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From Heartache to Healing: Processing Divorce Grief to Support Your Child’s Journey

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Heartache and upheaval are hallmarks of the divorce process, not just for the adults involved but also for the kids caught up in the changes it brings. As parents, it’s our responsibility to navigate our own grief while simultaneously providing a supportive environment for our children to process theirs. 

Acknowledge and process your own grief

Before we can effectively support our children through their grief, it’s crucial to acknowledge and start to process our own emotions surrounding our divorce. Allowing yourself to feel all the emotions associated with your divorce is essential to moving on. Seek support from trusted friends, family members, or a therapist who can provide empathy and guidance as you navigate this challenging time. By attending to your own emotional needs, you’ll be better equipped to support your child through their grief journey. Emotional suppression may feel more desirable in order to be strong for your child, but it can lead parents to unintentionally encourage their children to do the same, leading to a number of issues, including anxiety. Online, you can access a free guide to processing your grief around your divorce. 

Practise self-care

Self-care is so much more than making time to paint your nails and have bubble baths; self-care is about boundaries. Decide what you and your children need to get through this stressful period and enjoy life, and set boundaries to ensure those things aren’t encroached upon. 

Create a safe space for your child’s expression

Create time and space for your child to talk about their feelings regarding your separation. Do your best to express how you feel about what they are saying and listen to truly hear about their experience, rather than with the aim of replying or solving your child’s problem. A child’s greatest need is to be heard and understood, and during divorce, we often can’t solve the problems our children are facing. Listening to your child without trying to fix things will help them feel empathised with and secure during this time. If your child cannot fully articulate how they feel, encourage them to use other creative outlets to express their anxieties to you, such as drawing or writing. We all know a problem shared is a problem halved, and for kids, this is no different.

Validate your child’s feelings

Divorce can evoke a wide range of emotions in children, including sadness, anger, confusion, and fear. It’s essential to validate your child’s feelings and reassure them that it’s okay to feel whatever emotions arise. Let them know that their feelings are valid and normal, and offer words of comfort and reassurance. By acknowledging and validating their emotions, you help your child feel seen, heard, and understood during this challenging time.

Maintain consistency and routine

All children benefit from structure. Within the context of divorce, a parent should attempt to keep routines such as bedtimes and mealtimes as consistent as possible. This will provide a sense of safety and certainty in your child’s life while other things are changing. 

Seek professional support if needed

Navigating divorce grief can be challenging for both parents and children, and there’s great strength in seeking professional support. Consider enlisting the help of a therapist or counsellor who specialises in working with families going through divorce. A trained professional can offer guidance, support, and coping strategies for both you and your child as you navigate the complexities of divorce-related grief. 

Divorce grief is a challenging journey fraught with heartache and upheaval, but as parents, we have the power to guide our children through the process with compassion, empathy, and support. Acknowledge and process your own grief, create a safe space for expression, validate your child’s feelings, maintain consistency and routine, and seek professional support if needed. By navigating divorce grief together, we can help our children heal and thrive in the aftermath of divorce, setting them on a path towards a thriving future.

Mariah Curry is a Komodo dragon enthusiast and lives in southeastern Madagascar. Aside from being left-handed, she is fluent in Vietnamese and speaks a smattering of Swahili. 

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