Last week I gave a talk at FAMSA

Last week I gave a talk at FAMSA about grieving and self-care going through a divorce. As you know, separating couples and their parenting is one of my main interests, and my divorce mediation focusses more on the couple’s relationship than it did eight years ago. I would even go as far as to say that the success of the breakup relies more on their relationship than the details of their settlement. Perhaps of equal importance is each’s awareness of the situation and what shape they are in both emotionally and physically is crucial to this.

Here is the summary of the talk.

These are 3 guiding principles I believe every divorcing parent should always keep in mind.

  1. You and your spouse are splitting up. Your children are not divorcing anyone.  You will always be their parents, and they will always be your children.
  2. Certain aspects of all family relationships are changing, and the family structure is not the same. However, it is essential to realise the relations remain, and it is up to you, the parent to ensure that they endure.
  3. The parent needs to be in good physical & emotional shape to help themselves and their children successfully negotiate this transition.

At the outset, I want to make very clear that every person’s experience is unique. No two people feel and experience in exactly the same way. Take out of my talk what seems a good fit for you. 

The loss of divorce is hardly acknowledged and spoken about, and I believe it is because on the one hand it’s too painful and on the other, there is the insistence from our culture to ‘move on’.

The reality is that everyone is still alive.

Yes, a new day has dawned. 

You don’t feel at all like facing it, but perhaps the first thing you need to tell yourself is that it will pass.  

Yes, you’re still alive, and you’re still part of the world, and because that’s what appears to the rest of the world, you’re expected to move on as if you’re the same strong and healthy human being you were before the divorce.

However, you’re not the same person

However, you’re not the same person
Yes, you’re still breathing
However, you’ve suffered a loss.
Not only one loss, perhaps 3 or 4 or more.
Your family
Your home
Your dreams for the future
Your identity as a wife, a partner
The life that gave you meaning as a valuable member of the human race…

As with the loss of a loved one when they pass on, you need to take time to make sense of the death of one of your significant relationships and the other deaths that happened with it.
You need to grieve, and you need to mourn. You must make room in your world for that.

You need to grieve, you need to mourn.  You must make room in your world for that.

The very first thing to keep reminding yourself throughout the early days of the mourning is that you haven’t lost your relationship with yourself.  That still exists, you still exist and your life, although looking and feeling very different still exists.

You may not think of yourself much, and in fact, if you are a mother, you probably haven’t for a long while. However, the old aeroplane demo about your safety, as you are about to take off always reminds me of how vital thinking about yourself is.

It is necessary for you to place the oxygen mask on yourself first before you attend to those around you. The reasoning is that you’re useless to anyone if you’re not in good shape.

These are the do’s and dont’s when grieving.

  1. It could be a short period, and it could be an extended period. Have no expectations be very patient and forgiving with yourself.
  2. Find someone to confide in. Your children seem the nearest and dearest, but they are suffering their own grief. Sometimes you need to cry with them to show them that it’s ok to grieve and be sad at this time, yes that’s good. However, your thoughts need an outlet with another adult. Someone who can give you a listening ear and a shoulder to cry on. A very good friend, a counsellor, a coach…again, you know your world best, choose the best for you.
  3. Rituals and routines are very difficult to maintain when grieving. But they work to calm the mind and at least bring you to a place where you can think about something outside of your pain. Have a look at the resources list we gave you.  
  4. Being in Nature is another one of those soothing activities.
  • Your favourite walk, on Sea Point beachfront or in Newlands Forest.
  • Surfing
  • Swimming
  • Sitting in your favourite park
  • Sauna
  1. Playing with children is one of my favourites. Since the birth of my grandson, I have experienced how soothing it can be.
  2. My favourite, Meditation, Mindfulness and/or Yoga. A class and a teacher is a wonderful routine and ritual and the activities are wonderfully soothing.  

Of course, looking after your body is crucial to managing moods and anxiety.

  • Eating well
  • Exercising
  • Sleeping and resting.

 I use the word ‘transition’ to describe divorce and it essential that we view it this way as we try to move through it.

A new phase of our lives is beginning and it’s not easy.

It is demanding both physically and emotionally.

It is a process that perhaps you didn’t ask for and don’t want but one that you have to deal with as it affects you and your family’s futures.

Let me reiterate, it is a transition.

A Stepping stone to the next phase in your life.

The main thing to be aware of is that your brain is alive and that you can’t let your feelings determine your future. You determine your future. Remember the aeroplane demo? You need to put on the oxygen mask before you can help others around you.

Mourn and use what resonates with you to get through this transition.

My best wishes.

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