter will begin. That's what hope springs from and, despite all the challenges in divorce, you will get there. You will feel love again -- have hope for your future.

Being hopeful again will start to carry you down a path of renewed belief not just in yourself, but also in your future. Hope carries us forward and through..

It is important that, while you are doing what you need to do to get through your divorce, you also focus on creating solitude, happiness, and what you need to do to create a better and different future. To find those answers, why not ask yourself these questions:

  • What would you change about your current situation?
  • What would you have done differently in your marriage?
  • How did you change in the marriage? Was that a good thing?
  • How do you imagine your next relationship to be? How do you want it to be?
  • How will you be different?
  • What changes will you want or need to make to get you to a better place?
  • What changes did you make while married that you wish you hadn't?

Remember, divorce is just the current chapter in your life. It may be a very long chapter, but it will eventually come to an end. And another chapter will begin. That's what hope springs from and, despite all the challenges in divorce, you will get there. You will feel love again -- and have hope for your future. Being hopeful again will start to carry you down a path of renewed belief not just in yourself, but also in your future.

Hope carries us forward and through.