The End of the World
Leo Terbieten MFT
The feelings of loss that occur during divorce can be a virtual, psychological hall of mirrors. With childhood experiences of loss and abandonment reflected upon your current situation. Added to this complex overlap of emotion is your children’s actual experience of loss and your projection onto them of what you believe they must be feeling. The feelings you project onto your kids may be based on loss you endured as a child as well as your current emotional state.
When this occurs, an intractable emotional, and to some degree irrational, closed feedback loop is created. This can consume a lot of your energy. It happens at a time when you need all of your strength to deal with the current situation and navigate a way forward for you and the children. The irrational part of this process is the fact that your unconscious childhood feelings of loss create an unrealistic perspective on your current reality. By projecting your childhood fueled feelings of loss onto the children you further deepen the emotional crisis for everyone involved.
Are your children emotionally impacted by the divorce? Of course. Are their feelings of loss identical to yours? Definitely not. Children have their own unique experience of loss as the result of the divorce and do need help processing those emotions. The most effective way to provide your child with the support needed is through a course of psychotherapy. The benefits of therapy are twofold. Your children receive the emotional support and insight they need and you gain valuable information from the therapist regarding the kids’ actual, as opposed to assumed, feelings about the separation.
Of course the same is true for the parent dealing with the emotional fallout of the divorce. Therapy will enable you to pull apart the various, overlapping emotional threads from the past that comprise your current emotional distress. The insight gained through the therapeutic process will help both you and your kids deal with the situation in a more rational way.
Therapy is not for everyone, however, but there are some tools parents can employ to get the support they need to tolerate the feeling of loss and abandonment associated with divorce. Religious faith can provide a great source of meaning during this time. Meditation practices can also be helpful to get a clearer perspective on your emotional life. Physical exercise is an important way to relieve stress and trigger the release of bio-chemicals, endorphins for example, that can provide insight and the confidence to deal with the issues at hand.
Thus it is important to be open to the concept that the feelings you’re having during the divorce are complex and multi-faceted. Don’t assume that the divorce is the cause of all your feelings. Children need their parents to recognize that they are having their own unique experience of the separation and not assume that their experience is identical to yours.
One of the great songs of love lost “The End of the World” by Skeeter Davis was popularly believed to be about the end of a romantic relationship. It was, however, written on the eve of her father’s death.
More helpful information regarding separation and the child custody process from Mr. Terbieten: