Recently, I have heard this comment so many times, and each time it breaks my heart. My husband and I divorced, and with this divorce, my children’s father moved to another state which left a hole in my children’s life. This transition has been the hardest thing on my life, and that is because it hurt my children to their core and they are still dealing with it. Divorce rates are at an all-time high, but the actual physical separation of a child and their parent when the children go from seeing their parent each day, to hardly ever, is almost death in a sense. My children are grieving. I am grieving. And in this grief, it kills me every time my 5-year-old looks at me, with pain in his eyes and says, “Mommy, I miss my daddy”.
I don’t know how to respond. My natural response is anger. Anger towards the parent who selfishly decided to remove themselves from my child’s life. My second response is hurt. Every time I see my child breakdown, I feel my heart break. I hold my breath, I close my eyes, and force back tears. I want to run and just hold that child and tell him I am sorry for ruining his life; that I’m sorry that mommy and daddy couldn’t work it out for him. I die inside every time I see the pain that my divorce has caused to the life of these young children. I carry all the guilt. The mom guilt. The ultimate guilt… that I, ruined my child.
How do you deal with divorce, or death. How do you deal with your child missing a loved one?
- Talk about it. Explain to that child that it is okay for them to feel how they feel. Explain that it is natural and normal. Explain the situation in a way that your child will understand, and continue to explain it. There are sometimes books that can help with this, but a major part of it is just being there when the child needs to cry, breakdown and express their feelings. Do not downplay it. They have to learn how to feel pain, and understand that it is a part of life and learn how to positively deal with it.
- Show grace. There will be nights where you just want to scream. Where the world feels like it is caving in on you and you have nothing left to give. That child will be so emotional, and he/she will act out and you will feel as though you are failing in every part of parenting. Don’t. Give. In. To. Those. Feelings. It is temporary, and it is that child trying to release feelings that they don’t truly understand. Show grace and remember to respond, not react. A reaction is something that you haven’t thought out, and is generally based on emotions. Responding is a well thought out answer to the current situation. Always respond to the child’s need, don’t react to the emotion it brings out of you.
- Get Professional Help. This is not just for the child, but for you and the child. Play therapy is a wonderful thing and can help children express emotions that they cannot physically say. Therapy has a negative stigma in certain communities, especially communities of color, but when it comes to our children, we have to break through those stereotypes, and give our children what they need. Sometimes that isn’t us as parents, but a professional ear to help them safely process their feelings. In Dallas for children, I recommend Momentous Institute, as they have wonderful child therapists available at an amazing price. In the same light, they have family therapists that can help you to properly co-parent, or individual counseling that can help you as a parent deal with your own emotions.
My son misses his daddy. My daughter misses her dad. I’m sure he misses them. Me, I’m hurt, I’m angry, I’m numb. I am a ball of emotions based on how my kids are, but I am healing so that I can be whole, because my children need me as a whole person. Don’t ignore the feelings of grief in your kids. Make sure that you do your part to make sure they are healthy in and out.