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Co-parenting Through Divorce: Part One: Finding Strength Within as You Redefine the Self

Originally posted January 4, 2013.

As you go through your divorce, do you think you are acting out your unconscious hurts and anger on yourself and others, possibly your children?

What does it mean to you to parent through divorce?

How does it feel to a child when he hears their parents are getting divorced?

If it’s hard for you, think about how your children feel. Here’s some kids talking about their feelings about divorce from Oprah’s site.

For most people, divorce has big losses on personal and financial levels, and feels painful, stressful, disorienting and very very sad. To paraphrase what many people say to me in my practice: “I feel like I have lessened who I am, lessened my sense of self.”**

And to have those feelings of shame, guilt, anger, depression, blame, relief; a very potent mix, all balled up together.

You wonder, what happened to all the emotional support, the good times, that great connection? That great sex?

You wonder, was it me, what else could I have done? Was it both of us? And there’s that mix of sadness, anger and fear welling up as you watch your finances and home get divied up. Ugh.

It’s normal to have a lot of confusing feelings all wrapped up inside.

Sometimes, you’re literally immobilized or knocked off your feet by the intensity.

And of course, you still have the rational and good feelings as well. Good feelings of self-respect, motivation, hope, clarity, maturity. And you are slowly doing the difficult work of reflection, self-healing and redefining the self.

But then you think, what’s up with this?

You wonder, can all these feelings be from this divorce, from this person?

Or are some of the strong feelings arising from past hurts, not just from the present?

And, maybe you’ve but you’ve got this, you know, gone over the past and understand what’s underneath your feelings and motivations, and it still hurts sometimes, but you get it.

Or maybe not. Maybe there are some underlying wounds that you’ve never examined. Under pressure, the feelings come seeping out from the rock they somehow got stuffed under.

Do you try to deal with them constructively, to become a better person?

Begin: Begin the difficult and interesting process of redefining the self. Working through the feelings and shifting some old limiting thoughts, beliefs, and behaviors and deciding to take on some new, more effective thoughts and behaviors.

Learn skills: There are skill-sets you can learn to help your children feel safe and cope more effectively as you co-parent through divorce. One free resource is UpToParents.

Self-help: And there are lots of self-help activities for working through emotions. Mindbody techniques such journaling, expressive art, yoga, qi gong, massage are all research-based techniques that help reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression and manage stress.

Professional help: And professional help is available. Use the health insurance for which you already pay. Your mental health is valuable.

Fight the stigma and shame. Seek professional help. Psychology Today has listings.

**The quote in this article is a paraphrase of a composite of many people I have counseled over the years. It is unethical to reveal confidential information about clients. I never use client’s quotes or information in my writings, never.


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