Coping With Divorce - Part 3
By Judy Churchill - Judy also featured in the Anna Fill Interviews.
Part 3 of 7
Divorce Protecting the innocent Victims
When you are struggling with the turmoil of divorce on your own personal level it is all too easy to forget that yours is not the only world that has fallen apart. You may be feeling dreadful and that your world has come to end, but there are also others who will be suffering and who will require if not your attention, at least an explanation. The first innocent victims of divorce are of course the children. For these, the innocent victims of divorce, it is almost impossible for their emotionally immature minds to fathom out what is going on and you owe it to them to take some appropriate measures to cushion the blow.
If you have children, try to organize some help. Even if you do not work, you will need some ‘me’ time and there will also be times when your frustration gets the better of you and you will need a buffer to stop you taking it out on the children. Should you be unable to afford paid help, try to organize a baby-sitting pool with some friends, where you can mutually help each other out. Do not underestimate your own inability to cope with even the most basic of tasks. You are going through a period of intense stress where even the simplest everyday tasks will seem challenging and your children are not equipped to understand why Mummy or Daddy can’t cope any more. It can be totally destabilizing for them.
The one cardinal sin that you must avoid committing is to use the children as bargaining counters with your ex. They may not realize that this is happening to begin with but they soon will and they will not thank you for it. Do not use them the get your ‘revenge’ or as emotional crutches. Their young minds are not mature enough to understand or cope will their own emotional anguish let alone yours. It may be advisable to seek counseling for them to help them through this traumatic time. You should immediately inform their schoolteachers and any other primary care takers in their support network, (sports, activity instructors) of their current situation. Inevitably there will be emotional damage and consequent behavioural problems that must be dealt with and properly understood within the context of the divorce. It is also advisable to assign someone within the family (aunt, grandparent, godparent, or close friend) the role of ‘guardian angel’ to watch over and take a special interest in the child/children during this time when you yourself may not be emotionally available. Do remember that children often attribute the blame for their parents’ breakup to themselves. They will need constant reassurance of your mutual love for them. Therefore, try to establish with your ex, right from the start, the ground rules for dealing with your children. Do not deny them access to the other parent however badly you may be suffering and whatever difficulties you may be experiencing with him. Let the lawyer deal with that. The children should never be held to ransom. This is not their war.
Do not forget that your family and friends (including new partners) will also suffer directly or indirectly and you must spare time to thank them for their help and support, as you will really need their good will. This is the time to really lean on people and not to be afraid to do so. However, take no-one for granted and don’t forget to warn them that you will be using them. Most people will be happy to lend you their shoulder to metaphorically or literally cry on, especially if they have been through the same or a similar experience themselves.
Another invisible victim of divorce, but one that you really must deal with early on, is your job. This includes your boss (if relevant) and colleagues. One of the feelings that is most common in situations of separation and divorce is shame. We feel that ‘the show must go on’ and we don’t want to wash our dirty linen in public. Unfortunately you are going to have to face the fact that, like it or not, your work is going to suffer. You are under great stress and your concentration levels will go down (if not grind to a halt) and you will easily become distracted and forgetful. The best way to deal with this is to take the bull by the horns and be honest. Admit up front to the people who matter to you professionally that these are tough times for you. They are more likely to be helpful and understanding, if you warn them of what is going on, than if you allow the situation to degenerate to a point where they are obliged to come and ask you what is happening. By this time they may have made decisions in their own minds concerning you, which are difficult to reverse once the damage is done. Working is obviously a good away to keep your mind occupied but this may not the moment to take on complex or overly ambitious projects.