I find it interesting how a photograph on Facebook can trigger an emotion in my heart. I have been speaking with a lot of divorcing and divorced people over the last two years as a life coach, and what I’ve heard as a universal struggle is: “I have no idea what to do and no one to talk to about my divorce.” Often, I am simply an empathetic listener. The advice comes when asked for, but the biggest gift I can give on these 3 to 4 initial coaching calls is this: It’s going to be okay. You are going to survive. What you are feeling and dealing with his very common. I’ve been through it. I can share some of my hope about your eventual recovery from the divorce. I can also give you a shortlist of ways to reclaim your balance.
1. Your Health Comes First
Focus on yourself and your health first. (A damaged parent is not good for anyone. Your strength and resilience is critical for your kids to experience first hand. Our kids learn by watching us and our actions. Show them that you are taking care of yourself, that you are hopeful even in the sadness, and that you have an unlimited capacity for them and their dreams.
2. Share Your Joy as a Parent, Even in the Loss of Divorce
Pay attention to your kids with all the energy and enthusiasm you can muster. Put their lives, their happiness, and struggles, their “events” ahead of your own. Kids first.
3. Unhook From the Toxic Patterns and Toxic People
Unhook from your ex in every way possible. Anger is just as connecting as love. Your resentment and rage at your ex will not serve you as long as you remain focused on them. You can transform this energy into positive action. Go outside, exercise vigorously, write an angry letter to them (but, don’t send it), go to the gym and punch a bag. Do something with your anger. But don’t ever fire back at your ex. Doing so gives them the power again. You are releasing yourself from their orbit. You can no longer afford to spend energy on your ex. Spend it on yourself, getting healthier, stronger, moving forward with your life. Spend it on your kids, showing them you are energetic and strong as your face the shared pain associated with a fracturing family.
4. Hang On to Glimmers of Hope
Hope is the antidote to depression. When I lose hope (and I have) my inner joy and inner resolve crumbles. Phrases like, “Why do I even bother?” and “How is this going to help?” are frequent mantras when my imagination cannot find a hopeful image or concept to grab onto. Find hope in anything you can. Find old passions and reignite them. Reach out to old friends and rekindle your relationship over a cup of coffee or over FaceTime. Anything can provide a glimmer. A song you love may give you a tiny lift in your heart. Play it over-and-over at full volume. Groove. Get some of your joy back.
One of my most potent phrases when talking to people who are in the midst of divorce or depression is “You are going to be okay.” The feeling implied in that statement, in my mind, is “and I can help.”
As a coach (This is not a coaching pitch, by-the-way, but a formula for being a good listener and friend when someone is struggling in your life.) my role is to listen to your story, find the distressing bits, the hopeful bits, and the confusing bits. Then our work together is simple.
- Magnify the things that make you feel happy, connected, hopeful.
- Reduce the things that make you feel overwhelmed, rageful, ashamed.
- Examine and unravel the things that are confusing in your life.
My Kids Are My Key to Resilience
When I get in a tough place I try and picture my kid’s faces. In the moment I am feeling upset, I can send them a “How’s it going, I love you” text. I can SnapChat a silly face. I can cook up a meme to make us laugh together. Even when I cannot be with my kids as much as I want, as much as I imagined I would when they were born, I can still show up in their SnapChat feeds, their text messages, and their email inboxes.
As I release my ex I can use that emotional capacity to embrace my kids’ lives more richly. I can cheer them on with more specific intention and understanding of their lives. I can reach out to them with the hobbies and interests they have. I can do things that I don’t like to do, just because they like to do them.
As you are leaving your marriage, remember that your kids are part of BOTH of you, equally. Give your ex the respect you would give the mom-half of your daughter. See your ex in your kids and celebrate your kids rather than feel sad or angry at your ex.
Your joy shows your kids you are moving on. Your self-care shows them how to regroup and reset themselves in future difficulties of their own.
Ultimately: Your happiness will help reassure your kids and help them build resilient and happy lives for themselves.
Remember, the work begins with you.
More articles from The Whole Parent:
- The Four Simple Rules for Dads Getting Divorced
- Men and Divorce with Children: My 9-year Retrospective
- Dad’s Divorce Journey: 9-years Later I Still Feel the Loss of Kid-time
You can find all of my books on AMAZON.